Jesse Johnston teaching about digital forensics for archivists, librarians, and other cultural heritage applications. Photo from March 2023, courtesy Jeff Smith.


I have taught various learner groups at the University of Michigan School of Information, the Library of Congress, the University of Maryland, and elsewhere.

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I write for academic and public audiences. Click here to see what I’ve written for the public sector and for academia, ranging from advice for grantseekers to humanities data curation, digital preservation, and ethnomusicology.

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My interdisciplinary, qualitative and interpretive research investigates digital preservation, recordkeeping and recordmaking policy, archives and anthropology, and ethnomusicology. Learn more about my research here.

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About Me

Jesse Johnston is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan School of Information. He has worked as a librarian and archivist, educator, and an administrator; in his teaching, he draws on this broad experience in the public sector, cultural heritage, and information studies to provide experiential and applied knowledge, particularly for students studying librarianship and archival studies.

As a librarian and archivist, he served as a Senior Librarian for digital content at the Library of Congress. He also served as an Archives Specialist in the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and worked on metadata and digital description for archival audio collections. As an administrator, he served as a Senior Program Officer for preservation and access and Acting Records Officer at the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). At the University of Michigan School of Information, he serves as Clinical Assistant Professor and was previously Associate Director for Information Strategy at Mcubed, a research incubator at the University, where he catalyzed research projects in the arts and humanities across all three University of Michigan campuses. He has also taught courses in information science and musicology at the University of Maryland, George Mason University, Bowling Green State University, and the University of Michigan–Dearborn. He researches user practices in archives, information organization and metadata for archival sources and collections, and digitization for preservation as a practice in audio and music archives.

As an administrator and federal program manager at the NEH and the Library of Congress, Johnston has extensive experience in advising and managing programs that support activity in the arts and humanities, analyzing and communicating funding priorities and policies, and managing large and complex digital collections. As a senior librarian for digital collections at the Library of Congress during 2018 and 2019, he served as the editor for a new compendium of policies that govern the Library's digital collection management. While a program officer at NEH, he managed a program portfolio that awarded on average $1.5 million annually, and from 2015 to 2018, he also served as the project lead for NEH Common Heritage, the agency's first and only community archiving program. In these capacities, Johnston has advised hundreds of digital projects on how to create long-lasting, usable, and valuable digital resources. He has also provided expert advice to researchers developing and presenting digital projects to funders, both federal and private, across the cultural sector.

As a teacher, Johnston has worked as an adjunct and full-time faculty member in information science and ethnomusicology departments. He has taught undergraduate ethnomusicology courses in the Department of Musicology, Composition, and Theory at Bowling Green State University and in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters at the University of Michigan–Dearborn. In information science, he has been a teaching member of the faculty at the University of Maryland iSchool and the Department of History and Art History at the George Mason University. As a scholar, he researches archives, digitization, and the performance of Moravian traditional music. He has conducted field research in traditional and popular musics with communities in the Czech Republic, the Philippines, and Czech-Americans in the Upper Midwest. He holds a PhD in musicology and a Master of Science in Information, both from the University of Michigan.