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Dr. Kathryn Swanson

Assistant Professor of History

Teaching Area



  • PhD, Archaeology, Boston University
  • BA, Anthropology and Art History (Double Major), College of William and Mary


Dr. Kathryn Swanson specializes in cultural exchange in the early modern (17th-18th centuries) Spanish and British Atlantic. She has a background in historical archaeology and enjoys taking a multi-disciplinary approach to studying the past, which she is looking forward to bringing to the History Department at Principia. Swanson has over a dozen years of experience in museums, holding positions at the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation (Virginia) and Harvard University's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology (Massachusetts) as well as Plimoth Patuxet (formerly Plimoth Plantation, also in Massachusetts). She has served as an instructor in The Writing Program at Boston University and assisted with museum studies and archaeology courses at Boston University, Harvard University, and the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Scholarly Interests

  • Swanson’s research focuses on cultural identity in the early Americas. Using material culture (the study of “stuff”), she has explored trans-Atlantic exchanges of goods, foodways, and fashions in the 18th-century Spanish empire. More recently, she used historical records and archaeological evidence to reexamine parts of King Philip’s War (1675-1678).

Contributions to Your Field

  • She has taught archaeology, museum studies, and writing courses to undergraduates and taught graduate-level teacher certification training programs on using museums in classrooms. She has presented her research at academic conferences in the United States, Spain, and Canada and assisted in organizing an international conference in Boston, Massachusetts. She has designed and published a classification system for historical Spanish ceramics that facilitates international research. She has published on the pedagogy of using historical objects in the classroom. She has served as the Curator of Collections at Plimoth Patuxet (formerly Plimoth Plantation).


  • Humanities Collections and Reference Resources Grant, National Endowment for the Humanities (Plimoth Patuxet and University of Massachusetts Boston), 2018
  • Cora du Bois Fellowship, Cora du Bois Charitable Trust (2014)
  • Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant, National Science Foundation (2013)
  • Angela J. and James J. Rallis Memorial Award and the Helen G. Allen Humanities Award, Center for the Humanities, Boston University (2012)

Memberships and Affiliations

  • Phi Beta Kappa

Publications and Presentations

  • Swanson, Kathryn L. Ness 2020 “Stuff, Not Nonsense: Using Material Culture in Historical Research and Interpretation.” In Heuvel, L. (ed.), Living History in the Classroom: Performance and Pedagogy, Bingley: Emerald Publishing.
  • Ness, Kathryn L. 2017. Setting the Table: Ceramics, Dining, and Cultural Exchange in Andalucía and La Florida. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
  • “The RM Site: A History Mystery.” Presentation for Plimoth Patuxet’s 2020 National Endowment for the Humanities Teachers Institute, Plymouth, M.A., August 6, 2020.
  • “Setting the Table: Ceramics and Cultural Identity in the 18th-Century Spanish-Atlantic World.” Talk for Mission San Luis, Tallahassee, Fla., February 23, 2017.

Dr. Kathryn Swanson CV