Michael H. Frisch


Michael H. Frisch


Senior Research Scholar Emeritus


  • PhD, Princeton University, 1967

Research Interests

Oral/Public History: Theory and Practice; Urban/Social history—esp deindustrialization and responses to it; industrial heritage as policy domain; urban public history; theory of documentary; implications of new digital methodologies for oral/public history, pedagogy, community-based documentation projects.

Current Research
My major current focus is on refining through application new digital software approaches for indexing and annotating audio and video documentation. This is at once applied content work and theoretical research on how to explore, access, and utilize the meanings specific to documentary evidence in these media—and what such utilization can mean for historical discourse, both academic and public.

Affiliations and Other Notes

I was involved for many years in development and leadership of UB’s American Studies department, which played a leadership role nationally in the field’s reorientation around multicultural, gender, and global perspectives on US culture and history; I continue to work actively with interdisciplinary students in the successor form of that program, the Center for the Americas. I also have been an active participant and advisory board member of the Law School’s Baldy Center for Law and Policy, and I am a member of the Urban Design Project in the School of Architecture and Planning.

My current work in oral history software development is being carried on through a consulting firm I created, The Randforce Associates, LLC, which is located in the university’s Baird Research Center Technology Incubator.

I am currently a Trustee or Board of Directors member of several organizations, local to national, involved with history and public humanities in a range of dimensions. These include:

  • The Federation of State Humanities Councils (Washington, DC)
  • The Museum of Chinese in the Americas (NYC)
  • Long Bow Films, Inc. (Boston)
  • MUSE, Inc. (Musicians United for Superior Education) (Buffalo)

I have been active in major professional associations, including the Organization of American Historians (Executive Board, Annual Meeting Program Chair [1995]; the American Studies Association (Council, President [2000-2001]; the American Historical Association (Annual Meeting Program Committee, Task Force on Public History [current]; the Oral History Association (Editor, Oral History Review, 1986-1997); and the National Council on Public History (Editorial Board, The Public Historian [current].

Selected Publications

  • Portraits In Steel, with photographer Milton Rogovin (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 1993) [1995 Book Prize, Oral History Association]
  • A Shared Authority: Essays on the Craft And Meaning of Oral and Public History (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990)
  • Working-Class America: Essays on Labor, Community, and American Society, Co-edited with Daniel J. Walkowitz (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982)
  • Town Into City: Springfield, Massachusetts and the Meaning of Community, 1840-1880, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, [Harvard Studies in Urban History #2])
  • “Prismatics, Multivalence, and Other Riffs on the Millennial Moment: Presidential Address to the American Studies Association” American Quarterly 53/2 (June, 2001)
  • “Deindustrialization from the Bottom Up and the Inside Out: The Challenge of Working Class Portraiture in Words and Images,” in Moraes-Ferreira, Fernandes, Alberti, eds, Historia Oral: desafios para o seculo XXI (Rio de Janeiro, 2000)
  • “De-, Re-, and Post-Industrialization: Industrial Heritage as Contested Memorial Terrain,” Journal of Folklore Research, 35/3 (Sept.-Dec. 1998)
  • “A Necessary Edge: Equality and Difference,” Acoma: Rivista Internazionale di Studi NordAmericani [Firenze, Italy: Giunti Gruppo Editoriale] 13 (Spring,1998)
  • “Woodstock and Altamont,” in William Graebner, ed., True Stories from the American Past (New York: McGraw-Hill, Second Edition 1996)
  • “The Memory and History Debates: Some International Perspectives” [with Alistair Thomson and Paula Hamilton], Oral History [UK] 22/2 25th Anniversary Issue (Autumn, 1994)
  • “The Face on the Cutting Room Floor: The Place of Practice in Changing Approaches to Historical Analysis,” in Karsten and Modell, eds., Theory, Method, and Practice in Social and Cultural History, (New York: NYU Press)
  • “A Conversation with Michael H. Frisch,” Journal of Urban History 17/2 (February,1991)
  • “American History and the Structures of Collective Memory: A Modest Exercise in Empirical Iconography,” Journal of American History 75/4 (March, 1989)
  • “Notes on the Teaching and Learning of Old Time Fiddle,” Ethnomusicology: Journal of the Society for Ethnomusicology, 31/1 (Win-ter), 87-102

Honors and Awards

  • 2003 Oral History Review, Spring, 2003, special theme issue focused on the impact of A Shared Authority, my 1990 book
  • 2001 President, American Studies Association, for 2000-2001
  • 1996 Executive Board, Organization of American Historians {elected], 1996-1999
  • 1995 Oral History Association 1993-1995 Best Book Prize, for Portraits in Steel
  • 1992 Fulbright Chair in American Studies, University of Venice, Italy
  • 1988 Forrest Pogue Award for Contributions to Oral History, OHMAR [Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region]
  • 1985 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching