Jennifer Kingsley

Assistant Director and Senior Lecturer

Gilman 389
Tuesday 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
Personal Website


I am an art historian specializing in the European Middle Ages with an emphasis on the period from about 800 to 1200.  I earned my doctorate in the history of art from the Johns Hopkins University in 2007 and joined the Program in Museums and Society in 2011, after teaching as a post-doctoral fellow at Columbia University and as a visiting assistant professor at Oberlin College. I have also worked in various capacities in museum education and in curation at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Cloisters, the medieval branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Walters Art Museum. I was field editor for exhibition reviews at from 2012-2015 and I serve on several committees and juries for the arts and for exhibitions here at Hopkins.

I have published on diverse topics from the ways in which medieval objects contribute to discussions about the role and status of images through their imagery and materials to the artistic innovations associated with the new class of wealthy and powerful episcopal patrons that emerged in Germany around the millennium; on a range of artworks from manuscripts to ivories; and on the connected cultural milieus of Ottonian Germany, Anglo-Saxon England, and northern Italy. My current research follows two paths. The first revolves around early medieval sensescapes, and the second considers the historiography of medieval art history, with particular attention to the role of museums in shaping distinct fields within medieval studies. 

The courses I teach for the Program in Museums and Society consider museums from a variety of perspectives to understand their role in societies past and present, particularly as sites of knowledge production. I place particular emphasis on how to read the museum as a primary source and how to analyze its institutional practices. 

My first book, The Bernward Gospels: Art, Memory and the Episcopate in Medieval Germany (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014) considered one of the most significant examples of the 11th-century book arts, the gospel book that served as a founding gift from Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim to the Abbey of St. Michael’s. A prominent representative of a new class of wealthy and powerful donors—the well-connected bishops of Ottonian Germany, Bernward commissioned artworks of extraordinary quality, and in a wide range of media. The densely meaningful paintings of his book sought to build a special relationship with God and to condition how contemporary and future viewers remembered the bishop. In doing so, the manuscript’s paintings raise broader questions about the nature of medieval images, mechanisms of memory, and ideas about spiritual perception around the millennium. 

The book's privileging of touch together with sight over other sensory modes is significant and suggests that medieval patrons and audiences engaged with objects in multiple ways that have yet to be fully unpacked. An ongoing project considers these questions across various medieval sensescapes in order to probe the current and growing art-historical interest in the senses, while a course I taught in the fall of 2014 ("Inventing the Middle Ages") is the starting point for a new project that considers the collection, reproduction and display of medieval art in the shaping and professionalization of distinct fields within medieval studies. 

I see my work for the Program in Museums and Society as being a guide not only to academic content and its ways of knowing—in other words, scholarly inquiry—but also to engaging public audiences. In my practicum courses I work collaboratively with my students to produce public interpretive projects such as the JHU Collections Web. My article "The Practicum Course Model: Embracing the Museum-University Culture Clash" (Journal of Museum Education, Winter 2016) argues for moving past the culture clash between museums and universities in favor of models of research and teaching that relax the traditional distinctions between these two sites of knowledge production.

  • Introduction to the Museum: Past and Present (M&S minor requirement)
  • Introduction to the Museum: Issues and Ideas (M&S minor requirement)
  • Inventing the Middle Ages (advanced seminar)
  • Virtual Museum (advanced seminar)
  • Curating Material Culture for the Digital Age (digital humanities practicum that focuses on a rotating series of university collections)
  • Art in the Museum (research and writing intensive freshman seminar)
  • Exhibits in Focus (B'more intersession)
Curricular Initiatives

As assistant director of the Program in Museums and Society, I manage a range of collaborations with local museums and heritage institutions. An exciting new partnership with the Maryland Zoo will build on students' growing interest in living collections with courses and programs planned to start in 2016. When I joined the program in 2011 I initiated and led a review of the curriculum to identify gaps and redundancies and to systematize our approach to course levels and learning goals. Based on that work I have been building the curriculum in new areas:

  • Public History & the American City. Every year we grow the number of courses we offer that engage students in working with heritage sites, from projects on our own Homewood campus to interpretive work in Baltimore's historic neighborhoods. Partnering with local communities and organizations such as the Baltimore National Heritage Association and the Reginald Lewis Museum is an important part of this work. 2016 saw the launch of our first practicum course on Museums and Social Responsibility. It uses protests in Baltimore in the wake of Freddie Gray's death as a springboard to examine the social role museums should play in Baltimore. I also recently won an Arts Innovation grant from the university and was appointed Community Engaged Faculty Fellow by the Center for Social Concern to support a collaboration with the Reginald Lewis museum on a practicum course that invites students to remix university collections and author a collections development plan that addresses campus concerns about diversity. 
  • Digital Humanities. In 2012, the program applied for and received a humanities and social sciences grant from the university’s Center for Educational Resources to incorporate new and emerging technologies into its teaching and research (co-PI with Elizabeth Rodini). This grant launched the development of a technological and curricular template for working with Hopkins collections, one example of which is the JHU Collections Web and the course it supports: "Curating Material Culture for the Digital Age." The template has been adopted by colleagues such as Jeremy Green (History of Medicine). I also mentor students on a variety of mobile projects. Most recently I obtained funds from the MuseWeb Foundation to support a student internship focused on creating multi-media guides to campus collections and sites, including its two museums.
  • Living Collections/Environment. In 2016, the program saw the first of two courses based in the Maryland Zoo, with collaborators from the Whiting School of Engineering's NSF-funded STEM Achievement in Baltimore City Elementary Schools program and from a local elementary school. These courses investigate conservation education and programming in formal and informal settings. A Spring 2018 course supported by the Mellon Foundation brings Hopkins professor Anand Pandian together with the Baltimore Museum of Industry to consider the ethical and environmental impacts of plastics. 



The Bernward Gospels: Art, Memory and the Episcopate in Medieval Germany. University Park, Penn State Press, 2014. Publication supported by two competitive awards, one from the International Center for Medieval Art with the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and a book subvention from the Medieval Academy of America.


"The Practicum Course Model: Embracing the Museum-University Culture Clash." Journal of Museum Education 41.4 (2016), in press.

"Le Paysage Sensoriel de l'Église du Haut Moyen Âge: Le Témoignage du Mitralis de Sicard de Crémone." In Les cinq sens au Moyen Âge. Edited by Eric Palazzo, 669-90. Éditions du Cerf, 2016

"Bishop and Monk: John the Baptist in the Episcopal Image of Anglo-Saxon England and Ottonian Germany."Envisioning the Medieval Bishop, Edited by Evan Gatti and Sigrid Danielson, 215-248. Medieval Church Studies, 29. Turnhout: Brepols, 2014 

"Picturing the Treasury in Ottonian Art: The Power of Objects and the Art of Memory in the Bernward Gospels." Gesta 50.1 (2012): 19-39 

"VT CERNIS and The Materiality of Bernwardian Art." In 1000 Jahre St. Michael in Hildesheim: Kirche-Kloster-Stifter, Internationales Symposium des Hornemann Instituts, September 16-18, 2010. Edited by Gerhard Lutz and Angela Weyer, 171-84. Hildesheim: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2012.

"Ornament, Style and Interpreting the Medieval Oliphant at the Walters: A Reconsideration" A New Look at Old Things? [= Journal of the Walters Art Museum 68/69]. Edited by Kathryn B. Gerry and Richard A. Leson, 87-98. 2010/2011.

"To Touch the Image: Embodying Christ in the Bernward Gospels." Peregrinations 3.1 (2010): 138-73. Special Issue on Ottonian Art, edited by Evan Gatti, with an introduction by Adam Cohen. (online@