Director, Program in Museums and Society
Teaching Professor, History of Art
My undergraduate degrees are in history and Italian language and literature from the University of Wisconsin, Madison (1986). I received my PhD in art history from the University of Chicago (1995), where I wrote a dissertation on representations of the Levant in late medieval and early Renaissance Venice. From 1998 to 2003, I was the Mellon Projects Curator at the University of Chicago's Smart Museum of Art, tasked with building connections between faculty, students, and the work of the museum. Among the many exhibitions I co-curated and catalogues I edited at the Smart were The Place of the Antique in Early Modern Europe, The Theatrical Baroque, and Paper Museums: The Reproductive Print in Europe, 1500-1800.
In 2004, I moved to Baltimore to become a liaison between the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Art Museum, and Johns Hopkins University, and in 2006 I became the founding director of the Program in Museums and Society. I continue to work actively with the BMA and the Walters as well as number of other area museums and to be interested in building productive relationships between museums and universities (see my 2007 article "The Ivory Tower and the Crystal Palace," which explores those relationships in detail). A 2010 grant of nearly $500,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, for which I am the primary investigator, has allowed Museums and Society to continue building innovative, productive relationships with local museums. This grant was renewed in 2013, allowing us to develop a new series of collaborations with museums of art, archaeology, and science.
I am active in the academic museum community. In 2013, I was a panelist at the conference on “Teaching Museums in the 21st Century" at the Hood Museum, Dartmouth College, and in 2014 I participated in a workshop on "Future Careers in Art Museums of the Future" at the annual meeting of the College Art Association. I have served as a consultant at Smith College and the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and have been a field editor for exhibition reviews at caa.reviews. I am currently active on several museum advisory committees including at the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Art Museum, and the JHU Archaeology Museum and Homewood Museums. I am also a book reviewer for several academic journals.
I have a long-standing interest in the representation and material expression of cultural exchange in the early modern period. I am currently completing an article-length study of the reception of imported objects in Venice, c. 1500, objects that are often classified (in museums) as "Islamic" and "decorative (arts)." Using a range of historical sources, including trade and travel documents as well as chronicles, I am exploring the various meanings such objects would have had to contemporary Venetians. In April 2014, I presented a version of this work at the annual meeting of the Association of Art Historians in London.
Another, book-length project investigates the history of Gentile Bellini's portrait of Mehmet II from its production in 1480 in Istanbul to its contemporary interpretations. This study builds on my 2011 article about the portrait, as well as on work I did as part of the 2010 National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar, “Re-Mapping the Renaissance: Exchange between Early Modern Europe and Islam,” held at the University of Maryland (see the resulting website Serai for a glimpse into some related research).
These research interests grow directly out of the work I currently do in and around museums and are reflected in my teaching as well. My course on "material migrations" taught at Hopkins with objects in the collection of the Walters Art Museum (see the results of this project, "Art on the Move," below), as well as a seminar on "Readings in Material Culture" that I am co-teaching with Rebecca Brown in Fall 2014 merge my historical, theoretical, and pedagogic interests. In the spring of 2015 I will co-teach a course on artifact conservation with Lori Trusheim and an array of local conservators. I had invaluable preparation for this experience with a 1-week seminar at the Institute of Fine Arts on technical art history, funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation (STITAH). My field of study is increasingly global. In 2015, I will chair a session titled "Global Perspectives on the Museum" at the annual meeting of the College Art Association, a project growing out of a course by the same name that I co-taught in 2012 with Sanchita Balachandran.
Similarly, a recently completed article on the Musée Nissim de Camondo in Paris emerges directly from my teaching. Built in 1911–14 for an important collection of eighteenth-century furnishings and decorative arts, this museum took on a commemorative function following the death of the founder’s son, Nissim, for whom it was named. Over the last century, through the vicissitudes of history, revised narrative priorities, and changing approaches to museum presentation, this house-turned-museum has become a site of historical representation focused as much on the twentieth century and the Camondo family as on the period of its original inspiration. My research, which appears in the Museum History Journal, explores that transition, attending to the museum’s founding memorial goal in the wake of the Second World War, the tragic demise of the Camondo family, and shifting perspectives on French history.
The work for this study began on a 2012 trip to Paris, where I taught a two-week intersession course on museums for Hopkins undergraduates—a course I repeated in January 2014 and plan to offer biannually.
My teaching and research interests are tightly intertwined, and I derive great motivation and excitement from engaging with my students. Please read about my research to learn more about some of the things I am thinking about and working on, both in the classroom and outside it.
- Introduction to the Museum: Past and Present (M&S minor requirement)
- Introduction to the Museum: Issues and Ideas (M&S minor requirement)
- Museum Matters (freshman seminar)
- About Things (freshman seminar planned for 2015-16; tentative title)
- Conservation of Material Culture: Art, Artifacts and Heritage Sites (with L. Trusheim)
- Global Perspectives on the Museum (with S. Balachandran)
- Who Owns Culture? (advanced seminar)
- Prints and Print Culture in Early Modern Europe
- Readings in Material Culture (advanced undergraduate/graduate seminar; with R. Brown)
- Museum-based practicum courses have included:
- Behind the Scenes at the Walters Art Museum: Material Migrations (with B. Tilghman)
- Behind the Scenes at the Walters Art Museum: Mapping the Cosmos (with B. Tilghman)
- Paper Museums: Exhibiting Prints at the Baltimore Museum of Art
- Close Looking at the Baltimore Museum of Art: Rinaldo and Armida (with A. Manning)
- Surveying Paris: Museums, Monuments, and Cultural Memory (study abroad)
As director of the Program in Museums and Society, I am responsible for developing and directing new curricular initiatives. Current interests include:
- Materiality and material culture. We are developing new courses in areas related to heritage preservation and management, theories of materiality, and experimental archaeology. Collaboration with local conservation labs and specialists is an important part of this initiative.
- Books and book arts. Beginning in the fall of 2015, the Program will be sponsoring a series of courses in and around the history, production, interpretation, and display of books, historical and modern. We are working with other local colleges and universities to enrich the course offerings, and with museums and galleries to coordinate a series of related exhibitions. A spring 2016 course on artists’ books, taught by Rena Hoisington at the BMA, will be a centerpiece of this initiative and will culminate in a spring, 2017 student-curated exhibition.
“Mobile Things: On Origins and the Meanings of Levantine Objects in Early Modern Venice,” chapter in preparation for Re-Mapping the Renaissance: Travels to Islam and Back Again (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, forthcoming)
“Preserving and Perpetuating Memory at the Musée Nissim de Camondo in Paris," Museum History Journal, vol. 7 (January, 2014): 36-54.
“The Politics of Marriage in Carpaccio’s St. Ursula Cycle,” Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 8 (October, 2013): 85-117; Winner, Best Article Prize for Volume 8 (2013).
“Mapping the Provenance of Museum Objects,” Archive Journal, Issue 2, Fall 2012.
“The Sultan’s True Face? Gentile Bellini, Mehmet II, and the Value of Verisimilitude” in The “Turk” and Islam in the Western Eye (1453–1832), ed. James Harper, Ashgate, 2011.
"The Ivory Tower and the Crystal Palace: Universities, Museums, and the Potential of Public Art History,” invited contribution to caa.reviews (Nov. 27, 2007).
“Mapping Narrative at the Church of San Marco: A Study in Visual Storying,” Word & Image 14 (no. 4, 1998): 387–96.
“Describing Narrative in Gentile Bellini’s Procession in Piazza San Marco,”Art History 21 (March, 1998): 26-44.
Selected Museum Publications
Paper Museums: The Reproductive Print in Europe, 1500–1800. With Rebecca Zorach. Chicago: David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, 2005 (co-author and editor).
Confronting Identities in German Art: Myths, Reactions, Reflections. Reinhold Heller et al. Chicago: David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, 2003 (editor).
A Well-Fashioned Image: Clothing and Costume in European Art, 1500–1850. With Elissa B. Weaver. Chicago: David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, 2002 (co-author and editor).
Pious Journeys: Christian Devotional Art and Practice in the Later Middle Ages and Renaissance. Linda Seidel et al. Chicago: David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, 2001 (editor).
The Theatrical Baroque. Larry F. Norman et al. Chicago: David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, 2001 (editor).
The Place of the Antique in Early Modern Europe. Ingrid D. Rowland et al. Chicago: David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art, 1999 (editor).
Selected Museum Exhibitions and Projects
Art on the Move, 2010, GoogleEarth tour of objects in the permanent collection of the Walters Art Museum, co-curated with co-curated with Dr. Ben Tilghman and Johns Hopkins University students.
Mapping the Cosmos: Images from the Hubble Space Telescope, Walters Art Museum, 2008, co-curated with Ben Tilghman and Johns Hopkins University students in collaboration with the Space Telescope Science Institute.
Printed Sculpture/Sculpted Prints, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 2007, co-curated with JHU undergraduates.
The City Real and Ideal, Baltimore Museum of Art, 2006.
Selected Museum Projects
Curator of 11 exhibitions at the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, 1999-2005.