Paula J. Johnson


M.A., Anthropology and Folklore, University of Texas, Austin B.A., English, Gustavus Adolphus College

Research Specialties: 

American maritime history and traditions; fisheries history; maritime occupations and communities; maritime material culture; boats and boatbuilding; American food and wine history; oral history and folklife documentation; public history.


Current Projects:

  • Project Director and Curator for the exhibition, FOOD: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000 (opening 2012).
  • Member of the American Food and Wine History Project team.

Past Projects:

  • Co-organizer of the 2011 meetings of the International Congress of Maritime Museums, held at the Smithsonian Institution and The Mariners' Museum, Newport News, Virginia.
  • Project Director and Curator for the permanent exhibition, On the Water: Stories from Maritime America (opened May 2009).
  • Member of the curatorial team for the permanent exhibition and Web site, America on the Move, (opened November 2003).
  • Member of the team that documented and collected Julia Child's kitchen from her Cambridge, Massachusetts, home, in 2001. Co-curated both exhibitions and Web sites resulting from this collection: Bon Appetit! Julia Child's Kitchen at the Smithsonian and What's Cooking?.
  • Star-Spangled Banner Project curatorial team, 1998–2001.
  • Principal researcher for Design Innovation in the Pacific Salmon Fishery: Documentation of the Troller NORA for the National Watercraft Collection, 1997-2000.
Professional Affiliations: 
  • Curatorial Committee, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, Maryland
  • National Council on Public History
  • American Association of Museums
  • Council of American Maritime Museums
  • International Congress of Maritime Museums, Executive Board


On the Water: Engaging the Public in America's Maritime Past . . . and Present," Defense Transportation Journal, Dec. 2005, pp. 9-13.
“To the Bay in Boats,” Defense Transportation Journal, Dec. 2005, pp. 9-13.
“Boat Models, Buoys and Board Games: Reflecting and Reliving Watermen’s Work.” Special maritime issue of the Material History Review Vol. 48 (Fall 1998), pp. 89–100.
<em>The Workboats of Smith Island.</em> Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.
"Beyond the Boat: Documenting the Cultural Context," with David A. Taylor. In Boats—A Manual for Their Documentation. (Nashville, Tenn.: American Association for State and Local History and the Museum Small Craft Association, 1994), 337–356.
<em>Working the Water: The Commercial Fisheries of Maryland's Patuxent River,</em> volume editor and chapter author. (Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1988).