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In observance of Memorial Day, the Library will be closed on Monday, May 27, 2024.

VIRTUAL: The Foods, People, and Innovations That Feed Us–A Sweeping History of Food and Culture with Smithsonian Curator Paula J. Johnson

You’re invited to log on to hear Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History Curator Paula Johnson discuss the book Smithsonian American Table: The Foods, People, and Innovations That Feed Us.  It's a sweeping history of food and culture that summons everyone to the table for a fresh look at some of the people, ingredients, events, and movements that have shaped how and what we eat.  Johnson will discuss several stories featured in the volume, with an emphasis on those that intersect most directly with the Smithsonian’s research, collecting, and programming around food history.  She'll also discuss:

  • How immigration and migration has shaped (and continues to shape) American tables,
  • How food companies have influenced home cooks through advertising, from Jell-O salads to Crock-pots.
  • How individuals from Brownie Wise to James Beard and Julia Child inspired generations of cooks and eaters across the United States.
  • And show viewers how uniting in the kitchen can change the shape of our collective futures, specifically highlighting growers and chefs who are reclaiming and reinventing regional and cultural traditions, including Indigenous ingredients and cooking techniques.


About the Speaker: Paula Johnson, a Curator in the Division of Work and Industry at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and 30-year veteran with the organization, is responsible for strengthening and maintaining the food history and marine resources collections. She is also the Project Director for the Smithsonian's multi-faceted American Food History Project. As one of the curators who collected Julia Child’s home kitchen in 2001, she was also on the team that developed the exhibition Bon Appetit! Julia Child’s Kitchen at the Smithsonian, on view from 2002 to 2012.

Johnson has published books and articles on the Chesapeake Bay, maritime communities, and material culture, and has lectured widely on these and topics related to American food and wine history, field research, oral history recording, and community-based documentation. Johnson is working on a book about Julia Child’s home kitchen for publication in Fall 2024.

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