Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
Rutgers University-Newark.
Website URL
public history, urban studies, American Studies, digital humanities, Baltimore history, popular culture, food studies
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

Mary Rizzo specializes in modern U.S. cultural history, urban studies, public humanities, and digital humanities. She is particularly interested in food studies, representations of cities, and inclusive public history.

After earning her PhD in American Studies from the University Minnesota, she built a successful career in public history. From leading tours of an 18th century historic house museum to being the Associate Director of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, the state’s premier provider of public humanities funding and programming, she gained practical experience in how to successfully engage the public with history. Some of her signature achievements include creating a statewide series of public forums and community conversations on environmental justice in New Jersey that brought together philosophers, historians, activists, lawyers, and residents to examine the state of our environment. She also managed Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of HealthCare and PoetryHeals, two programs that used discussions of literature to help alleviate burnout and improve cross-cultural understanding in healthcare.

Through this statewide work, she realized that diversity and inclusion were the most important issues facing public history organizations. To address those issues, she created the Telling Untold Histories Unconference while serving as Public Historian in Residence at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities at Rutgers-Camden. This annual unconference uses a radically democratic format in which participants create a series of discussion sessions to examine how we can tell more inclusive public histories.

She brings this passion about inclusive public history to her work at Rutgers University-Newark. She created the public humanities MA track in the Graduate Program in American Studies to prepare students to be leaders in public history and humanities organizations. Through her public and digital humanities courses, her students have engaged in hands-on public history work on issues including mass incarceration, immigration detention, police misconduct in Newark, social justice movements, and LGBTQ history. Visit States of Incarceration to see her students’ work on immigration detention in NJ and From Rebellion to Review Board: Newark Fights for Police Accountability, a digital exhibit created by other students. In 2017, Rizzo won the Teaching Award for excellence in teaching NJ history for the traveling and digital Rebellion to Review Board exhibits from the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance. She is also on the advisory committee for the award-winning Queer Newark Oral History Project.

An active scholar, writer and researcher, Rizzo is currently working on Come and Be Shocked: Representing Baltimore from John Waters to The Wire. This book examines representations of Baltimore from the 1950s to the early 21st century to see how urban leaders have used art to shape how the city is seen and how artists have fought back through their own representations.

Recent Publications

Class Acts: Young Men and the Rise of Lifestyle (University of Nevada Press, 2015).

“Reading Against the Grain, Finding the Voices of the Detained,” Museums & Social Issues. 12.1 2017.

“Good Intentions Are Not Enough: Lessons for Inclusive Public History from Telling Untold Histories,” AASLH History News. June 2017.

“Building Stories,” Preserving Places: Reflections on the National Historic Preservation Act at Fifty from The Public Historian. E-publication, National Council on Public History, 2016.

Translated into Chinese, republished in Public HistoryA National Journal of Public History.

More than Fun and Games?: Play, Public Humanities and Engaged Democracy,” Public: A Journal of Imagining America. 2.1 2014.

“Scrapple,” and “Hoagies,” Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. (2014) and


“South Philadelphia,” Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. (2013)


Media Coverage
Country Focus
United States
Expertise by Geography
United States
Expertise by Chronology
8, 9
Expertise by Topic
Food History, Migration & Immigration, Public History, Urban History