Emily Thompson is a historian of technology who studies late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America. Her research explores the cultural history of sound, music, noise, and listening, and focuses on how these phenomena and activities intersect with technologies like the phonograph, motion pictures, and architecture.
Professor Thompson’s current research focuses upon the transformation of technical work during the transition from silent to sound motion pictures in the American film industry. Her book-in-progress, Sound Effects, will examine the working lives of sound engineers, editors, musicians, projectionists, and other technicians associated with the production and exhibition of films in the U.S.,1925-1933.
She has also written about the Pathé Studio fire of 1929, a deadly fire on a motion picture sound stage in Manhattan that led to criminal investigations against the Pathé studio executives that, in turn, played a role in exposing the political corruption that permeated the Tammany Hall government of City Hall and led to the resignation of New York City’s Mayor Jimmy Walker in 1932.
She is currently developing a website, “The Roaring ‘Twenties,” in collaboration with the USC-sponsored online journal Vectors. This site will explore how the interactive multimedia capabilities of the web can be used to construct a historical representation of noise in New York City in the late 1920s.