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 current book project, "Biscuits and Buffaloes: Squashing Myths about Food in Indian Country" explores the ways northern Plains Indians have created food traditions all the way to the present that support a lsense of American Indian heritage and tradition. She is also working on an article about the Miss Indian American pageant. She and her co-author Neil Maher have a contract with the University of Washington Press to publish a guidebook for interpreting images in the environmental humanities.
Cindy is an Associate Professor of History and Material Culture at the University of Delaware. She is also an active 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 has been a consultant for the National Park Service, assisting national parks to develop or enhance their history programs. She was the graphics editor of the journal Environmental History for five years and continues to be a grant review panelist for the National Endowment for the Humanities, from which she was a grant recipient. She earned fellowships at the Charles Warren Center at Harvard University, the Rachel Carson Center for Environment & Society in Munich, Germany, and Stanford University's Bill Lane Center for the American West.
Cindy Ott, Ph.D.