Kenneth (Ken) Cohen
I’m an active researcher and interpreter who strives to engage students and the general public by discussing how the past is relevant today. I do this by publishing traditional scholarship in academic journals and books, as well as by working with museums and community organizations to present well-researched exhibits and programs that address the importance of the past in our lives today.
My academic research focuses on the relationship between the entertainment industry and politics, asking how politicians and parties have used entertainment to carry their messages, and how ordinary people have used entertainment (including sports, music, and theatre) to support political causes. In sum, I see entertainment as a cradle and generator of what we often call “democracy.”
My public history work ranges much more widely than this. I have worked with more than a dozen institutions and organizations on exhibits, tours, and programs about the histories of slavery, farm labor in Southern Maryland in the 1920s-40s, and pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.
Both my academic research and my interest in public history come from my own past. I spent my youth moving very often, and came to see museums as the best way to orient myself to my new hometown. Later, I briefly flirted with careers in the entertainment industry, having played semi-pro soccer, coached at a Division I college, and worked as a sportswriter. I typically urge my students to consider how their lives can lead them to uncommon insights on the past, applying their experiences to their own research and projects.
Courses Recently Taught
- HIST 219. The Atlantic World Survey
- HIST 375. The American Revolution
- HIST 395. Theories and Methods of History
- HIST 430. Maryland History Research Seminar
- 1998 - B.A. - History & Communications - Allegheny College
- 2002 - M.A. - Early American Culture - Winterthur Program in American Material Culture
- 2008 - Ph.D. - History - University of Delaware
Areas of Expertise
- History of Sport, Entertainment, and Leisure
- History of Early America
- Public History
- American History, 1500-1860
- Museum Studies and Public History
Re-Interpretation at Sotterley Plantation
Prof. Cohen was the lead historian on a grant-funded project to rewrite the tours and interpretive programming at Sotterley Plantation, a museum (and one of the oldest remaining houses) in St. Mary’s County.