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Photo of Kotch and Melzer

Seth Kotch and Ashley Melzer will oversee two important humanities programs in the College. (Seth Kotch photo courtesy of Seth Kotch) (Ashley Melzer photo by Kevin Patrick Robbins)

Two take on new humanities roles

Seth Kotch, associate professor of digital humanities in American studies, has been named director of the Southern Oral History Program. Ashley Melzer, a writer, filmmaker and longtime contributor of editorial and digital content to Southern Cultures and the Center for the Study of the American South, has been tapped to lead the College’s Humanities for the Public Good initiative.

Kotch, who earned his master’s and Ph.D.  in history from UNC, has developed several major digital projects in recent years, including A Red Record, which documents lynchings in the South, and Media and the Movement, a digital archive of broadcasts from Black activist radio stations from the 1960s and ’70s.

One of the first projects he would like SOHP to embark on is to interview people who remember growing up before the polio vaccine was widely available — a project likely to have resonance as the human race seeks to adapt to living with COVID-19.

As SOHP director, Kotch succeeds Rachel Seidman, who has relocated with her family to Washington, D.C.

Melzer, who received an M.A. in UNC’s American studies folklore program in 2009, will oversee the Humanities for the Public Good initiative. This four-year effort, funded in 2018 through a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, seeks to bridge the silos between academic research and teaching and the surrounding communities that can both inform and benefit from such scholarship.

Melzer succeeds Robyn Schroeder, who recently took a position at the College of William & Mary.