About Jenny Thompson

As a kid, growing up in California, visiting historic sites was one of my all-time favorite activities. From walking through the chapel of Mission San Francisco Solano (in Sonoma) to touring historic Fort Point on the San Francisco bay, I was fascinated by the sense of the past that seemed to be alive in these structures; I was compelled to understand something about that mystery, that history. 
Since those days, I have found myself still captivated by wandering through historic sites. I am absorbed by reading accounts of the past, and I feel lucky to have a career that has allowed me to teach, research, and write about history; I am still compelled by that same, pure, initial fascination with the past.
Today I work as an historian and consultant on public history projects.
I graduated with a B.A. in humanities from San Francisco State University. I moved to Washington D.C. where I earned an M.A. in American Studies from The George Washington University. Next, I went to College Park, Maryland, where I earned a PhD in American Studies from the University of Maryland. For about 10 years, I taught undergraduate courses in American Studies at the University of Maryland and later at Roosevelt University in Chicago. I loved teaching but wanted to move into the field of public history. I currently serve as Director of Education at the Evanston History Center and also work on a variety of different types of history-related projects for clients. 

From writing and conducting research to organizing exhibits and public programs, I have extensive experience in the field of public history. From 2007-2013, I served as the archivist for Alpha Phi Foundation, where I oversaw the archives, designed convention exhibits, conducted research, and wrote a new history of Alpha Phi’s first fifty years. From 2001-2005, I worked for the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Foundation, with projects including exhibit design, research and writing, and oversight of a project to restore the Foundation’s set of stained glass windows designed by Tiffany Studios, New York. I also served as a fellow and intern for the Curator of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution. 

My academic and research work focuses on 20th and 21st century American culture, the cultural history of American wars, and the history of images.

My publications include War Games: Inside the World of 20th Century War Reenactors (Smithsonian Books, 2004), My Hut: A Memoir of a YMCA Volunteer in World War One (editor, 2006), Evanston: A Tour Through the City’s History (editor, 2013), and The First Fifty Years: A History of Alpha Phi Fraternity, 1872-1922 (Friesens Press, 2013) and a new critical edition of Charles Gates Dawes, A Journal of the Great War (editor, 2016). My essays and reviews have appeared in various anthologies and publications, including The New York Times. 

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