Thomas Thurston

Thomas ThurstonProject Director, New Deal Network
New York City

“The Internet offers exciting possibilities for strengthening history education and exposing a broader audience to new historical materials, questions, methodologies, and techniques. When scholars embrace the Internet, they become public historians: reaching people they had not necessarily intended to reach.”


Tom Thurston entered the work force as a forklift operator and then a Teamsters Union shop steward. In his late twenties, he decided to go to college, where he majored in American studies. After receiving a B.A. from the University of California at Santa Cruz, he was accepted into the Ph.D. program at Yale University. Thurston was at the forefront of recognizing the educational potential of the Internet. In 1994, as a graduate student, he incorporated the web into his teaching of an undergraduate seminar. It was this experience that contributed to his becoming the project director for the New Deal Network in 1996.

John Sears, the executive director of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, had a vision for using the Internet to provide resources on the New Deal Network and hired Thurston to design and develop a web site. The major focus of the network ( is making records and curriculum resources on the New Deal and on the cultural and political developments of the 1930s easily available. While the primary audience has been middle school and high school teachers and students, many college students and the general public use the network as well. Thurston’s responsibilities range from identifying documents and resources to collaborating with scholars and teachers on research projects and the creation of lesson plans.