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Harvard Art Museums

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Harvard Art Museums
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University.jpg
Location within Boston
Established 1983 (1983)
Location 32 Quincy Street
Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
Coordinates 42°22′27″N 71°06′53″W / 42.3742°N 71.1147°W / 42.3742; -71.1147
Type Art museum
Collection size over 250,000
Director Martha Tedeschi
Architect Renzo Piano
Owner Harvard University
Public transit access Harvard

The Harvard Art Museums are part of Harvard University and comprise three museums: the Fogg Museum (established in 1895[1]), the Busch-Reisinger Museum (established in 1903[1]), and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum (established in 1985[1]) and four research centers: the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis (founded in 1958[2]), the Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art (founded in 2002),[3] the Harvard Art Museums Archives, and the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies (founded in 1928[4]). The three museums that constitute the Harvard Art Museums were initially integrated into a single institution under the name Harvard University Art Museums in 1983. The word "University" was dropped from the institutional name in 2008.

The collections include approximately 250,000 objects in all media, ranging in date from antiquity to the present and originating in Europe, North America, North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia.

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  • The Museum, the City, and the University || Radcliffe Institute
  • Objects and Collections | University As Collector || Radcliffe Institute
  • Discover | Schlesinger Library || Radcliffe Institute
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[MUSIC PLAYING] - Good afternoon, everyone. I'm delighted to see you. I'm Liz Cohen. I'm Dean of the Radcliffe Institute. We have a very full house here today. Thank you all for joining us. I'm very much looking forward to our discussion, "The Museum, the City, and the University." Our program today reflects Radcliffe's dual mission to support scholars, scientists, and artists as they pursue innovative research and creative work, and to share the fruits of those endeavors with the wide public through lectures, conferences, exhibitions. And discussions like today's I am excited to dive into what I know will be a fascinating discussion about the present and future of three institutions that matter a great deal to me, and I would guess to many of you in this room-- the art museum, the university, and the city. To guide us, we are fortunate to have five leaders of Boston's major art museums, as well as our distinguished moderator, Harvard and Radcliffe's own professor Yukio Lippit. Museums and universities have distinctive but overlapping missions in today's society. Both are committed to preserving cultural knowledge in abstract and material form. Both are dedicated to advancing new knowledge, new research. And they share a common mission to communicate ideas and aesthetic appreciation in a variety of ways to broad constituencies. These links between museums and universities are not new. They have a long history. When Western European nations were first forming and monarchs were consolidating their power, universities and lavish collections of art and antiquities played important and complementary roles in their societies. Teaching and research universities helped solidify national identities, and royal collections glorified the crown and conferred legitimacy. Both also preserved the ideological and material culture of their patrons for the future. In the 18th and 19th centuries, when many of the major museums we know today emerged as important cultural institutions in cities around the world, they took on important societal objectives and engaged a much broader public. Not only did their collecting and research commitments expand, but as democratic government took hold in the Western world, museums aspired to use their cultural treasures to cultivate enlightened citizens. Here in the United States, the 19th and early 20th centuries also saw massive immigration to Boston, New York, and other major cities. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, both founded in 1870, aimed to serve as Americanizing institutions in urban centers that were exploding in size and population. Much has changed, of course, between the 1870s and today. But deep connections live on between national identity and collections of visual material culture, between museums and universities as preservers and promoters of new knowledge, and between museums and their publics. To highlight one very recent example, earlier this year, our five panelists wrote an open letter eloquently defending the National Arts and Humanities endowments and articulating their shared belief, and I quote, that "access to the arts is at the core of a democratic and equitable society." End quote. These issues have taken on greater urgency and importance in recent years and even months. We are watching as public support for the arts and humanities is increasingly contested. We are experiencing a new wave of nativism and pressures for Americanization that surely have implications for the missions of universities and museums alike. And as American cities struggle for economic survival, their museums face pressures to be engines of growth and development, in addition to their traditional roles in education and research, potentially leading to conflicting agendas. Finally, current political realities make museums' efforts to engage the public in the arts and humanities both more important and potentially more difficult than ever before. I am grateful that we have with us this afternoon such a distinguished panel to help us explore and better understand some of these issues, and surely others as well. Before I hand things over to Yukio Lippit, let me invite you all to continue the conversation with our panelists and with each other at a reception immediately following this program right next door at Fay House. Now, to get our program started, please join me in welcoming Yukio Lippit to the podium. Yukio is a professor of art and architecture at Harvard, an expert in Japanese art with extensive experience creating museum exhibitions, and the Johnson-Kulukundis Family Faculty Director of the arts here at the Radcliffe Institute. Yukio? [APPLAUSE] Hello, everyone, and let me join Dean Cohen and welcome you to what promises to be a special event. In the greater Boston area, we're fortunate enough to have art museums of the highest caliber. The Museum of Fine Arts is one of the great encyclopedic museums anywhere in the world, with collections second to none. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum close by is a real cultural treasure of the city of Boston, one of the remarkable museums that emerged out of the Gilded Age, and its collections housed in an unforgettable setting. Through dynamic programming and landmark exhibitions, the Institute of Contemporary Ar in Boston has been a leader in the art world since its opening in the 1930s. Similarly, the List Center for the Visual Arts at MIT has been a true center for innovation and experimentation in the arts since its founding as the Heaton Gallery in 1950. And the Harvard Art Museums together constitute one of the leading research museums worldwide These museums represent very different kinds of institutions, but each in their own way constitutes an important part of the region's history and contributes vitally to its character in the present. This evening, we're fortunate enough to be able to engage in conversation with their respective directors. They come from different backgrounds, but all share a broad set of experiences touching upon many different aspects of the art world. They have curated exhibitions, authored scholarly articles, purchased art, hired museum staff, discovered new works, written opinion pieces, founded NPOs, conceived of innovative programs, crafted partnerships and strategic plans in overseeing complex building projects. They have also been known to raise money. They are art lovers first and foremost, but also scholars, historians, curators, planners, educators, designers, and leaders of the community, as witnessed among other things in the powerful letter cited by Dean Cohen that they coauthored in February of this year to protest proposed cuts to the National Endowment of the Arts and Humanities. In the summer of 2015, we were faced with an unusual circumstance here in the Boston area. Three of the region's museums, the Gardner, the MFA, and the Harvard Art Museum, had vacancies in the director's position. There was a feeling that once these seats were filled, there would inevitably be a shift in the cultural landscape. We hoped to invite whoever assumed these directorships to the Radcliffe Institute in to participate in an event such as this one. However, time has a way of passing, and at this point, they already seem like veterans of our local art world. So we decided to shoot for the moon and not only invite our new directors, Peggy Fogelman, Matthew Teitelbaum, and Martha Tedeschi, but also ask them to be joined by our longer-serving directors, Jill Medvedow and Paul Ha, in a wide-ranging discussion here at the Radcliffe Institute for our Harvard Radcliffe community, about the museum, the city, and the university. And somehow, we succeeded. It goes without saying that they're extraordinarily busy people, and we're extremely grateful for their time and enthusiasm in joining us today. And before introducing our participants and inviting them to the stage, let me just say a few words about how this evening will proceed. After our roughly hour-long discussion, there'll be time for a question and answer period. And microphones will be placed in the center of the aisle here, and if you have a question, we ask that you come to the aisle and state your name and any affiliation before posing your question. Then afterwards, as Dean Cohen said, we invite you to join us for a reception in Fay House next door. Now, let me introduce our participants. Peggy Fogelman began her career as a curator of sculpture at the J. Paul Getty Museum and has had a distinguished career as a curator, educator, and in senior management, not just at the Getty but at the Peabody Essex museum in Salem, and serving from 2009 as the chairman of education at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Subsequently, she served as director of collections at the Morgan Library and Museum before moving here in 2016 to become the Norma Jean Calderwood Director of the Gardner Museum. Paul Ha was formerly the director of White Columns Art Gallery in New York before becoming deputy director of programs at the Yale University Art Gallery. In 2002, he moved to the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis, where he served as director and oversaw the construction and opening of its newly expanded facility. There, he created the first major museum exhibit for a wide range of now internationally recognized artists, and he has served as director of the List since 2011. Jill Medvedow served as the first curator for contemporary art at the Gardner Museum, as well as the deputy director of programs before assuming the directorship of the ICA in 1998, where she now serves as the Ellen Matilda Poss Director. She was the founder of 911 Contemporary Arts in Seattle and has served as deputy director of the New England Foundation for the Arts. And as many of us know here, she oversaw the building and opening in 2006 of the current ICA building in the Seaport District in South Boston, which has become a true cultural landmark of the city. Martha Tedeschi began her career in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Chicago Art Institute, specializing in British and American art. After a distinguished and award winning career as a curator and author, she became deputy director of art research in Chicago, where she developed innovative curatorial programming in partnerships with local universities before coming to Harvard in 2016 as the Elizabeth ad John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard Art Museums. Matthew Teitelbaum was previously a curator at the ICA Boston and Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon before joining the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1993 as chief curator. He was then appointed director and CEO of the art gallery in 1998 and oversaw a wide range of exhibitions and programming as well as the renovation of its Bozar Building by Frank Gehry, completed in 2008. He was awarded, among other prizes, the Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2006, and in 2015, he joined the MFA as the Ann and Graham Gund Director. Please join me in welcoming our directors to the stage. [APPLAUSE] - Oh, sorry. - There's a chair. - Well, we can read. - So we'd like to start off this conversation by giving you an opportunity to speak in a more personal vein about your relationship to museums. Was there a formative museum experience at some point in your lives, in your childhood, perhaps, that led you down this path? Martha, maybe we can begin with you, as something of a co-host of this conversation. - Yes, there definitely for me was a cataclysmic moment. And it was when I was eight years old, and my family had just moved to Florence, Italy, about six months after the devastating flooding of the Arno River, which destroyed works of art, flooded the basement of the Biblioteca Nazionale archives, where books were destroyed. Palazzi with beautiful frescoed walls were critically damaged. And although I was a little girl, I was very aware of what was happening, because there was scaffolding all over Florence. There still is, sort of. But scaffolding everywhere, mud lines on all the buildings. And what was really remarkable is that there was an outpouring of help from all over Europe, and conservators and especially university students were everywhere in Florence, trying to help with documentation, preservation, just, really, triage. And so it was a tragic but also heroic environment, and it was that year that I began to understand the precariousness and the preciousness of our cultural heritage. And I think ever since then, I felt protective of museum collections from that experience. - That's wonderful. Jill? - I would say my formative childhood experience was at the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut, where I grew up. And it was a place I could take the bus too, because I lived right in the city. And as a young person, I was completely taken by the great Duchamp Tu m' that hangs at the museum. You know it well. And I think that-- I don't know how as a young person I thought I got it, but for some reason I thought I did, and that made me very excited. And I think ever since then, that combination of verbal and visual thinking and punning and ideas-- it caught me then, and that was a perfect museum for me. New Haven's a small city that I love dearly, but it took my pretty insular world, of growing up Jewish in a Jewish community in a small city where my dad was a politician, and it was the one place where the world just exploded for me, and it was mine. And that changed me forever. - Well, as painful it is to admit, the Yale University Art Gallery is really one of the gold standards of university museums. - I ought to be an ad for them all the time. - Well, this leads to a question that we also wanted to start off the evening with, which has to do with the city of Boston and how the city of Boston looks through the prism of your museums. You have all directed museums in other major North American cities-- Toronto, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York. How does Boston appear to you? And maybe that's a question we can direct to our two more recently appointed directors, Peggy and Matthew. - If I can jump in. So one of the things that Dean Cohen said that really resonated with me-- you were talking about that Boston was very different when our museums were established, but not so different. And in fact, that's true. And the situation in Boston compared to the situation now-- at the turn of the century, Boston was 35% foreign-born. Now, it's 25% foreign-born. And so in looking at the city through the prism of the Gardner, the Gardner has very progressive roots that one might not suspect when you think of an unconventional woman in the Gilded Age, who, granted, was quite wealthy and quite privileged-- nonetheless she specifically established a museum for the public. Unlike other Gilded Age museums, it was not a private collection that became public after death. It was amassed and intended for the public. And she herself had very progressive political leanings, and so I think that that's embedded in the DNA of the institution. And that's our imperative. I think that's an imperative for all of us in our institutions, to reflect the city and our audiences. However, in considering the city, I think we have a lot of challenges. And we certainly are not, in this room, or in many of the things we do, reflective of the city in which we live. And I think that is something that remains a challenge in Boston. Perhaps more so than in some other places, although I think overall, it's a challenge for our cultural institutions in terms of that imperative to really engage broadly and to be truly welcoming. - So let me just start by saying-- answering your first question, which maybe has something to do with the second question, which is when I was about 10, I went to an exhibition with my father, who was an artist. And his favorite artist in the world was Rembrandt, and it was a Rembrandt show. And I remember at the end of the exhibition, he said that I have to go home and have a nap. And I looked at him and I said, but we just looked at art. He said, well, looking at art is work, right? And I clearly never forgot that, that notion that the experience of looking at a work of art is commensurate with what you put into it and what you get back, and that it is actually a project. It is a commitment. And I think about that in relation to the MFA. So I am the only person on the stage who not only has come to a new city but has come to a new country. And I suppose what I would say is, in Toronto, I thought a lot about how the museum that I led was helping create the city. I'm not saying that we didn't reflect it. I didn't say that we didn't reach out and pull in that energy. But I was also very conscious of how a museum can create a dialogue within a city. And if I were thinking about the role that I think the MFA and all of us can play, it's how we do create the citizen in our midst. And I think we have an obligation to do that. And I think that Boston is more diverse than it first seems, but I have to say, as a Canadian, a Torontonian, it doesn't seem that diverse. And I think that one of my challenges is to figure out how to tap into the diversity that does exist here and how to give back a sense of citizenship and community, which I think museums must do. - Paul? - What I'm observing is that there is an incredible moment of growth in the visual arts here in Boston. I think Boston is facing sort of a renaissance in the arts, especially in the visual arts. And when you think about what institution has grown, you look at Gardner, you look at MFA, you look at Harvard. They've all done incredible capital projects and have made new beginnings for themselves and inserted themselves into our culture. And art does create economies. So when you think about all the money that's been put in, all the jobs, that's been given to create these institutions. And this is the moment where when I make Jill embarrassed, and I always say this. I really feel that we're in this position now because 11 years ago, the ICA was created. And this city hasn't created a new museum in 100 years, and Jill went ahead and put that museum on the beautiful waterfront. And I think that got people thinking that the city can change. We've been the same for a long time. It's been fantastic. But maybe there's growth. Maybe there's other ways to do it. And I do think there's incredible organizations all throughout Boston. But I think especially in the visual arts, there's an enormous growth. - Well, thank you. This really mean segues into a question about architecture. And all of you are a part of-- you lead museums that are housed in very different kinds of buildings. This is immediately, of course, apparent to a first-time museum visitor, and the experience of the museum is one and the same as the experience of the architecture and the space. And now is a really wonderful opportunity, while we have you here on stage, to ask you to give us a sense, an insider's sense of your buildings, of your architecture, as directors. Are there any ways in which the buildings surprise you? - That's very funny. [LAUGHTER] I wasn't exactly intending it to be funny, but please go with that. - I was just going to say, absolutely. Yes, what I've found getting to know the relatively new building of the Harvard Art Museums-- which, for those of you who don't know, opened in November of 2014, so we're getting close to celebrating our third anniversary in the building-- I think a huge amount of work was done to try to have the mission of the museum inform the building. What's interesting now that it's open is the spaces. And we created a lot of differentiated spaces for different kinds of learning. The spaces are actually, in some cases, driving the program and actually giving people more of an appetite than we thought for access to original works of art. So the suite of study centers on the fourth floor, for example. That was a lot of real estate to give up in a museum building project. But because we have that there, and we are making it staffed all the time, last year, 41,000 objects came through those study centers. That is an appetite I don't think anybody could have predicted. And similarly, we have an experimental space called the Lightbox space that has started to be a site for research with collaborators across Harvard. We didn't really know whether it would be a place to show film, or whether we would commission artists working in digital media. But this space itself is suggesting possibilities to our collaborators. So I could give many more examples of that. But I think what we're finding is that very differentiated spaces in a new architectural building sometimes have surprises. - So your recommendation is to build a building and do the programming later? [LAUGHTER] - Well, I guess my recommendation would be, listen to the building, and push it to see what it can do for you. And I think what it's doing for us is growing organically now. - Thank you. - Jill? - I must say, I'm more interested in the buildings around us than in our individual buildings, all of which do very different things. But I think that in thinking about the city, part of what the questions that at least I'm grappling with are-- it's fantastic to be the first new art museum in a century. Nothing for a city to be proud of, so to go to your first question about what's happening here in Boston, I think we're still kind of trying to catch up, in many ways, from a fairly conservative attitude towards architecture, towards building, towards museums, certainly towards contemporary art. And we've seen an accelerated pace in the last decade. But I think that it's important to look at the issues of zoning and planning, of the relative power and roles of developers versus civic institutions in actually shaping the face of the city, of where power gets centered. And in many ways, my beautiful beloved ICA, which works incredibly well when you get in the door and is making many, many, many people happy all the time-- but it is completely consumed by privatized large buildings. And so as a city, I think it's necessary to take a look at what we value. Many other cities have made different choices in terms of their waterfront, and might have left some space open around their iconic architecture. Our city did not choose to do that. We can handle that. We never thought we would be alone. And just as I'm happy to have all my colleagues, I am actually happy to have people in buildings than on the waterfront. But I think that it's a much bigger question than our architecture. We are punctuation marks in a city that is, in its center, exploding. But it's a city that extends well beyond the Fenway, Harvard Square, and the seaport in Kendall Square. And so I think we have some really difficult questions to grapple with, architecturally. - In that context, one of the qualities of the architecture that expresses itself in different ways in our different spaces, because each is unique, is this idea of sanctuary, of putting yourself in a different kind of space, a different kind of mental space, a different kind of physical space. And I think that in some ways, the growth of Boston and that the pace of development and the pace of work and the pace of life in Boston, which is ever-increasing, in fact creates both a hunger and an opportunity for our cultural organizations, our cultural spaces, our performative spaces, to serve a role in terms of civic life and in terms of all of life that perhaps they didn't so much before, when things weren't necessarily booming in every corner all around us. So that's physically manifested around the ICA, but I think it's emotionally and psychologically manifested throughout the city, even when it's not actually right next door. - So I might say that I'm not particularly interested in the idea of sanctuary. I'm not sure whether you said you were. But the challenge with the MFA is, in fact, to move away from that. And if the future of the museum, which I believe it is, is about invitation, welcome engagement, how do you invite people into your institution and say we want you here, how do you welcome them and say you belong here, and how do you engage them and say you can learn here and share experiences here-- then when I think of the MFA, and you asked about surprises, I am constantly surprised-- and maybe I shouldn't be-- at how forbidding the exterior of the building, is how uninviting it is. I do have folks around the MFA who don't understand me when I say that and say, but I feel comfortable here. And I think that's my point. My response is, if you like going to the Supreme Court or the central bank, then you're good. So what do you do with the outside of the building? And I had a great privilege. In fact, one of the great privileges of my life was to work with Frank Gehry on the Toronto building. And he taught me a lot about architecture. In fact, I had a rule that whenever he said something that I didn't agree with or didn't understand, I'd ask him to say why because I thought, when am I going to have an experience like this again? And it was really life-affirming. But one of the things I realized was that a building is not a building. I never actually said that to him, but a building isn't a building. We weren't building a building. We were building an experience. And if you think about a building as an experience, then you end up thinking about it as a journey. And one of the big surprises for me about the MFA as a building is how unrewarding it is as a journey. I'm not saying you don't have great things. I'm not saying that we don't have great moments. Of course we do. But the notion of how you feel when you move through that building-- not so rewarding, not so exciting, not so affirming. The art is, the building needs greater coherence. - Thank you. - That's the beginning of a capital campaign. [LAUGHTER] - Thank you. Would you like to follow up a little bit? - I just want to address the concept of sanctuary. And I think this also goes to the issue of welcoming audiences. I think we have to become, as organizations, as institutions, much less judgmental about what is a valid experience in our spaces. And we know from a lot of evaluation and visit or research that people, particularly millennials who seem to be leading very overstressed lives, actually come to museums seeking a sort of sanctuary, a sort of ability to take themselves out of their everyday heads and inhabit a different kind of mental space. And of course, the Gardner broadcasts an idea of reflection and sanctuary in terms of its courtyard, which is the heart of the place. Which does not mean that we're not also engaging people very actively in terms of participatory experiences and performative experience. But I do think if we talk about being truly welcoming and wanting very broad, diverse audiences to find meaning in our institutions, that means every mode of engagement that doesn't endanger the collection needs to be validated. Because for so long-- for centuries, in fact-- we have conditioned our audiences to conduct themselves certain ways in relation to art. And much of that has been very intellectually driven by a certain kind of pedagogy. And I think to be truly meaningful, we have to let go. - I know that our architects, Diller Scofidio and Renfro, were fond of saying that the ICA was built to be civic from the ground up and contemplative from the sky down. And I think it's worked in many ways, in that sense. But of course, the word "sanctuary" today has such a particular meaning. And so I think that we are so many things. I mean, museums-- and we're among the smaller ones, relative certainly to the MFA-- but we're complex institutions. Museums are complex institutions and beings, and they have all these different ways, all these different centers of business and operation and different collections, different approaches to collections, diverse constituencies, donors, that I do think we are used to being many things for many people. And regardless of how we say it, we are all trying to, I think be, as open and inviting as we can, to offer this wealth of learning, teaching, reflection, engagement. Some of it's individual and private, and some of it is in fantastic groups of young kids, teenagers, millennials, and seniors. It's like the gamut. It's our great strength, I think. - I think for museums, it's not really about the architecture. And having overseen three capital projects, working with a young Stan Allen and overseeing the Louis Kahn building-- what I know is, just like your houses, all the museums will leak one of these days. And that's what we live with. But I think once the building gets built, we don't really think about the structure, but what we think about is the program. And ultimately, I think my job is to put someone in front of an object. And it's about, how do we get someone in here? And it's great to have an iconic building that the mayor can show off and tell, as they say, what progress we're making. But in the end, it's about creating programs and ideas and getting people in so they feel invited and welcomed, and it becomes their space. - We're starting a new building program which I think we'll learn quite a bit from. But we're taking a condemned building-- so in a neighborhood in East Boston, in the East Boston shipyard and marina, and taking it out of total disrepair to be a free, open, free all the time, open seasonally space, and trying to keep it as raw and industrial and pointing to its history as possible, which is actually a very difficult thing to do. Simple seems to be both more expensive and more complex than one might think. - It's very expensive to look cheap. - It's very expensive to look cheap. I know. Getting good at that. But it will be, I think, really interesting to see how these two spaces that bookend the harbor-- and where when we first opened on Fan Pier, we thought one of our great civic initiatives was access to the harbor. And now we see that part of how we address the civic role of the museum and the city is actually thinking about public transportation across the harbor. So I think a lot, over the past decade, it's a different shift of our relationship to architecture and the city. - Well, thank you. And I'd like to get back to that point in a moment, but one of the interesting things that has emerged from what I'm hearing of this conversation is that there isn't necessarily a tension between this immersive, tranquil encounter with the object that, Jill, you beautifully described from your experiences at the Yale University Art Gallery, and the more bustling zeitgeist blockbuster exhibition, where there is more of a density of visitors. But let me rephrase the question a little bit in terms of modes of attention. This is something that we struggle with a lot at the university-- how to capture student attention at its most basic level, but also how to understand the way attention is changing, and to not try to reverse trends, but to try to understand and accommodate and take advantage of the state of things. And we're doing it. Yes, we are banning laptops and wireless devices from classrooms on occasion, but we're also flipping classrooms and trying to get students to talk to each other more and take a more participatory role, of course, in class. And how does this question get addressed today at the museum? The question about attention. - I'm happy to jump in there, specifically thinking about engaging students, which is such a big part of our mission. And we really find that the students want to use us in many different ways. And one of the things we have to keep reiterating to them is that there's no right way or wrong way to use the museum and its collections. And we tried to make sure, when we had our kickoff student late night, we thought about the modes of attention very clearly, and we created all different levels of intimacy, all the way over to a public meeting with a big sound DJ who was filling the building. So that was the courtyard. But then, as students moved throughout the building, we were able to get more and more intimate, so that they could have one-on-one experiences with an object, they could follow a small guided tour by a peer. But the idea of differentiating, so that you reach people at their level of attention on that particular day. Because I think modes of attention also reflect the reason you came to the museum in the first place. Museum research often shows that visitors will have a good or bad experience in the museum based on what they wanted the outcome of their visit to be. So if you're coming with a social purpose-- let's say you have friends from out of town-- you're going to want to make that experience work for your friends. You want to feel empowered to show them around without getting lost. There are certain things you need. On the other hand, we hear from students all the time that we're their favorite place to go to be sad. Which sounds like not a compliment, maybe, but think about it. For students who are sharing dorm rooms, don't have much privacy, may never feel comfortable going to church, but need something along those lines to help them calm down, slow down, think, feel, get in touch with their own feelings, have some privacy-- we also hear that students want that. And then we also heard that behind our building was the best place at Harvard to smoke pot. [LAUGHTER] - This is getting very interesting. - Well, let me just say, if you could tell your students that we have 11 Mark Rothko paintings, they could come and be sad for the next 11 months at the MFA. But, you know, it's interesting. Everybody has their own way of understanding their audience. In studies that we've done, we found the two reasons why people want to come to a museum are number one, to be with other people, and secondly, to confront a point of view. To confront a point of view. So when I think about that, where I go is-- and how does their understanding get expressed? So I'm certainly interested in our position and what we say, but I think that public institutions like the MFA-- and I run into trouble when I say it's a public institution, and what I mean is, we serve the public-- have a responsibility in this moment to think about voice. How do we create voice for our audience? How do we create voice for our community, within our walls? And that's maybe why-- sorry to come back to it-- I have trouble with this relatively passive notion of sanctuary, reflection. Because I think museums, more urgently than in my experience, need now to create the enlightened citizen and create activity and action in our communities. I don't think we need to be polemical, but I need to think we have to create action. And the way I think we have to do it, and the way that I want the MFA to be judged, is through the eyes of the artist. I think that if we can create the MFA as a platform for the artistic sensibility, to artistic thinking, the sense of new possibility, of putting things together in new ways, we will both be doing the right thing generally, and more specifically, giving the voice to our audience, because they will find a way to be with each other, to learn something new, to confront a point of view that will make them more engaged citizens. And I believe that. How we do that is the constant conversation that we're having. But I think we need, at the MFA, to do that more than we've done. - I've grown up doing both political organizing and art and art history. So I toggle quite a bit. But when I hear your question, I'm going someplace a little bit different, which is the need to ensure that we-- part of being somebody growing up, and then an adult and participant, does require the ability to read closely, whether it's, as you said, being able to give something to a work of art so that you can take something back, or I think about language and written language or literature and poetry. And I was reading something over the weekend that made reference to a really prescient article by George Orwell that he wrote right after World War ii ended, I think in 1946, talking about how sloppy language is so complicit in sloppy thinking and in political danger. So Hannah Arendt does the same kind of connection. And I think that we also have an obligation and an incredible opportunity with our collections and with the art we present on stage or on our walls to try to-- also, at the same time as we get people to speak out and feel engaged, active citizens who vote-- that part of what we want them to do when they vote is to have thought critically and deeply and paid attention to the words and the language. And that does require attention. And so I don't know if that's what you're getting at, but that's what it made me think about. - Yes, thank you. Well, I wanted to follow up on this a little bit. Citizenship happens to be the research theme of the Radcliffe Institute this year and next. It is, in part, a lead-up to the celebration of the centennial of women's suffrage and the ratification of the 19th Amendment of the US Constitution. And we're living in a time where it's never felt more pressing to raise questions about what it means to be a citizen. It's never felt more urgent to get involved in civic engagement. So could we elaborate a little bit on this, about where museums play a role in the present discourse on civic engagement? - May I ask a question in reference to your question? And that is, why do we, or do we, make a distinction between civic engagement and cultural engagement? Can one ask the question, is cultural engagement actually civic engagement, if we believe in the power of art to give voice to ideas, to politics, to the human condition, to this. And I guess I would wonder what my colleagues might think of that particular spin on the question. - Thank you. As museums, I feel like our duty is to present. We present things. And so when things occur, moments happen, and then the staff has a meeting To say, how do we react to this, or not to react to it? What can we do? Should we do something? Many questions. The exhibition we have up now is called Civil Disobedience, and it's a survey of how people have protested from the 1920s onto currently. And we're showing all sides of political statements and their dedication, their belief, why they're doing this, and also presenting how they went about giving their voice to the cause, giving their concerns, raising their voice. And so for us to be political? Perhaps not. But to present, to reflect the current, what's happening now, I think you have to be reactive to what's happening now. - I would also add that I think you have to be reactive, but you can be specific and maybe have more impact. So thinking in terms of civic engagement and museums and how they might foster that, I think they're really looking at your proximate communities and looking at their needs and figuring out whether the museum is actually a good partner to help solve a problem. A very small example from the work that the Harvard Art Museums is doing with Cambridge French and Latin, a high school in Cambridge, which is an incredibly diverse high school. We were contacted by teachers there to let us know that their AP World History students had identified a real gap in their textbook, which was there was very little discussion of Islamic lands or culture. And the students were asking for this. It's a very diverse school and includes many Muslim students. And so we have actually of done an intervention in this world AP class, and we're addressing that lack in the textbook through the collections in the museums. So I think sometimes those very specific projects are really a great way to begin to foster civic engagement in a very doable way that impacts your immediate community. - I don't know if I can respond to Peggy or not, but let me talk about my doubt. My doubt is around the question of, what is the right action for a public institution at this moment in our history? What is the right position to take? And what is the personal point of view, what is the institutional point of view, and what gets activated by taking a position? Which maybe goes to the notion of being civically engaged. So I think that my role as a leader is to help the people with whom I work to stay in the question of why, rather than what. And the what follows, but the real question is, why should we do something? So I'll share a hot-off-the-press example, which I was sharing in the green room before me. We were actually talking about personal things and relatives and kids that were misbehaving, but we actually talked a little bit about art when we were waiting. And I was sharing that a curator-- I don't know which one it was at the MFA-- suggested that we put together fairly quickly-- my kind of word-- a small exhibit of figures that are kneeling. And my first thought was, if the curator at the MFA wants to do something like that, I'm going to say yes. And then I said, I didn't think so. Because I think that's a what question rather than a why question. And I think we would have really blurred the notion of the artist's intention. We would have blurred the notion of what we are saying as an institution around what issue. But I loved the fact that there was a curator-- again, I don't know who it is-- who wanted to find a way to say something that they were feeling about. But my doubt is that the answers are going to be easy to come to. My doubt is that there's an obvious right or wrong. My doubt is that I'm going to get it right, because I've never worked-- I should say this-- with a staff that I feel is more anxious and concerned about the times in which they live and the way in which they have agency to do things. And I'm trying constantly to balance that urgency, which I am completely sympathetic to in any situation, with the right role of the institution. And that's my doubt and it's not a bad place to be. It actually takes me straight into the-- why did museums do what they do? But I'm in that all the time, more than I expected. - Thank you. - I'm kind of on the proactive end of the spectrum, I would say. Because I think that one of the great ways a museum gets to demonstrate its civicness isn't so much public, because it actually shows up in one's budget, which is-- where do we spend our money, and what priorities does that actually demonstrate? And so the decision to invest in teenagers, which almost all of us do in one way or another-- that's a priority. To me, that defines civic engagement-- figuring out what groups of students we work with. Thinking about where the relationship of-- you had originally asked about the humanities and museums and what's going on there. And of course, then, you begin to think, OK, well, here in this august beautiful hall, we're part of the, what, 400 selective liberal arts institutions in the country, of which there are almost 4,000. So that means the majority are not, quote unquote, "highly" selective," which means they don't accept more than 50%. So not even that selective. No offense. And so I think about, civic engagement really is a set of choices about who are our partners institutionally. Who are the people we serve, and to what degree? Because again, we're all trying to do pretty much everything. But I think that there are real choices and real consequences to all of the choices we make, whether it's to work together on a letter about NEA and NEH funding-- self-serving on the one hand, of course, but speaking very much to a national policy and an investment in our future. Or many of us are part of an amicus brief filed for the Supreme Court challenging the travel ban. At many different levels, I'd say, we are all quite proactive. And that is one way of thinking about civic engagement. - Your point about the budget is really well taken. I mean, even when we have to sit down and decide how to use our marketing dollars-- it's a huge engagement question. - Right. And to whom? It sort of goes back to the city issue, which is, where's all of the new building? Where's the new Boston, the Boston that's on fire? Well, it's not in Dorchester, by and large. I can tell you that. I was this morning in Dudley at a meeting, and it's mostly not there either. East Boston is going to be my neck of the woods with the strip there. It's the strip of the waterfront, which is going to be quite expensive condos. Meanwhile, it's a neighborhood of 58% immigrants, mostly Central American. So there's these three communities in tension-- the long-term Italian working class families, all these immigrants, and now all the new people buying condos. So we all make complicated choices, but we do make those choices. - Well, because you brought up the humanities, Jill-- - I did that for you. - It's true. Originally, we thought very much-- universities are focused on the humanities and particularly the need with every generation to champion the humanities. And this may fall more into the what, as opposed to the why, in Matthew's formulation. But let me ask a slightly different question that's more specific to museums and museum collections, which has to do with the study of the art of the past. Two of you are overseeing museums that are specifically contemporary art museums-- although how we define "contemporary art" is, of course, ever-evolving. And Matthew, you come from a contemporary art background, although you oversee an encyclopedic museum. There does seem to be, at least from where I sit in an academic art history department, more and more of a presentist turn among students. You see the ascendancy of contemporary art in the art world as well. Within this situation, what is the value of the study of the art of the past? How does it relate to the presentation of contemporary art. Are we too presentist in our presentation of art right now? - They're the ones with the collections. [LAUGHTER] - Well, if I can jump in, being a collection largely of the art of the past-- although we have a very active contemporary program and an artist-in-residence program that's 25 years old. Actually, Jill was involved in its inception when she was at the Gardner Museum, and now we have a wonderful curator of contemporary art who oversees the program. I'm going to go back to your very first question, in terms of an experience from our life that moved us or inspired us toward museums. And mine was with a piece of art of what was then the past. It was a 20th-century piece. But now, 20th century blue chip art is the art of the past. I mean, it might as well be a Renaissance painting in many people's minds. And I was in front of a Franz Kline painting and talking to a friend of mine about the painting, and talking about just trying to look at the imagery and seeing it as barbed wire, and talking about the brutality of war and the invocation of violence and this black-and-white dichotomy. And I passed out. So I had a Stendhal moment, or I was extremely moved by the painting or something. But I literally woke up in a guard's office with someone waving smelling salts over you. Somehow, I'd gotten from the gallery down the stairs. This was at the RISD Museum of Art, where they're used to having students pass out, I assume-- for all kinds of reasons other than the art. But anyway, it does bring me back to this idea of both the potency of art, that once it's created-- I think sometimes, because all of us, I think, are very supportive, very jazzed, very energized, and deeply believe in the creative act and the artistic process, that sometimes we don't equally broadcast our conviction in art once it has been created. And that's what the art of the past is. It's art that's been created. It's of its own time. And that that retains its potency, although we unlock it in different ways-- that's the challenge. How do we unlock the power of that art, because it still has that potential? And that was one lesson, one take-away. And the other was, how much conversation-- and this goes back a little to different modes of engagement, and is it social, is it other? Any time there's a conversation, obviously it has a social component, but it also is how we attend to art, how we engage with art, and how conversation can be a facilitator that makes the art of the past relevant, because it lives in the present through our engagement with it. And that's part of our job, is to make art live now, regardless of when it was created. I mean, that would be-- obviously, coming from the Gardner, I have a vested interest in making the art of the past live. But I would imagine that we all want the art of the past to live in the present, because we have a stake in that, and as does the public, I think. - So I'm in contemporary art because I wanted to support living artists. I think that's the contribution that I can make. And depending on which scholar you ask, contemporary art's been around for quite a bit. We're 17,000 to 35,000 years, depending on which scholar you ask, but those cave drawings-- it goes back that far. But I find visual arts to be particularly interesting because it's a very different type of art, in that you have to be really original. So I'm going to be broadly generalist here, but in music, if you play someone else's music really well, you're a good artist. If you're a singer, if you-- you know, a la school of whoever, you're very good. Whereas visual arts, if you do something that's been done before, people pick up on it, and it's not for the pedestal of our history. You won't make it up there if you're recreating something. So we are all here to support living contemporary artists. However, all the artists have to know art history. If you come to us with an object saying, I discovered this new way of painting-- I put cameras on the floor and I dripped paint on it. It's been done before. So I think for all of us, it's moving the art forward. It's taking it to a place that's nowhere it's been before. But for the practitioners, they have to have to know the craft and the history before they can move on to the next step. - So behind the strategic plan at the MFA are a few sets of beliefs. And one of them is, open is better than closed. And what I think about leading an extraordinary staff who take care of one of the great collections of the world, historical art, is that one of my challenges is to see historical art as open and not closed. And when we can achieve that-- which is to say, other voices can come in, when interpretation can be complex and not linear, when maybe we believe in many disciplines as well as our history-- we may open it up in a way that creates life in those objects. I mean one of my very first experiences at the MFA before I even knew really anybody was to walk through the Egyptian galleries. And I just kept looking. And I don't know a lot about Egyptian art. I didn't know anything then. I know a little bit more now. But what I know is, there are a lot of broken noses in there. You walk down, and then I started looking at the text panels, and there wasn't one single text panel that addressed what you were seeing when you walked through. And so my legacy the MFA? Very simple. A room of broken noses. It'll happen by the time I leave. And then text panels that explain why the nose is broken. And that's open, to me. That's an open way of creating a way of understanding an object through the voices of many, because to really answer that question is complex. It talks to religion, it talks to a whole range of things. And that notion of openness is what I think we have to achieve in our historical collection. - I think another thing that can be really powerful is artists speaking about earlier art, particularly the art that inspired them themselves. And I think that can be wonderful for students. It's often very mesmerizing and compelling for the general public to think about the fact that an artist, even a very well-known one, started somewhere. And what were they looking at as they began to make art? And what has their inquiry looked like, and where has the art of the past intersected with what they're trying to do? They can be great conversations. - Well, I mean, it's no surprise that we've heard so many, I think, inspiring formulations about the value of the art of the past from our participants. And I wanted to ask-- one of the jobs of a museum director is to be inspiring. But as you pointed out, museums are such complex institutions now. You have to manage so many different roles. And one of the questions I like to ask is how you have seen the position of the museum director change over the years. What is the museum director now? And tell us where it's leading. What does the museum director going to be like in the future, in the year 2030 or beyond? - Who knows? - Well, the question that none of us can answer is what the role of the museum director will be in its formation as the custodian of objects that are increasingly valued, increasingly rare, more contested. And we can't answer that question. There are some trustees of the MFA here, so I really shouldn't say this, but I don't actually think being a museum director is so complicated. Really. I think that you're an advocate for the meaning of art in your community, and you are looking at different ways to activate the people with whom you work in order to have the biggest, loudest, most effective platform you can create. And if you have the passion around what art can do in your community, a lot follows from that. And we all have extraordinary teams around us of people who are expert in areas that we're not expert, and our job is to make sure we understand how to connect to them so that we don't assume that we know the answers that other people know better than we do. But if the passion is in the middle, we can take a lot to the edges. - I think it's getting kind of comp-- I mean, I do think it is complicated. So I'll have to get a private tutorial or something, figure it out better. But aren't you all struck? I mean, we're here in a room. Almost everyone here, from where I sit, looks white. - Not where I'm sitting. - Not where you're sitting. Are you looking out? At the ICA, we've just come through-- I don't even know that we're through it-- a fairly complicated situation regarding an exhibition we have on view right now with the painter Dana Schutz. And Dana Schutz, some of you may know, made a painting called Open Casket, which depicts in a somewhat abstracted way the open coffin of Emmett Till, and it was included in the Whitney biennial. Now, that painting never was intended to be part of the ICA exhibition, and it is not part of the ICA exhibition, but the controversy of the painting has come to the exhibition and to the institution. And I do think it is, as we go forward in a city that is-- in a world that is changing so much, that is divided, that has real inequities and issues, that our job-- I don't know what it will be in 2030, but I do think that we are all being asked to change, whether or not the controversy is on our doorstep today or last year or whatever. We need to change our staffs, need to change our audiences, changing-- history needs to be augmented and retold. Storytelling is changing. Digital life is changing. And juggling all that-- now, I think I find that complicated myself. Challenging. I love it. But I don't know the answers. And I know I have changed myself through the Dana Schutz exhibition and grappling with it. So I feel my own movement, both personally and institutionally. - So give us a sense about how you've changed, or what that movement is. - Well, I would say-- I'm not so prepared here, but what I would say is that I think that what the question has shifted to me, is not one just of cultural appropriation or sensitivity to audience, but actually a question of authority. And how is the issue of cultural authority changing, and how does it need to change, and without stepping down myself and getting rid of half my staff, how am I going to make some of those changes quickly enough to change who has voices of authority in making decisions and understanding the implications of decisions we make, just for example? So I don't know the future. I definitely don't. But I do find it to be an extremely challenging, important time to lead a civic institution. It's a great privilege. But I find it a great responsibility, and not easy. - I think directors' role and responsibilities will change as the institutions change. And right now, all of us in addition to the visual art world, are in flux. So every institution, whether it's a symphony or the opera library-- we're all in a crisis. We're all in crisis mode, and we're all looking to see how we can reach the larger audience, reach the next generations of participants and users. And so I'm sure all the institutions will adapt or change or disappear. But whoever takes on that role in 2030-- and I won't be there for that, probably-- I'm sure the board-- and I know Matthew says we're leaders. We're leaders, but we're also saying, at the same time, middle management. We're sort of stuck in between our board and the people that we serve, and we're trying to fit where-- the best directors are good problem solvers. And I'm sure the board, whoever does the hiring, will hire the best problem-solvers, who are sensitive and capable and who can see the widest vision to serve the best that they can with the institution that has given the task to. - One of the interesting things we heard-- some of us were there, I think, at the last meeting of the Association of Art Museum Directors-- was part of a session on philanthropy that was held at the Gates Foundation in Seattle. And what we were being told by several heads of major philanthropic organizations is that the big funders, the Gates Foundation, funders of that category-- they want to tackle the world's problems right now. And unless museums can become places for solutions, we're going to be out of the loop. So if we had to guess, who knows what 2030 will look like, but I'm going to guess that directors are going to need more capacity in terms of understanding things that are outside of their traditional areas of expertise, and that they're going to really have to have a much bigger understanding of global problems. And we're talking about poverty, disease, climate change, migration. How museums will engage with these issues will probably vary from institution to institution, but I think among other pressures, philanthropists are going to insist that we engage with the problems of our world. The other thing that the Gates fellow said, and-- there was another flap, because there was not just that, but he certainly said that powerfully-- but that their support was going to go to those cultural institutions that cross disciplines and that actually found a way to partner outside of the discipline of the cultural institution. And I don't know if that's temporary or not. But picking up on what Jill said-- and I continue to think it's not that complicated, although I do think that it takes a lot of attention and openness. But I do think what you're saying, which is extraordinary, powerful, and is something that I think about a lot, is, who speaks for whom? And that's part of what you're saying about the Dana Schutz situation. I think that is the question of authority of institutions. But what I mean by saying that it's not that complicated which I guess maybe it is-- but what I mean is, the way to get to the solution, if you accept that it's a process, that it is an engagement and conversation with others, you can get there. It's not intractable. It's not impossible. It's the fact that we can't predict where we're going to be in 25 years it doesn't mean that the process of getting there doesn't have immediate and consequential rewards. That's what I'm saying. - This is such a rich discussion. I think this might be a nice moment to open it up to the audience and ask for anybody who would to ask could pose a question to approach the microphone in the center aisle. And when you do pose your question, if you could state your name and any affiliation, that would be great. - Hi. I'm Vanessa, and I'm a student at the Graduate School of Education right now in arts and education. And I wanted to refer back to what Paul was saying about talking about educating art practitioners about the art canon in order to go into civic engagement. And I'm thinking about Boston as a city, and as we were talking about bringing the arts into Boston. And I'm from LA, and it's a cultural hub, and I see programs like the Getty's PSTLA, and many museums' programs where they engage directly with artists, working artists. And that usually comes in the university setting. So what I want to ask is, how does the institution of the museum engage with the institution of the academy through the university and its artists, and then how does that funnel into the engagement of these institutions with the city? Does that make sense? - Is that directed to me or--? - Go for it. - OK. I think it's a great title, "The Museum, the City, and the University," but I think that's one thing that's glaringly missing for me, which is The Artist. I think "the artist" should have been included in the title, because without artists, there's no art. There is an ecosystem to the art world, and the two institutions that you mentioned, the teaching institutions and the museums. But in addition to that, there's also alternative spaces. There's artists. There's collectors. And all those things help-- and galleries. And we're losing more-- we lost Camilo, who ran a very excellent gallery in Boston Samson. And so I think when I said Boston has this within a renaissance of visual arts, We are missing a couple of things here. And one thing that we need to shore up or support or to be aware of, and perhaps point towards helping it grow, is the artist community, and an alternative space community and gallery community. That's three out of five that I mentioned, which is not a good percentage. However, since the museums and the public scholarly teaching institutions are so strong, it sort of can make up for it. But we do need, I think, those three areas to somehow get there. Boston being rich with universities-- one thing that I'm noticing, because we are so close to other metropolitan cities is that a lot of artists are basically commuters out of the nine months, and then they go back to whatever city they're from. And some live in LA, which I think is ridiculous. So somehow, collectively, we can think about supporting those three additional groups or growing them, I think we would have a multiplicative effect on the city. - The triangle between the museum, the university, and the artist that was conjured up in the question, misses one thing for me, which is the notion of the audience. And I had an unfortunate dinner party-- well, the dinner party wasn't unfortunate, but the conversation for me was unfortunate, because I made the point, which I feel strongly that the most important thing a museum creates is audience. And there were some-- I might say it with emphasis-- some Harvard academics at the dinner, and they were making the point that the most important thing museums great is knowledge. So a good robust conversation. It wasn't actually unfortunate, except to say that I think that when you think of the relationship of the museum, the university, and the artist, I think you have to ask yourself, in the service of what? And I think that a robust conversation around this would be, what is the audience you produce, the enlightened citizen, the engaged citizen? And that's where I think that the link between universities and art museums can be stronger. - My name's Laura Roberts. I'm an independent museum professional, and I teach here in the museum studies program. I've been teaching museum graduate students for about 30 years. To say there's nothing quite like that to keep you honest, because I'm otherwise an age peer of most of you. And one of the things that those students are telling me is that-- it's a conversation that has erupted most recently in the production of a T-shirt. I have one on order that says museums are not neutral. What they should say on the back is that they never have been. And I'm wondering what your response is to that. If your staff came in wearing a Museums Are Not Neutral T-shirt, what would you say, and would you own a Museums Are Not Neutral T-shirt? - I'll answer that. I think at a certain age, T-shirts don't look that well. [LAUGHTER] I wouldn't wear one. I don't know that-- I'm not sure that is the goal, that museums should be neutral. I agree that they are not and that they have not been. And they are not places where everyone is comfortable. I'm not sure comfort is the goal of art or museums. I think that what is necessary is being able to own, talk about, be honest about one's past, whether that's personal bias or the history of museums of places-- most museums-- of white power and privilege. So most definitely not neutral. But I guess I would push back at neutral as the highest goal. I don't know. I'd have to go to the why, Matthew, but I'm not sure. But if my staff wore one, I'd be fine. - A question would be, what would neutral look like in terms of a museum? - Or period. What does l-- - Or what does neutral-- - Like anywhere-- - look like? - Is a sidewalk neutral? - And I think we can all readily investigate and discuss how we are not neutral spaces, both from the history of how collections were formed and how the canon of art history was developed-- frankly, to the color of the walls and the way that art is contextualized, all of which influences not just the art you see but the way you perceive that art. And all the different-- before you even get into the museum, what you're seeing, how you're greeted, what the transactional relationship is at that entry desk. Those are all things that influence and shape our experience or art. And so in so many ways, we are not neutral spaces. And we think we need to acknowledge that. But one also needs to ask the question, what is neutral? And what is that experience? Because I don't know that I've ever experienced something at all neutral. - I don't know where this particular T-shirt came from, but I know that the Museum of Contemporary Art, their director has proposed that they think about it this way-- that we are not partisan, but we are not neutral. So in other words, "neutrality" taking on a slightly different connotation than "partisan." And I think we're not neutral. I mean, we all have hopes of the kinds of conversations that are going to happen in our institutions. We don't want to direct what the conclusions and the answers are, but I think we're very interested in being a platform for those conversations and using our collections in quite pointed ways. But I think maybe it helps in terms of in the kind of dichotomy that was set up by the MCA. Think about it that way. - You mean in Chicago? MCA in Chicago, Martha? - MCA in Chicago, yeah. - I think the idea of staff coming into the MFA wearing that T-shirt would be fabulous, because it would be the beginning of the conversation. If not neutral, then what is our position, and how do we discuss that position? And how do we arrive at either an institutional position or a series of project positions that amount to something? That would be a great conversation to be more self-aware about. - Hi. I am Renana Kehoe. I work at the Harvard Art Museums. My question was, who are your museums for? And if the answer is something like everyone or a big group, how do you appeal to or attract or engage such a wide-ranging audience or group? - Next question? [LAUGHTER] I think that in some sense at the MFA, we think we are for everybody. But if you look at our strategic plan and thought about where we saw our areas of growth, we're really quite specific. And that comes back to the question of the utility we feel we can have in our communities. So to be very precise, we believe that we are for those people who self-select as our members. But beyond that, if we think about growth, we think of students. We think of multigenerational families. And we think of creative industries, 24- to 35-year-olds. Because we think if we can create conversations for those communities in Boston and create a sense of belonging at the MFA-- that in other words, we can give back to them a purpose and a kind of conversation in their communities-- we can be of greater use in the civic sense in Boston. - I think maybe it's useful to distinguish between who are we for, and where are our greatest opportunities in terms of connection and in terms of community relevance? And those may be two different things, in the sense that I think we want to be for everyone in the sense that we want we want to welcome everyone who wants to come. Of course we don't force people to come to the museum-- except in school groups, where we actually to force people to come to the museum. And we could have a whole conversation about that. But we all, I think, based on our institutions, on our collections for the Gardner, definitely in terms of our geographic location, look at what our opportunities are. For instance, in terms of the Gardner, we're very focused on our hyper-local communities of Roxbury and Mission Hill, who may not traditionally have felt that the Gardner was a place for them, and for good reason, and which are communities of tremendous creativity that we would like to collaborate with. And so we've begun to co-create programs with artists and artistic leaders in Roxbury and Mission Hill that can be both for tradition, the people who come to the Gardner anyway, but also to give voice to members of our hyper-local communities and to have them feel that they do have a voice in the museum. So I think all of us try to figure out, where are our opportunities for each of our institutions? And the answer may be different for each of us. - Because we are not for everyone. But if you are curious about where art is going in terms of future, then we are the place for you. And I will readily admit that not everything we show will end up at the MFA in the collection. A lot of our stuff that we show may just disappear into the ether of art history. But I feel like our job is to present to what people are talking about right now. The people that I surround myself, the people that we have conversation with-- it's a modest proposal, presenting something to you and to say, what do you think about this? Is this something insignificant? Or is it something that we should absolutely throw away and not think about ever again? So if you want to see something that there's a small group of people that's talking about, then we're the place for you. But if you want generality, we're really not the place for you. - I don't think I have that much to add. The only group that hasn't been mentioned that is very important to the ICA is teenagers. We have about 7,000 teenagers a year in the ICA in our teen programs, and putting them together with our artists is one of the important constituents that we serve. And artists. - Hi. My name is Jen. I work in the Education Department at the MFA. Sorry, Matthew. - I'm glad you do. - You'll see what my question is. And I just first wanted to thank you all, because I think this conversation has been super-interesting and very energizing for me as a museum educator. My question is about the very controversial topic of unpaid internships. And I ask because I think it really encapsulates museum, city, and university, because it involves university students. Unpaid internships-- I think, Jill, you might have kind of hinted at this the most when you were talking about the lack of diversity in museum staffs. I think that's something all museums are struggling with, and we're really feeling the effects when it comes to interpretation and exhibitions and programming. And unpaid internships are often the most direct filter into staff positions at museums. I know that I was an MFA intern, and now I work there. And now, as someone that has interns and supervises them over the summer, I've really been struck by this huge lack of diversity in applicants, and our intern pool, both racially but socioeconomically as well. I'm wondering, because you guys are in such influential positions, if you have thoughts about that. I know it's a very complex topic. - I do. I have really strong thoughts on that. - I thought Jill might. - Go ahead. - Thank you. I have the mixed pleasure of chairing the professional Issues committee at AAMD, which is the Association of Art Museum Directors, to which we all participate, more or less. And at our last meeting in-- wherever we were, Seattle-- I put on the agenda the issue of paid internships to try to see whether that is something that we as a field could actually adopt as a policy in the same way we have other field-wide policies that govern our behavior and our practice, our accreditation, et cetera. And actually, this past summer, for the first time, the ICA only had paid interns, and we're trying to embody that going further. There was a mixed response, I would say-- not against it in principle, but in practice, for a variety of reasons. And so I think it won't be a slam dunk, but there are national foundations who are trying to push this agenda. I think we as a group of peers and as a field are grappling with it, though it may take us a little time to have one policy. And I think as we all begin to work in our own institutions, we see it. We understand it and see it. Because, welcome to our field. We need more people like you, and we need more people not like you. - Thank you. - So I believe in paying interns and fellows. I think it's really important. But I'll go even further. In one of my older institutions, we created a teen program. It was a weekend program, where we thought we created this fantastic program for underprivileged youth. And it was free. Absolutely free. And when we started getting people to participate, it all turned out that the only people who signed up were from the suburbs, who went to private school. And we just couldn't figure out why people weren't signing up, because obviously, this is an incredible program free of charge. And then we had a meeting with a bunch of people, and they said, well, those people you're trying to reach-- they work on the weekends. They need to make money to support and help support their family. And additional to that, they don't have the transportation money to come to your museum. So we ended up finding a sponsor to pay for the bus passes. And we paid them-- we started with minimum wage, but that's what we did. But that's when I realized there was a disconnect between what we thought was great and what was the reality of life. And even though we mean well, we really sometimes have it all wrong. - We pay our teams. - Yeah. Of course you do. - Thank you. I really appreciate the honesty. - Hi, there. I'm Elizabeth Solomon. I'm an alum of Radcliffe. I currently work at the School of Public Health, and I'm a degree candidate in the museum studies program. As one of the few brown people in the audience, I was gratified to hear a lot of talk about civic engagement, inclusion, issues of power and voice and authority. But also, as a museum consumer who's spent significant time in every single one of the museums except the MIT Museum-- I'm sorry, I will visit. - Nobody visits us. [LAUGHTER] - But I'm really interested, and having spent a lot of time and found that a lot of times my perspectives are not recognized and/or presented within museums, and sometimes, in some cases, are really kind of-- in some cases actually in ways that are disrespectful. And I'm wondering what your plans and goals are for operationalizing some of these things that you've been talking about. Because I think they're very lofty goals, but how are you going to move forward in terms of realizing them? - So we began a program at the MFA to give free memberships to naturalized Americans in the state of Massachusetts. And we've set as a goal that we will judge ourselves in five to seven years on how many of those new members become either gallery guides or staff members. And the question for us will be, how do we create that virtuous connection, so that we can invite people in, welcome them as belonging, and engage them in creating meaning in the institution? And I think that until you accept that you have to invite people in to help create meaning, which is my point about voice, in the end, you won't get that true connection. It's a big challenge, and it's an exciting one. - I think you ask a very good question. I know one of the things we've done is work with some outside help, bring in outside help to train our staff. We've actually invited our colleagues, staff from our sister institutions for training on how to engage with visitors around complex works of art where there might be difference of opinion or difficult subject matter, doing-- I'm not sure. I understood your question to be, how are we operationalizing this, yes? And so I think it's lots of training and lots of repetition, actually, especially because typically, a lot of our front-of-house staff is young, and there's a fairly high turnover rate. So it is constant, but it is a combination, I'd say, of top-down and bottom-up. It's both/and. - I would also say-- and I'm very fortunate that one of our curatorial staff is here-- in terms of operationalize, how do you integrate this into the conceptualisation from the beginning of programs, exhibitions, et cetera? And so one of our upcoming shows opening in October is on Henry James and American painting. Not a subject you would necessarily think. It's going to be a very momentous exhibition, as you can tell. The heavens will move. Anyway, not an exhibition that you would on face value think might lend itself to a lot of exploration of connections with things happening now or everyday life, the other kinds of things. But in fact, networks, artistic networks, creative networks, are intrinsic to the whole idea of Henry James and his connections with Isabella Stewart Gardner and John Singer Sargent, et cetera, et cetera. And so the curator actually decided to work with someone who is in one of the groups of artistic advisers from our local community to think about how we would embed that idea of current network, artistic networks and creative networks within our communities today. How do we embed that in the exhibition itself, not only in the programs for the exhibition but in the interpretive strategy for the exhibition, et cetera? And I'm so moved and proud of this collaboration, because it was actually operationalizing and a way of giving-- opening up the types of voices that can enter the museum in a major, major project that requires very heavy investment. Exhibitions are one of our most cost- and labor-intensive endeavors, as I think anyone in our institutions would confirm. And so that's one example of how we can begin to do that. But I think one is also talking about, how do you institutionalize experimentation? Because none of us have the right answer to this. It's going to take a lot of experimentation, a lot of trying things. And I would say that that's one of the biggest challenges to museums, is how do you keep something-- how do you remain an adaptive institution once you start operationalizing and institutionalizing things? - And part of that may be institutionalizing institutional critique. So museums have been addicted to big data and metrics and visitor research, but we've maybe not invited the same kind of scrutiny in terms of institutional critique of what we're acquiring, of what we're showing, how we're showing it. I had a very interesting experience this year walking through the galleries with a faculty member and her class who were taking a very specific journey through the museum because of the subject of their class. And they were able to find some real-- some not-so-good things that were happening, because our curators were all installing their galleries separately and weren't thinking about what the whole journey might look like through the galleries. So now, with some help from this faculty member and her students, we're actually trained to think in a more holistic way. So I think outside partners can sometimes critique us in a way that we would never do for ourselves. - One group that hasn't been mentioned, except in passing, that makes so much of this possible, supporting all of our welcome and openness, is that we are all incredibly lucky to have these amazing boards of trustees and advisers who in Boston-- and this is a different kind of architecture. And Boston is not a city with a lot of foundations. It doesn't have a lot of corporate support. It has an unbelievably engaged group of philanthropists. And so it is a partnership that coexists along with the partnership we have with our scholars and our artists and our teachers and our audiences and our teams and families. But it is part of the ecosystem that Paul was talking about, and a really critical piece. - Thank you for what was really a terrific, honest, and searching conversation. So please join me. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC PLAYING]


Renovation and expansion

In 2008, the Harvard Art Museums' historic building at 32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, was closed for a major renovation and expansion project. During the beginning phases of this project, the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at 485 Broadway, Cambridge, displayed selected works from the collections of the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Sackler museums from September 13, 2008 through June 1, 2013.

The renovated building at 32 Quincy Street unites the three museums in a single state-of-the-art facility designed by architect Renzo Piano, which increases gallery space by 40% and adds a glass, pyramidal roof.[5] In a view of the front facade, the glass roof and other expansions are mostly concealed, largely preserving the original appearance of the building.

The renovation adds six levels of galleries, classrooms, lecture halls, and new study areas providing access to parts of the 250,000-piece collection of the museums.[6] The new building was opened in November 2014.[7]


Fogg Museum

 The original entryway pediment of the Fogg Museum of Art now overlooks a main entrance to the Harvard Art Museums
The original entryway pediment of the Fogg Museum of Art now overlooks a main entrance to the Harvard Art Museums

The Fogg Museum, opened to the public in 1896, is the oldest and largest component of the Harvard Art Museums.


The museum was originally housed in an Italian Renaissance-style building designed by Richard Morris Hunt. In 1925, the building was replaced by a Georgian Revival-style structure on Quincy Street, designed by Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch, and Abbott. (The original Hunt Hall remained, underutilized until it was demolished in 1974 to make way for new freshman dormitories.[8])


The Fogg Museum is renowned for its holdings of Western paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photographs, prints, and drawings from the Middle Ages to the present. Particular strengths include Italian Renaissance, British Pre-Raphaelite, and French art of the 19th century, as well as 19th- and 20th-century American paintings and drawings.

The museum's Maurice Wertheim Collection is a notable group of impressionist and post-impressionist works that contains many famous masterpieces, including paintings and sculptures by Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh. Central to the Fogg's holdings is the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, with more than 4,000 works of art. Bequeathed to Harvard in 1943, the collection continues to play a pivotal role in shaping the legacy of the Harvard Art Museums, serving as a foundation for teaching, research, and professional training programs. It includes important 19th-century paintings, sculpture, and drawings by William Blake, Edward Burne-Jones, Jacques-Louis David, Honoré Daumier, Winslow Homer, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Alfred Barye, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Auguste Rodin, John Singer Sargent, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler.

The art museum has Late Medieval Italian paintings by the Master of Offida,[9] Master of Camerino,[10] Bernardo Daddi, Simone Martini, Luca di Tomme, Pietro Lorenzetti, Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Master of Orcanesque Misercordia, Master of Saints Cosmas and Damiançand Bartolomeo Bulgarini.

Flemish Renaissance paintings — Master of Catholic Kings, Jan Provoost, Master of Holy Blood, Aelbert Bouts, and Master of Saint Ursula.

Italian Renaissance period paintingsFra Angelico, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Gherardo Starnina, Cosme Tura, Giovanni di Paolo, and Lorenzo Lotto.

French Baroque period paintingsNicolas Poussin, Jacques Stella, Nicolas Regnier, and Philippe de Champaigne.

Dutch Master paintingsRembrandt, Emanuel de Witte, Jan Steen, Willem Van de Velde, Jacob Van Ruisdael, Salomon van Ruysdael, Jan van der Heyden, and Dirck Hals.

American paintingsGilbert Stuart, Charles Willson Peale, Robert Feke, Sanford Gifford, James McNeil Whistler, John Singer Sargent, Thomas Eakins, Man Ray, Ben Shahn, Jacob Lawrence, Lewis Rubenstein, Robert Sloan, Phillip Guston, Jackson Pollock, Kerry James Marshall, and Clyfford Still.


Busch-Reisinger Museum

Founded in 1901 as the Germanic Museum, the Busch–Reisinger Museum is the only museum in North America dedicated to the study of art from the German-speaking countries of Central and Northern Europe in all media and in all periods.[11] William James spoke at its dedication.[12] Its holdings include significant works of Austrian Secession art, German expressionism, 1920s abstraction, and material related to the Bauhaus design school. Other strengths include late medieval sculpture and 18th-century art. The museum also holds noteworthy postwar and contemporary art from German-speaking Europe, including works by Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter, and one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of works by Joseph Beuys.

The Busch-Reisinger Art Museum has oil paintings by artists Lovis Corinth, Max Liebermann, Gustav Klimt, Edvard Munch, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Max Ernst, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Franz Marc, Karl Schmidt-Rotluff, Emil Nolde, Erich Heckel, Heinrich Hoerle, Georg Baselitz, László Moholy-Nagy, and Max Beckmann. It has sculpture by Alfred Barye, Kathe Kollwitz, George Minne, and Ernst Barlach.

From 1921 to 1991, the Busch-Reisinger was located in Adolphus Busch Hall at 29 Kirkland Street. The Hall continues to house the Busch-Reisinger's founding collection of medieval plaster casts and an exhibition on the history of the Busch–Reisinger Museum; it also hosts concerts on its Flentrop pipe organ. In 1991, the Busch-Reisinger moved to the new Werner Otto Hall, designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, at 32 Quincy Street.[11] In 2018, Busch-Reisinger featured "Inventur–Art in Germany, 1943–55", which was named after a 1945 poem by Günter Eich.[13]


Arthur M. Sackler Museum

 The Sackler Building is no longer used for public exhibition spaces
The Sackler Building is no longer used for public exhibition spaces

The Arthur M. Sackler Museum opened in 1985. The museum building, which was designed by British architect James Stirling, was named for the major donor, Arthur M. Sackler, a psychiatrist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist.[17] The museum also housed offices for the History of Art and Architecture faculty, as well as the Digital Images and Slides Collection of the Fine Arts Library. As of 2016, the old Sackler Museum building houses the History of Art and Architecture Department and the Media Slide Library.[11]


The museum collection holds important collections of Asian art, most notably, archaic Chinese jades (the widest collection outside of China) and Japanese surimono, as well as outstanding Chinese bronzes, ceremonial weapons, Buddhist cave-temple sculptures, ceramics from China and Korea, Japanese works on paper, and lacquer boxes.[18]

The ancient Mediterranean and Byzantine collections comprise significant works in all media from Greece, Rome, Egypt, and the Near East. Strengths include Greek vases, small bronzes, and coins from throughout the ancient Mediterranean world.

The museum also holds works on paper from Islamic lands and India, including paintings, drawings, calligraphy, and manuscript illustrations, with particular strength in Rajput art, as well as important Islamic ceramics from the 8th through 19th century.


The Sackler Museum, originally designed as an extension to the Fogg, elicited worldwide attention from the time of Harvard's commission of Stirling to design the building, following a selection process that evaluated more than 70 architects.[19][20] As a measure of the excitement generated by the project, the University mounted an exhibition of the architects' preliminary design drawings in 1981, James Stirling's Design to Expand the Fogg Museum and issued a portfolio of Stirling's drawings to the press.

After completion, the building's coverage was even greater,[21] with general acknowledgment of the building's significance as a Stirling design and a Harvard undertaking. Aside from descriptions of the building's organization and exterior appearance, perhaps most noted was the way in which the inventive design accommodated its diverse program on a challenging site.[19] Harvard published a 50-page book on the Sackler, with extensive color photos by Timothy Hursley, an interview with Stirling by Michael Dennis, a tribute to Arthur M. Sackler, and essays by Slive, Coolidge and Rosenfield.[citation needed]

In spite of global critical acclaim, a few have been critical, Martin Peretz even proposing demolition, though his case was undermined by mis-attributing the building to another British architect, Norman Foster.[22]

As of 2013, the future use of the building was unclear,[23] as its collection has been relocated to the Renzo Piano extension to the Fogg. Stirling's structure still stands as of December 2016.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "History". Harvard Art Museums. Archived from the original on 2013-06-18. Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  2. ^ "Archaeological Exploration of Sardis". Harvard Art Museums. Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  3. ^ "Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art". Harvard Art Museums. Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  4. ^ "Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies". Harvard Art Museums. 2008-02-18. Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  5. ^ "After 6 years, Harvard Art Museums reemerging". Boston Globe. 
  6. ^ "Renzo Piano reconfigures Harvard Art Museums around a grand courtyard atrium". Dezeen magazine. Retrieved 2014-11-19. 
  7. ^ Farago, Jason: "Renzo Piano reboot of Harvard art museums largely triumphs", in The Guardian, 15 November 2014
  8. ^ Harvard News Office (2002-04-04). "Harvard Gazette: Color, form, action and teaching". Retrieved 2013-07-18. The first Fogg Museum, known as Hunt Hall, was built in 1893 and demolished in 1974 to make way for Canaday. The "new" Fogg was built in 1925 where the home of Harvard naturalist Louis Agassiz once stood — the original Agassiz neighborhood. The building is named for William Hayes Fogg, a Maine merchant who was born in 1817, left school at 14, and grew rich in the China trade. After he died in 1884, his widow, Elizabeth, left $200,000 and the couple's Asian art collection to Harvard. 
  9. ^ "The Virgin and Child Enthroned; Christ on the Cross between the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist". Harvard Art Museums. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  10. ^ "The Virgin and Child Enthroned". Harvard Art Museums. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  11. ^ a b c "History and the Three Museums". Harvard Art Museums. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  12. ^ The Dedication of the Germanic Museum of Harvard University. Harvard University. Germanic Museum. German American Press,. 1904. 
  13. ^ Scharmann, Allison (February 12, 2018). "Inventur: Forgotten Art Rediscovered at the Harvard Art Museums". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved February 20, 2018. 
  14. ^ Lenger, John. "Busch-Reisinger marks a century". The Harvard Gazette. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  15. ^ "Busch-Reisinger's Kuhn to Retire After 38 Years as Museum Head". The Harvard Crimson. March 26, 1968. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  16. ^ "Staff and Contact". Harvard Art Museums. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  17. ^ Glueck, Grace (October 18, 1985). "Sackler Art Museum to open at Harvard". The New York Times. Retrieved July 30, 2016. 
  18. ^ "Arthur M Sackler Museum". Time Out North America. Retrieved July 30, 2012. 
  19. ^ a b Stapen, Nancy (October 28, 1985). "Harvard's startling Sackler. Challenge was to fit museum into `architectural zoo' -". Retrieved July 30, 2016. 
  20. ^ Cannon-Brookes, Peter (September 1982). "James Stirling's design to expand the Fogg Museum". International Journal of Museum Management and Curatorship. 1 (3): 237–242. doi:10.1016/0260-4779(82)90056-5. Retrieved 31 July 2016. 
  21. ^ Jennifer A. Kingson (October 22, 1984). "Warehouse or Museum?". Retrieved July 30, 2016. 
  22. ^ Peretz, Martin (29 June 2008). "A List Of Buildings To Demolish In Cambridge, Massachusetts". New Republic. Retrieved 2016-12-09. 
  23. ^ MacGregor, Brianna D. (September 26, 2013). "Sackler Building Faces Uncertain Future | News | The Harvard Crimson". Retrieved 2016-12-09. 

Further reading

External links

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