Biography

Lyra D. Monteiro (she/zie) received her PhD from Brown University in 2012, and specializes in public humanities, early United States history, and race and ethnic identity. Her work focuses on the uses of the past in public culture, with a particular emphasis on issues of race and representation in the telling of the United States’ pasts. She is the recipient of the 2016 Walter and Lillian Lowenfels Award for Criticism from the American Book Awards for her work on the Broadway musical Hamilton. Her review essay in The Public Historian, titled “Race-Conscious Casting and the Erasure of the Black Past in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton,” argued that despite its celebrated multiracial casting, the play reinforces the idea that the United States’ past was populated solely by white people, thus normalizing and legitimizing white power in the present. Her current book project Liberation Archaeology,  introduces an anti-oppressive, trauma-informed approach to engaging with the past, specifically designed for people of color in the US. Responding to traditional, teleological models of history, which selectively narrate the past as if it inevitably led us to the hierarchies of power that characterize our present, this book turns that model on its head, and instead approaches the past explicitly from the perspective of the present; and from the perspective of a specific site: the reader. Through a series of case studies, the book guides readers through an excavation of the many layers of empire and other matrices of power that have shaped them. Written at this moment in history, when books supporting white education about anti-racism proliferate, Liberation Archaeology is an intervention and an offering: It reframes the past as a site of liberation from the lies of nationalism, capitalism, and patriarchal white supremacy, and it teaches a practice to support our individual and communal efforts to get free. 

Dr. Monteiro also directs The Museum On Site, a public humanities/art project that aims to help people understand their worlds through site-specific, free public experiences that share ideas and information in accessible and stimulating ways. Previous projects have included an installation at the public festival WaterFire Providence, combining public performances and participatory ritual to address the history and legacy of Rhode Island’s transatlantic slave trade; a photo-based diorama of a busy street in downtown Providence, Rhode Island, displayed in a store window with labels that shared stories from the past and present of the people, buildings, and things on two blocks (www.westminsterstories.com); and a pop-up museum that filled a real street with hundreds of museum labels about that street (www.tinyurl.com/museumvideo). Dr. Monteiro's current project with The Museum On Site is called "Washington's Next!" and was originally presented in October 2018 as part of the Art in Odd Places BODY Festival and Exhibition (www.washingtonsnext.com). Last summer, "Washington's Next!" explored the hundreds of statue attacks that took place in 2020, following the murder of George Floyd, through the project "How to Kill a Statue" on Instagram and Twitter, as well as an interactive digital map of the more than 100 racist statues removed between May 30, 2020 and June 30, 2020. 

She has also worked on curatorial, education, and development projects for over a dozen museums and cultural institutions, including the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, Harvard Art Museum, Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. 

In addition to public-facing writing in magazines and blogs, her work has been published in Current Anthropology, Archaeologies: The Journal of the World Archaeological Congress, International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, and the Journal of Roman Archaeology.

Research Initiatives

The Museum On Site Co-founded in 2008 by Lyra Monteiro and Andrew LosowskyVision: The Museum On Site is dedicated to helping people understand their worlds through site-specific, free public experiences that share ideas and information in accessible and stimulating ways. Mission Statement:The Museum On Site is committed to:changing people’s understanding of the worlds around themproviding broad access to ideas and information by entering existing non-museum spaces where people gathereducating people in stimulating, non-conventional ways, engaging them both emotionally and intellectually through methodologies drawn from theater, museums, art, advertising, public ritual, and other, experience-based mediaworking with scholarly research in a sensitive way, bringing together academics and local community groupsinspiring people to use its creations as a springboard to further learning, by providing educational opportunities and informationdocumenting its work, inviting discussion, and sharing its methods and discoveriesDr. Monteiro's current project with The Museum On Site is called "Washington's Next!" and was first presented in October 2018 as part of the Art in Odd Places BODY Festival and Exhibition. The project website can be found here: www.washingtonsnext.com; and the project's social media accounts (@WashingtonsNext on Twitter and Instagram) are updated as the project evolves; and our most recent release, a map of more than 100 removed at the start of the during the George Floyd Uprising, can be seen here.Previous projects include:A Thousand Ships: A Ritual of Remembrance Marking the Bicentennial of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, a collaboration with artist Barnaby Evans, which took place at WaterFire Providence, and reached an audience of 30,000 residents and tourists. A book documenting the event is available for purchase here: https://www.blurb.com/b/3218866-a-thousand-ships, and a free PDF can be downloaded here: http://www.themuseumonline.com/book/1000_SHIPS_LOWRES_05.10.12.pdfWestminster Stories, a photo-based diorama of a busy street in downtown Providence, Rhode Island, displayed in a store window with labels that shared stories from the past and present of the people, buildings, and things on two blocks. The website for the project, which was updated on a weekly basis throughout the project, is archived here: http://www.westminsterstories.com/The Museum of Westminster Street, a pop-up museum that filled a real street with hundreds of museum labels about that street. A short video documenting this project is available here: www.tinyurl.com/museumvideo

Education

Ph.D., Archaeology and the Ancient World, Brown University, 2012

M.A., Public Humanities, Brown University, 2009

M.A., Classical Art and Archaeology, University of Michigan, 2006

M.A., Classical Studies-Latin, University of Michigan, 2006

B.A., Anthropology and Classical Civilizations, summa cum laude, New York University, 2004

Courses Taught

Undergraduate: 

  • Liberation Archaeology
  • Race and Gender in American Film 
  • Introduction to African American and African Studies I
  • African-American History I
  • Introduction to Public History
  • Intergroup Dialogue: Race (co-taught with Honors Living-Learning Community Associate Dean Marta Esquilin)
  • Race and Identity in the Early United States
  • History of the United States I
  • Independent Study: African American History and Education Prior to the Civil War

Graduate: 

  • Public Histories of Slavery for the 21st Century
  • Public History: Community Engagement and Site-Specific Storytelling
  • Independent Study: African American Memory and Counter-Memory

Awards

Walter & Lillian Lowenfels Award for Criticism, American Book Awards, 2016

Create Change Fellowship, The Laundromat Project, 2016

Sawyer Postdoctoral Fellowship, Department of English and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania, July 2013-June 2014

J.M. Stuart Fellow, John Carter Brown Library, September 2009-June 2010

Jay and Deborah Last Fellow, American Antiquarian Society, January 2010

Summer Seminar Fellow, American Numismatic Society, June-July 2007

Mellon Fellowship for Humanistic Studies, 2004-2005

Expertise

queer theory, counter-hegemonic heritage discourses and practices, the politics of the past, representation of non-normative bodies and subjectivities in popular culture, autotheory as a mode of scholarly writing, postcolonial/anti-colonial/liberation archaeology, intergenerational trauma from slavery and settler-colonialism, Intergroup Dialogue and other approaches to social justice education, dance and empire in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, black radical thought, collective memory and the nation state, inclusive museum practices, intersections of public humanities and public art, site-specific artistic performance and installation, public histories of slavery

Publications

BOOK:
Edited with Andrew Losowsky, A Thousand Ships: A Ritual of Remembrance Marking the Bicentennial of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (Providence: The Museum On Site, 2012)

ARTICLES:

"How a Trump Executive Order Aims to Set White Supremacy in Stone,” Hyperallergic, January 12, 2021.

“Race-Conscious Casting and the Erasure of the Black Past in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton.The Public Historian 38, no. 1 (Feb 2016): 89-98. Reprinted in Historians on Hamilton: How a Blockbuster Musical is Restaging America’s Past (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2018).

“Methodology of A Thousand Ships,” in A Thousand Ships: A Ritual of Remembrance Marking the Bicentennial of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, eds. A. Losowsky and L. Monteiro (Providence: The Museum On Site, 2012)

“The Mezquita of Córdoba is Made of More than Bricks: Towards a Broader Definition of the ‘Heritage’ Protected at UNESCO World Heritage Sites,” Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress 7 (2011): 312-328.

“Including Immigrants: How Art Museums Can Bring Together Old and New Americans” in International Journal of the Inclusive Museum 1, no. 4 (2008): 139-146.

(with Daniel Shoup) “When Past and Present Collide: the Ethics of Archaeological Stewardship” in Current Anthropology 49 (2008): 328-333.

“Ethnicity and Conflict in the Roman Conquest of Spain” in TRAC 2007: Proceedings of the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference, London 2007 (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2008), 53-61.

“Object in Focus: A Silver Stater from Metapontum, Italy, in the Kelsey Museum,” Bulletin of the University of Michigan Museums of Art and Archaeology 26 (2005-2006), 76-79.

BOOK REVIEW:
“The Present in the Past: Globalization and the Roman World,” a review of R. Hingley Globalizing Roman Culture, in Journal of Roman Archaeology 20 (2007): 549-554.

Related Websites

Selected papers available at: https://ncas-rutgers.academia.edu/LyraMonteiro