Profile profile for johnsonpa

Paula J. Johnson


M.A., Anthropology and Folklore, University of Texas, Austin

B.A., English, Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minnesota

PDF icon   Paula Johnson CV

Research Specialties: 

American food and wine history and material culture, especially 20th century. History of American fisheries and fishing communities. Traditional boats and boat building, particularly in the Chesapeake Bay. Oral history and folklife documentation.


Current Projects:
Project Director, American Food and Wine History Project

  • Project Director and Curator for the exhibition, FOOD: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000.
  • Lead Curator, Smithsonian Food History Weekend.

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 Historical Association
  • Council of American Maritime Museums
  • International Congress of Maritime Museums


Growing Food History on a National Stage In Food and Museums, editd by Nina Levent and Irina D. Mihalache, 113-129. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. 

Provides an overview of the Food History Project at the National Museum of American History, with attention to the history of research, collecting, exhibitions, and programming.  

“Julia Child’s Kitchen as a Conservation Classroom” In The Public Face of Conservation, Emily Williams, ed. (London: Archetype Publications in association with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 121-130).

Report on the condition of objects on long-term display in Julia Child's Kitchen at the National Museum of American History. Curatorial and conservation issues are discussed.  

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,” In From Bridge to Boardwalk: An Audio Journey Acros Maryland's Eastern Shore, (Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, 2004), p. 35.
“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.
The Workboats of Smith Island. 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.
Working the Water: The Commercial Fisheries of Maryland's Patuxent River, volume editor and chapter author. (Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1988).