That's me with my son, cat, and husband. (No animals were harmed during the taking of this selfie.) I am the author of three monographs, each one a social history of a single building type. Living on Campus: An Architectural History of the American Dormitory (University of Minnesota Press, 2019) examines the dwellings of college students. The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States (University of Minnesota Press, now in its third printing) offers an exploration of Kirkbride plan mental hospitals. The Architecture of Madness won a Graham Foundation grant and was named “Book of Critical Interest” by Critical Inquiry in 2007. During the academic year 2002-2003, I was the Ailsa Mellon Bruce Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. In 2000, Johns Hopkins University Press published my first book, Nature’s Museums: Victorian Science and the Architecture of Display. I received the Society of Architectural Historians Founders’ Award for the best article in the JSAH in 1996. I earned the doctorate in art history from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. from Wesleyan University. I am grateful to my mentors, Joseph Siry and David Brownlee.
By studying a single building type across time and space, historians can investigate questions that would remain un-answered otherwise. We can discover architects, patrons, and inhabitants solving similar problems in different contexts.
A starting hypothesis for my work is that large, publicly funded buildings serve to legitimate ideas. In this way, architecture participates in the social construction of knowledge.