A literary historian by training, Heidi Kolk started her career as a student of art and poetry, and has long gravitated to cross-disciplinary research. Her research explores the politics of public memory in the United States, especially as it intersects with matters of race and space, heritage and public culture, and the history of American cities. Her 2019 book Taking Possession: The Politics of Memory in a St. Louis Town House (University of Massachusetts Press) engages several of these subjects.
She is currently at work on a book-length study of the long history of "negative heritage" in the United States––sites said to be haunted, cursed, contaminated, or otherwise "unredeemable" in ethical, material, interpretative, and political terms, but that nevertheless have a powerful hold on the American imagination.
Kolk previously served as associate director of the American Culture Studies program, and she has served in a variety of other administrative roles at Washington University. She earned an MA in English and American Literature, a PhD Certificate in American Culture Studies, and a PhD in English and American Literature, all from Washington University, and a BA in English and Fine Arts from Hope College.