Alan Lessoff, Professor of History, will deliver the fall College of Arts and Sciences Lecture on Thursday, November 10, at 7 p.m. in the Old Main Room of the Bone Student Center. His lecture, “Downtown Bloomington Is Not Uptown Normal,” is free and open to the public. All members of the Illinois State and Bloomington-Normal communities are invited to attend.
Lessoff’s lecture will be based on his ongoing research for an exhibition, multimedia, and publication project with the McLean County Museum of History, scheduled for 2019, on unbuilt buildings and unimplemented plans and development schemes in Bloomington-Normal. Exhibitions and books on the theme of the “Unbuilt City” have appeared for many large cities—Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Chicago—but this is the first time we know of that such a project has been attempted in a medium-sized city such as ours. Beyond encouraging people now to imagine what might have been—good and bad—such projects dramatize how a city’s residents at different times in the past visualized and quarreled over their city’s character, problems, and possibilities.
A specialist in U.S. and comparative urban history, Lessoff is the author, co-author, or editor of six books, most recently Where Texas Meets the Sea: Corpus Christi and Its History, published by the University of Texas Press in 2015, along with articles and chapters on topics ranging from city politics and government to urban development, planning, and design, the local and regional identity of cities, and the arts and museums in urban life.
Lessoff teaches both United States and urban history subjects, as well as research and methodology courses on urban and local history. From 2004 to 2014, he was the editor of the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, the main professional journal for U.S. history between Reconstruction and World War I. A two-time Fulbright scholar, Lessoff has held visiting professorships at the universities of Kassel and Bielefeld in Germany and at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. In spring 2016 he served as one of the first Obama fellows at the new Institute for Transnational American Studies at the University of Mainz in Germany. Born in Boston and raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts, he holds bachelor degrees from Columbia and Cambridge universities and an M.A. and a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. Before coming to Illinois State University in 2000, he taught at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.