SHORT BIO︎︎︎Frances Cathryn is a writer and educator focusing on collective memory and contemporary art.

For a copy of her current CV, PDFs of papers or talks, or for questions and collaborations, email Frances or follow her on social media. If you are interested in mentoring or editorial advice, please reach out.

instagram: @francescathryn
pronouns: she/her/hers

STATEMENT︎︎︎I recontextualize stories as they’ve been told to us, combining archival research and social design to reimagine the American cultural landscape. Much of that work has focused on the past, and how those in power use collective memory as a tool to shape social narratives. Whether I leverage art and tech to create accessible educational tools, campaign to redesign public space in my community, or produce scholarship on geopolitics and monumentation, I hope to complicate institutional authority and enable others to challenge the status quo.

My early experiences of place-based narratives and regional identity formed my current understanding of public history and the institutions that maintain it: My mother worked part-time in the local history museum before I started Kindergarten and while my father worked night shifts at General Motors. I got my first job there, the museum being one of few opportunities to earn money in the rural southern Wisconsin community where I grew up.

In school my research focused on language in American journey narratives, specifically on how semantic form was shaped by a myth of individuality and exceptionalism in colonial expansion. This scholarly interest in language led to my professional jobs as a copy editor and at a local historic site. My career in publishing and museums is related. It all stems from a desire to critically engage with how cultural narratives—fictional or otherwise—reflect an understanding of the larger American experiment.

ABOUT︎︎︎Frances writes cultural criticism on topics ranging from the myth of American exceptionalism to marginalized historical landscapes for such publications as Frieze, the Los Angeles Review of Books, ARTnews, Monument Lab’s Bulletin, the Brooklyn Rail, and Social Text journal. She has presented her work at the Yale School of Art, MASS MoCA, NYU ITP, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, among others. She has been invited to guest lecture on such topics as memory in the Museum Studies graduate department at New York University, Eve Tuck’s concept of refusing research at the Rhode Island School of Design, and coloniality in mass media at Providence College.

Frances received her bachelor’s degree in literature and liberal studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and her master’s degree in English from the University of Virginia. She has worked in history museums, arts media, and community organizing for more than a decade. Most recently, Frances manages editorial projects at Forge Project, a Native-led arts and education initiative working to upend political and social systems formed through generations of settler colonialism. She is also a member of the board of trustees for the Kingston Public Library, where she serves as chair of the standards and development committee. In 2021–22, Frances is part of New Inc. at the New Museum, working in the Future Memory track to build an online multimedia project that reconsiders how privileged source materials dictate who and what stories are credibly documented.

Frances is originally from southern Wisconsin on Hoocągra land, and is currently based in Kingston, New York, the unceded lands of the Lenapeyok and the Muhheconneok peoples.