ASSistant Professor, SAM FOX SCHOOL OF design and visual arts, and assistant Vice provost of academic assessment
Heidi Aronson Kolk teaches cultural history and is involved in graduate and undergraduate studies in visual and material culture. She began her academic training as an artist, and gravitates to mixed-methods research and teaching –– in particular, modes that allow for creative engagement with narratives and material traces of the past. She served for ten years in a leadership role in Washington University's American Culture Studies program, where she maintains courtesy affiliation. She teaches courses on 19th and 20th-century history and culture; on collective memory and memorialization; consumerism and the culture of capitalism; and topics in the history of material and visual culture.
Professor Kolk’s research focuses on the politics of collective memory in the United States, and more specifically, the ways that cultural ‘heritage’ comes to be materialized at various sites in the urban landscape. Her forthcoming book, Taking Possession: Life, Death and the Politics of Memory in a St. Louis Town House (University of Massachusetts Press, 2019) considers the material and symbolic lives, deaths, and rebirths of one such site in St. Louis, an 1850s historic home that has been operating as the Campbell House Museum for some eighty years. She has written commentaries on others in the area, including the recently-removed Confederate Memorial in Forest Park and the Ferguson Quik-Trip that became the locus of protest after the killing of Michael Brown. Her work has also appeared in scholarly journals such as Biography and Winterthur Portfolio.
She is currently at work on a study of ‘negative heritage’ and the long history of engagement with human ‘remains,’ including burial sites and material remnants of the past, as well as material objects and places marked by shame, neglect and abandonment, many of which have been reclaimed by preservationists and proponents of ‘dark tourism.’ This research has recently been supported by an National Endowment for the Humanities research fellowship, and has informed her work as co-lead investigator on The Material World of Modern Segregation, a collaborative research project exploring the racialization of the material landscape of St. Louis.
Professor Kolk holds an MA and PhD in English and American Literature from Washington University in St. Louis, and a BA in fine arts from Hope College. She lives in St. Louis with her husband Joe and their three children, Dylan, Conrad and Everett. They attend Memorial Presbyterian Church.