Smithsonian seeks beer historian

This is a real job posting and it’s a great one. The Smithsonian is looking for a historian to research the history of American brewing, with a particular emphasis on craft brewing. The new hire will be part of the National Museum of American History’s American Brewing History Initiative, a three year project to collect and conserve documents and artifacts relating to the history of beer and brewing in the United States, and to explore the connections between the history of beer and broader themes of American history including industry, advertising and social issues like the temperance movement. It is funded by a donation from the non-profit trade association the Brewers Association of Boulder, Colorado.

The National Museum of American History owns several collections of brewiana, mostly from the second half of the 19th century through the 1960s. There are artifacts from the brewing industry, instruments, ads, bottles, taps, technical documents, photographs, many of them collected by former Brewmaster Walter Voigt of Ruxton, Maryland. Just over a hundred items related to beer and brewing in the Smithsonian collection have been digitized.

“Brewing has a long and deep connection to our country’s history, and the museum’s collections explore the history of beer from the late 19th to early 20th centuries,” said John Gray, the director of the museum. “The support of the Brewers Association allows our staff to collect the more recent history, including the impact of small and independent craft brewers who continue to advance the U.S. beer culture and inspire brewers worldwide.”

The new staff beer historian will be working on that. Here is the full job posting (pdf):

Historian / Scholar
American Brewing History Initiative
IS-11 ($64,650 plus benefits)

The Smithsonian Food History project at the National Museum of American History, in Washington, DC, is seeking a professional historian / scholar to conduct archival and field research for a new initiative on American brewing history, with special emphasis on the craft industry. The position is located in the Division of Work and Industry and will be a three-year appointment. The successful candidate will have proven experience in scholarly research, organizing and conducting oral history interviews, writing for both scholarly and general audiences, and knowledge of material culture and archival materials. The candidate will work with members of the curatorial staff on collections work and develop content for a wide variety of programs and applications, including digital formats. Candidates with an advanced degree in American business, brewing, food, cultural, or similar specialization within history are encouraged to apply. Must be able to travel, work independently as well as within a team environment, to meet deadlines, and to communicate effectively with co-workers and the public.

So you have to have a solid grounding in scholarly research, not just beer research. Your degree doesn’t have to be in history per se, but it does have to be in a related field and you have to have experience using both archival and material resources in your research. As long as you have that background, all those years you’ve spent slaving over the minutiae of craft beers entirely of your own volition can finally pay off in more than just outré flavor adventures.

If this sounds like your dream job, send your CV, a cover letter, and names of three references to Abigail Karow at by August 10th, 2016.

6 thoughts on “Smithsonian seeks beer historian

  1. “You’ve Got the Money, Honey – I’ve Got the Time”:

    (No disrespect, Abigail, just a song title). We’ve been drinking beers for millennia, indeed mainly because of ‘volition‘ and a deeply felt ‘cultural responsibility‘.

    Brewing, however, always took experience but, until cooling was industrialized, yeast isolated and -for a commercial scale- filtering was established, it also took a certain amount of luck.

    Then, in 1842, Josef Groll from Bavaria came up with “Pils” in Pilsen and then, in 1876, the company of E. Anheuser and A. Busch took it to the States in order to sell the stuff as “Budweiser”.

    “Craft brewing”, however, has also in the Americas a deep-rooted history, when you e.g. take ‘Chicha’ into consideration. To make it even shorter: Money, Time and -last but not least- Malt are essential ! What exactly are the ‘benefits’ ?

  2. We’ve never brewed our own beer but we did make our own wine for a few years, both from purchased grape juice and from hedgerow fruits. Wonderful fun and instructive.

    At worst the wines were good enough to use in stews; at best good enough to serve at table.

  3. D.S. as a former brewer, certified beer judge, and sheep-skinned historian, I thought I’d finally found my niche until I saw the salary and had the same reaction as you.

    It would have to be $64k in salary with another $64K as a beer and housing stipend. If they want thorough research they should expect to subsidize it.

  4. Hmmm…. Due to my membership in a Poli-Sci honorary, they would have to pay me as an IS-14.

    This could be doable if they’re willing to agree on the stipend.

  5. Weirdness abounds! I received an email this morning from the fine folks at the American Brewers Association to tell me of this job and encourage me to apply. The missive said it would be a ton of research and not much drinking. I’m out!

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