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Department of History


Allison Marsh

Title: Associate Professor
Department: History
College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 803-777-0041
Office: Gambrell Hall, Room 210
Resources: Curriculum Vitae [pdf]
Allison Marsh


B.S. Engineering, Swarthmore College
B.A. History, Swarthmore College
Ph.D. History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Johns Hopkins University


Professor Marsh combines her interests in engineering, history, and museum objects to tell the story of technology through historical artifacts. She likes to think of history as a Trojan horse to learning about tech.  Her main research interests revolve around how the general public comes to understand complex engineering ideas, especially outside the classroom—through museums, documentaries, TV shows, and so on.

Professor Marsh loves to travel, as evidenced by her Ph.D. dissertation, which explored the history of industrial tourism. Some of that research made its way into her 2018 textbook, The Factory: A Social History of Work and Technology, which traces industrialization in America through the material culture of different factory spaces.

Professor Marsh is the Co-Director of the Ann Johnson Institute for Science, Technology & Society, a new center on campus promoting interdisciplinary collaboration among humanists, scientists, engineers, and medical professionals. 

With respect to teaching, she supervises students in the museums track of the public history program and leads graduate seminars in material culture and museum theory.  She is currently accepting graduate students.  For undergraduates, she developed HIST 214: “The Practice of Public History” as a Carolina Core course and pioneered the first fully online asynchronous history course, HIST 478: “Material Culture in the Digital Age.” She also regularly teaches HIST 108: “Science and Technology in World History” in both lecture and on-line formats. 

Before coming to USC, she was Curator and Winton M. Blount Research Chair at the Smithsonian Institution National Postal Museum.  She remains a Research Associate with the National Museum of American History.


Public History, History of Technology


Dr. Marsh writes the “Past Forward” column for Spectrum, the flagship publication of the IEEE (Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineering).  Each month she chooses a museum object in the history of computer and electrical engineering and spins out an engaging tale.  Her subjects have ranged from Benjamin Franklin’s experiment with tenderizing turkey to CIA spy technology to the history of the hot comb.

As the consultant for the hit YouTube series, Crash Course: History of Science, she has reached more than 2 million viewers.  She organized the series around her HIST 108 syllabus and now uses them in her online version of this course.  In doing so, she is studying content retention from videos versus the traditional textbook, which she plans on publishing as a special Focus section on pedagogy with Isis, the journal of the History of Science Society, in December 2020.

A prize-winning author, Dr. Marsh’s article “Collective Forgetting” on the Smithsonian’s orphaned engineering collections won the 2014 IEEE –USA award for Distinguished Literary Contributions.  In 2009 she won the Rita Lloyd Moroney Senior Award for her work on postal history.  She has also won awards for her museum exhibits as well as her teaching.

Perhaps her most memorable teaching experience was over Spring Break in 2015 when Dr. Marsh took a group of a dozen USC graduate students to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to conduct over 50 oral histories with base residents.  A student-designed exhibit based on this work was shown at McKissick Museum.  The trip also resulted in a consulting gig on an Oliver Stone drama, but she suspects her “facts” might get in the way of the story line.

During the summer of 2015 she was an invited guest faculty member at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences at Chongqing University, China.  In 2012 she was the keynote guest faculty at the Reading Artifacts Summer Institute at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.