Jon Olsen's primary research interests involve issues of memory and historical consciousness in modern Germany, especially in post-1945 East Germany. He is currently working on revising a manuscript for publication that looks at how the East German regime attempted to manipulate popular perceptions of the past as a means to legitimize its control over society. His teaching interests build on his areas of research. He teaches courses in the UMass Public History program that deal with new media, digital history, and theories of memory culture and historical consciousness.
He earned his B.A. in German, Russian Studies, and History at St. Olaf College in 1993. He earned his M.A. German and European Studies at Georgetown University. In 1997-1998, he was a fellow of the Robert Bosch Foundation in Germany, where he worked as a speech-writer and advisor to Markus Meckel, a member of the German Parliament and East Germany’s last Foreign Minister, and served on the planning staff for a new museum (Zeitgeschichtliches Forum) in Leipzig, Germany that focuses on the history of East Germany. Following his stay in Germany he returned to the U.S. to study at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he completed his Ph.D. in German history in 2004.
Before coming to UMass he was a post-doctoral fellow at George Mason University, where he also was the editor of Making the History of 1989 an online e-learning project commemorating the 1989 revolutions of Eastern Europe. He have also held Visiting Assistant Professor positions at the College of William and Mary and at Texas Tech University.