Cultural Studies
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Sharon M. Leon

Sharon M. Leon

Sharon M. Leon

Associate Professor

U.S. History: American religious history, 20th Century social and cultural history, digital history, digital public history

Sharon Leon is the Director of Public Projects at the Center for History and New Media and Associate Professor in the History and Art History Department. Leon received her bachelors of arts degree in American Studies from Georgetown University in 1994, and her doctorate in American Studies from the University of Minnesota in 2004. Her book, An Image of God: the Catholic Struggle with Eugenics was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2013. She is currently doing research on Catholicism in the United States after Vatican II, and working on a project on digital public history.

At the Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, Leon oversees collaborations with library, museum, and archive partners from around the country, such as the Smithsonian Institution, the Minnesota Historical Society, the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She manages the Center's digital exhibit and archiving projects, as well as a research and tool development for public history, including Omeka and Scripto.  Leon also writes and presents on using technology to improve the teaching and learning of historical thinking skills.

Current Research

User-Centered Digital History: Doing Public History on the Web (in progress). Synopsis: <>.


Selected Publications

An Image of God: the Catholic Struggle with Eugenics (University of Chicago Press, May 2013).

“Tensions Not Unlike that Produced by a Mixed Marriage: Daniel Marshall and Catholic Challenges to Interracial Anti-Miscegenation Statutes,” U.S. Catholic Historian 26:1 (December 2008): 27-44.

“’A Human Being, and Not a Mere Social Factor’: Catholic Strategies for Dealing with Sterilization Statutes in the 1920s,” Church History 73:2 (June 2004) 383-411.

“’Hopelessly Entangled in Nordic Pre-suppositions’: Catholic Participation in the American Eugenics Society in the 1920s,” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 59:1 (Jan. 2004): 3-49. Recipient of the 2005 Stanley Jackson Prize for the best article in the JHMAS from 2002-2005.

Expanded Publication List

“Beyond the Principle Investigator: Countering the ‘Great Man’ History of Digital History,” in Feminist Debates in Digital Humanities, edited by Jaqueline Wernimont and Elizabeth Losh (in process for University of Minnesota Press).

“Layers and Links: Writing Public History in a Digital Environment,” in The Oxford Handbook of Public History, edited by Paula Hamilton and James B. Gardner (Forthcoming from Oxford University Press, January 2016).

“Build, Iterate, and Generalize: Community Transcription of the Papers of the War Department and the Development of Scripto,” in Crowdsourcing our Cultural Heritage, edited by Mia Ridge (Ashgate, 2014).

“Oral History in the Digital Age,” in The Oxford Handbook of Oral History, edited by Donald A. Ritchie (Oxford University Press, 2010). Co-authored with Sheila Brennan, et al.

Courses Taught

HIST 615: American Religious History, 1865-Present

HIST 696: Clio I: Theories and Methods of Digital History

HIST 694: Digital Public History

HIST 390: The Digital Past


2004, PhD, American Studies, University of Minnesota

1997, AB, American Studies, Georgetown University

Recent Presentations

“User-Centered Design for Digital Public History,” Pitt History Digital Initiative, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh PA, October 16, 2015.

“Engagement and Access in Digital Public History,” Pitt History Digital Initiative, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh PA, October 15, 2015.

“Engagement and Access in Digital Public History,” Archive and Public Culture Research Institute, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa, September 7, 2015.

“Engagement and Access in Digital Public History,” Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, University of the Witswatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, September 2, 2015.

“Public History and Digital History: Convergences in Practice and Commitments,” African Studies in the Digital Age Workshop, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, November 12, 2014.

“Beyond Browse: Mobilizing Collections and Engaging Users,” Department of Library and Information Sciences’ Fall Colloquium, Catholic University of America, October 19, 2014.

“The Digital Turn? On the Future of Digital History,” Digital Humanities: a Dialogue between the Visual Arts and Sciences, Venice Italy, October 14, 2013.

“Adaptation or Shaping the Field: the Next Phase of Digital History,” Rice University’s Digital History Master Class, April 12, 2013.

“Focus on the Item: Teaching and Learning with Omeka,” National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education Shared Academics Webinar, February 22, 2013.

“Doing History in Public: Digital History in the Digital Humanities,” Digital Dialogues, Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, University of Maryland, April 13, 2010.

“Historical Scholarship and Pedagogy in the Commons Era,” International Conference of Digital Archives and Digital Humanities (Research Center for Digital Humanities, National Taiwan University), Taipei, Taiwan, December 1, 2009.

“Historical Scholarship in the Commons Era,” Frontiers of New Media Symposium, University of Utah, September 18, 2009.

“The Future of Teaching the Past,” Paul Gagnon Keynote Address, National Council for History Education Annual Meeting, Boston, MA, March 13, 2009.