Ryan K Smith, PhD

Ryan Smith photo

Director of Graduate Studies and Professor, America
(804) 828-9932

Ryan K. Smith specializes in American religious history and material culture. His most recent book is an architectural biography, Robert Morris's Folly: The Architectural and Financial Failures of an American Founder, published by Yale University Press in 2014. This book tells the story of the downfall of Robert Morris, an essential yet overlooked figure from the Revolutionary era who plunged from the peaks of wealth into debtors' prison in 1798. A key aspect of his failure was his attempt to build a palace in Philadelphia, designed by famed engineer P. C. L'Enfant.

Dr. Smith is also the author of Gothic Arches, Latin Crosses: Anti-Catholicism and American Church Designs in the Nineteenth Century, published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2006.

Lately, Dr. Smith has been teaching courses and directing research on the subject of Richmond's historic burial grounds. He has created a website dedicated to the topic, showcasing student work: http://richmondcemeteries.org/. He is currently writing a book on this topic, titled "Death and Rebirth in a Southern City: Richmond's Historic Cemeteries."

Two other studies are also under development -- one on the historic preservation of southern lighthouses and one on the material culture of American spiritualism.

Dr. Smith has public history experience, having worked at the Library of Virginia, the Winterthur Museum, the St. Augustine Historical Society, and the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, among other institutions.

For a recent web project coauthored with students see "The Judah Will" at http://judahwill.rampages.us/