About the Author: Cindy Ott
Cindy Ott first began to explore the cultural history of pumpkins while working at a friend's fall pumpkin stand in suburban Maryland. As much as she is interested in working in the fields and interviewing farmers and pumpkin festival operators, she is also interested in working in libraries and archives to understand the history of such phenomena. In all of her projects, she looks at how people rely on history and nature to create traditions and the impacts of those traditions on the world around them.
She has examined this topic from a number of perspectives, including “Why Lewis and Clark Matter: History, Landscape and Regional Identity,” an article that looks at the ways residents of the northern Plains have responded to, represented, and fought about the 1805 Lewis & Clark expedition and the exhibition “Crossing Cultural Fences: The Intersecting Material World of American Indians and Euro-Americans,” which explores the shared histories and material worlds of Indians and Euro-Americans to confront popular concepts of cultural and ethnic distinction.
Her first book, Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon, published with William Cronon’s Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books at the University of Washington Press in 2012, uses this beloved vegetable in all its various guises, from the pie and the jack-o’-lantern to the affectionate term of endearment and the 1000-pound giants, to analyze Americans’ long-held and deeply felt veneration of nature and the small family farm, and the impacts of their ideas and traditions on rural economies. Her next project, "Indians Making History," explores what American Indians nowadays preserve from their own lives to perpetuate Indian heritage for future generations. She especially draws on northern Plains Indians' use of photographs, food, and land preservation, and the connections among them.
Cindy is an Associate Professor in the American Studies Department at Saint Louis University. Her research and teaching interests have also been strongly influenced by her work as a museum curator and public historian. She has organized cultural history projects and art exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution, community development and urban revitalization programs at the University of Pennsylvania and Saint Louis University, and historic preservation projects at the National Park Service. She has also built alliances and partnerships between academia and nonprofit environmental groups as the communications director of Rachel’s Network, a women’s environmental organization. Cindy is currently a consultant for the National Park Service, assisting national parks to develop or enhance their history programs. She is also the graphics editor of the journal Environmental History and a regular grant review panelist for the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Cindy Ott, Ph.D.