Erika Holst

Erika Holst headshot

For our Road Scholars Speakers Bureau, this scholar is fully booked through 2024. 
However, you may book them outside of any Illinois Humanities affiliation using the contact information in the “Booking Information” section below.

As a public historian, Erika Holst has two professional loves: doing historical research, and then sharing and discussing those discoveries with others. 

Being a Road Scholar has allowed her to share her passions with audiences throughout Illinois. She enjoys sharing new information with people, helping them to consider things in a new way, seeing people make connections between historical events and objects and their own experiences and histories, and having discussions where new insights are gained by all involved. Her conversational and approachable presentation style is well received.

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Fully Booked

Growing Up X

Sandwiched between the much larger Baby Boomer and Millennial generations, the members of Generation X (those born between 1965-1980) have variously been called the “middle child generation,” the “slacker generation,” the “MTV generation,” the “latchkey generation,” and “the least parented, least nurtured generation in U.S. history.” With minimal adult supervision in their lives, this generation’s childhood toys, technology, and media had an outsized role in their development.

This presentation takes close look at toys, technology, and cultural touchstones that informed the development of Generation X. This talk will dig into the social, cultural, and historical factors behind the conditions and objects that surrounded this generation in everyday life, including the rise of divorce and single parent families; the low-grade existential fear produced by the Cold War; the war on drugs and the AIDS crisis.

The presentation will be structured in lecture/discussion format incorporating images of objects, vintage photographs, and advertisements. Visual Thinking Strategies will be incorporated to spark insight into selected objects and images. Dialogue and discussion will be an important part of this presentation. Many of the attendees will doubtlessly be members of Generation X themselves and will have ample opportunities to share their memories and insights as well as engage in cross-generational discussions.

Program Logistics

The presentation takes approximately 45 minutes, with extra time at the end for Q&A, making it approximately one hour. Project and screen are required.

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The Life Cycle of Clothing

Americans invested a tremendous amount of labor into making and maintaining their wardrobes during the 19th century. This presentation will explore the life cycle of clothing during the 1800s: how it was created, mended, remade, washed, and ultimately recycled.

This presentation will highlight examples of garments and artifacts from the Illinois State Museum’s collections. After the presentation, the audience will have the opportunity to do the following:

  1. Reflect on their own experiences with making, mending, washing, and recycling clothing, drawing parallels between the 19th century and today;
  2. Share memories of this work in their families from earlier generations; and
  3. Explore modern attitudes towards “fast fashion” and mending vs. discarding.

Program Logistics

The presentation takes approximately 45 minutes, with extra time at the end for Q&A, making it approximately one hour. A projector and screen are required.


Erika Holst is the Curator of History at the Illinois State Museum. Her most recent exhibition, on view in 2023, is Growing Up X, an exploration of the toys, technology, and cultural touchstones that shaped Generation X.

Erika has worked in the public history field for more than 15 years, during which time she has curated more than a dozen exhibitions. She is passionate about sharing stories of people and history through material culture. Before joining the Illinois State Museum, Erika served as Curator of Collections at the historic Edwards Place in Springfield, IL.

Erika’s publications include Wicked Springfield: Crime, Corruption, and Scandal During the Lincoln Era; Edwards Place: A Springfield Treasure; and Historic Houses of Lincoln’s Illinois, as well as several scholarly and popular articles. She holds an MA from the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture and a BA from Illinois Wesleyan University.

Book this Road Scholar

Follow the steps below to book a presentation.
  1. Contact Erika to schedule a date and time via email at or phone at (217) 871-5065.
  2. Once you and Erika have agreed upon a date and time, complete the online Road Scholars Host Organization application.
Contact Us

Fairouz AbuGhazaleh
Director of Statewide Programs
(312) 374-1553