A historian of disability history and mental illness, Ashlynn Rickord has spent most of her life researching historical mental hospitals and state schools for the disabled while simultaneously advocating for their preservation. Originally from the south suburbs of Chicago and currently residing in the North Shore of Massachusetts, Ashlynn has a master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School and a bachelor’s degree in history and religion from Carthage College.

Ashlynn’s master thesis is entitled “Faith, Death, and Space: Religion at an Institution for the Developmentally Disabled,” which focused on the role of religion at the Walter E. Fernald State School in Waltham, Massachusetts, the first state institution for the treatment of the developmentally disabled in the Western Hemisphere.

Other areas of interest include architecture and historic preservation, some of her favorite architects being Frank Lloyd Wright, Thomas Story Kirkbride, and Edward Townsend Mix.

Ashlynn also is an experienced museum professional, having worked in archives/records management, museum education, oral history, exhibit design, administration, and development/member services.


  • American History
  • Religious Studies
  • Disability Studies
  • Mental Institutionalization/Public Health Studies
  • Historic Preservation/Architecture
  • Public History – Communications, Archives Management, Museum Management
  • Museum Studies
  • Oral History


  • “Emerging Professionals in Gravestone Studies,” 2018 Association for Gravestone Studies Annual Conference, June 22, 2018.
  • “Faith, Death, and Space: Religion at an Institution for the Developmentally Disabled,” 2018 Public Health Symposium, Lawrence History Center, April 7, 2018.
  • “AMP: A Question and Answer Session,” Invited presentation for AMP performance, HERE Arts Center, New York, December 17, 2017.
  • “’Feeble’ Stones: Graves of the Developmentally Disabled in Massachusetts,” 2017 Association of Gravestone Studies Annual Conference and Meeting – as Student Conference Scholarship Recipient, June 23, 2017.
  • “Holy Innocents: An Oral History of Religion at an Institution for the Developmentally Disabled,” 2016 Oral History Association Annual Meeting, October 15, 2016.
  • “The Irish Famine and the Catholic Church: A Watershed for Catholic Religiosity in Ireland,” Honors History Department Thesis Presentations & Honors Religion Department Thesis Presentations, Carthage College, December 2014.
  • “The Catholic Church in Ireland: The Famine’s Positive Repercussions on the Church,” Phi Alpha Theta – Delta Phi Wisconsin Regional Conference, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, April 2014.


  • “History of Public Health in Boston: Long Island Hospital,” Hot Topics, Northeast Regional Office History Program, National Park Service, April 24, 2017.
  • “Disability History: The Next Frontier for Historic Preservation in the National Park Service?,” Hot Topics, Northeast Regional Office History Program, National Park Service, December 6, 2016.
  • “Highlighting Forgotten Histories,” Published on the Harvard Divinity School website, Boston: September 6, 2016, http://hds.harvard.edu/news/2016/09/06/preserving-forgotten-history.
  • “After the Holy Innocent’s Go: The Closing of a Church and the End of an Era in Massachusetts,” Published in print and online for The Boston Pilot – Echoes Section, Boston: September 2, 2016, http://www.thebostonpilot.com/Opinion/article.asp?ID=177337.