A longtime University of Wyoming faculty member who founded and directed a key outreach program for more than a decade has been named director of UW’s American Heritage Center (AHC).
Religious studies Professor Paul Flesher will lead UW’s repository of manuscripts collections, rare books and the university archives, which is among the largest nongovernmental archives in the nation. Flesher’s appointment was approved last week by the UW Board of Trustees.
Flesher has been a member of the UW faculty since 1993, when he founded the religious studies program. He managed it for 21 years, during which it became a department, grew its faculty and created a bachelor’s degree. He also established UW’s Saturday University program, which takes UW faculty members across the state to deliver lectures on a variety of topics, and directed it for 11 years.
“We’re delighted that Dr. Flesher, a national and international scholar, has agreed to direct the AHC, a core facility for the state and a hub for international understanding of the West,” Provost Kate Miller says. “Through his Saturday University work, he has established strong connections with museums and archives across Wyoming, and his commitment to serving the state fits nicely with the AHC’s mission.”
A historian of ancient religions — trained at Oxford University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Brown University — Flesher has published three books, edited or co-edited nine collected volumes of essays, and written more than 40 essays and book chapters.
Flesher has worked in archives in Israel, England and the United States. Drawing upon his background in computer programming, he currently leads a project building a searchable, digital archive of archaeological excavation records. He has extensive experience in editing, currently serving as editor-in-chief for a book series with E.J. Brill Publishers of Leiden, The Netherlands, as well as sitting on the boards of three journals.
For 21 years, the Wyoming native wrote a column — “Religion Today,” which discussed world religions — that was published in Wyoming newspapers and other media outlets.
“I see the job of administrator as a way to enhance teaching and create and renew opportunities that further what people can know about today’s world,” Flesher says. “The AHC is an incredible repository of knowledge, and I’m excited to help advance its work within the state and beyond.”
The AHC’s collections focus on Wyoming and the Rocky Mountain West and nationally on the topics of environment and conservation; the mining and petroleum industries; air and rail transportation; the performing arts (particularly radio, television, film, and popular music); journalism; U.S. military history; and book history.