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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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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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Jesse teaching a Library Carpentry workshop at the Library of Congress for a group of librarians from across the federal government.


I have taught courses for various learner groups at the Library of Congress, University of Maryland, George Mason University, Bowling Green State University, and the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

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About Me

Jesse Johnston is a librarian and archivist, educator, administrator, and music scholar with extensive experience in the public sector, academic research, and teaching. 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, he was Associate Director for Information Strategy at Mcubed and Senior Research Development Officer, where he catalyzed research projects in the arts and humanities across all three campuses. In addition to this professional service, he has 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 maintains research interests in user practices in archives, specifically on how digitization and digital preservation impact access to cultural heritage collections as well as user practices 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 maintains research interests in ethnomusicology and specifically 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.