Spring 2016

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Karen Herman: Rock Historian

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Karen Herman’s job rocks. She’s vice president of collections and curatorial affairs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in her hometown of Cleveland, and it’s her mission to tell the stories behind the artifacts that have molded rock music into the cultural force it is today, from Michael Jackson’s bedazzled glove to a Ringo Starr drum kit. An early-punk fan and student of pop culture, Herman ’87 got her start at the Television Academy’s Archive of American Television in Hollywood, where she discovered that the best people to give a history of modern entertainment are the entertainers themselves. “You can’t interview Beethoven,” she says, “but with rock ’n’ roll, the people who created it are still alive.” Herman has given new life to a museum where many displays now include insights from those who shaped the genre. For example, for an exhibit on Ringo Starr, Herman and fellow museum staff flew to Los Angeles to shoot a video of the 2015 inductee talking about the drum kit he played during the Beatles’ 1965 concert at Shea Stadium. “It’s really about bringing the human element into telling the story,” says Herman, a former magazine journalist. “And that story is one worth telling.”