Kathryn Leann Harris (’00)
How, when, and why did you decide to study history?
I came to Ole Miss to get a degree in English, which I did. During my sophomore year, I took a class with Susan Grayzel who talked to me about adding history as a double major. She saw something in my thought process that fit the mind of a historian. She was right. Susan remains a professional mentor of mine to this day. Both a Civil War class with John Neff and a Southern Studies course contributed to intersection of my historical interest and my own personal identity. They both showed me a new way to think about the South and my place in the region’s context, ongoing. John Neff also remained an active mentor of mine after graduation; supporting me as I explored history career paths other than the academy.
Discuss the highlights of your undergraduate experience.
History majors are asked to think and write analytically as well as learn the craft of conducting research. These writing and research skills have proven invaluable to me. I am able to approach issues with a balanced perspective for the purpose of interpretation. I have learned the importance of weighing two or more sides of an issue. Rather than attempting to determine which perspective is better, I now find great value in illuminating the argument from both sides. That’s a core tenant of a history degree, embracing that there is not just one correct answer and articulating research findings accordingly.
Talk about your path since graduation and your career goals.
I practice Public History, the craft of interpreting history at public sites of memory, with a specialty in commemoration studies. This has led me to work in various institutions and on the path of a writer and consultant. Most recently, I lived in Germany while working for adidas in their history management department. I also worked as a museum educator at Lowell National Historical Park near Boston and as a guest curator at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI. I finished my master’s degree in Public History from the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2018 with a thesis that chronicled and critically analyzed the Manhattan Project exhibit at the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. I am currently finishing a book entitled Interpreting Sports History at Museums and Historical Sites, a compilation of essays from museum professionals who have generated sports-based exhibits. With a focus in commemoration studies, I have also been an active participant in the recent on-campus historical interpretation discussions at Ole Miss including as an advisor the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Context. I am currently crafting a historical interpretation consulting and writing business.