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Jennifer P. Kingsley

Assistant Director, Museums and Society

Johns Hopkins University
389 Gilman Hall
3400 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218

Telephone: (410) 516-3188

Websites: on; on LinkedIn

Background: My undergraduate degrees are in History and Art History from Williams College (2000). After working as an Intern Educator at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, I moved to Baltimore to continue my studies. I received my Ph.D. in the History of Art from Johns Hopkins University in 2007. From 2008 to 2010, I was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow and Lecturer in the Department of Art and Archaeology at Columbia University in New York and from 2010 to 2011, Visiting Assistant Professor in Art History at Oberlin College. While studying and teaching at these universities, I have continued to be active in museums, working at the Walters Art Museum as a Hall Fellow (2003), and lecturing regularly at the Cloisters, the medieval branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2006-2010). In 2011, I returned to Baltimore to join the Program in Museums and Society, a position that is giving me an opportunity to pursue a long-standing interest in the connections between the two worlds in which I have worked: the university and the museum.

Teaching: I teach in an interdisciplinary program concerned with the history, theory and practice of museums and related concepts of collection, interpretation and display. In that role, I see myself as a guide not only to academic content and its ways of knowing – in other words, scholarly inquiry – but also to engaging public audiences.

The Program in Museums and Society offers an interdisciplinary minor that emphasizes both significant concepts in museum history and theory, and practicum work. Our students range from art-history to international studies majors. Working with these students is a commitment to considering museums from multiple perspectives, while at the same time encouraging students to investigate the discipline of their major according to a distinct set of interests and concerns. Museums work visually as well as through their texts, and serve as sites in which academic knowledge is encountered and debated publicly. For that reason the main purpose of my classroom teaching is to promote museum literacy and in that work I place particular emphasis not only on the museum as a primary source, but also on its public role in our society.

Research: My research centers on medieval image theory, memory, liturgy, aesthetics and historiography, with particular attention to the role of museums in forming the paradigms that have shaped medieval studies and art history. I have published on a range of artworks from manuscripts to ivories; on diverse topics from the materiality of medieval art to the image of the bishop; and on various cultural milieus from Ottonian Germany to Anglo-Saxon England.

My first book, The Bernward Gospels: Art, Memory and the Episcopate in Medieval Germany (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014) considers one of the most significant examples of the eleventh-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. The work constructs the image of the bishop as a prelate who cares for his diocese not only through a life of service that imitates Christ, but also by means of his exceptional artistic patronage; as a leader exercising the sacerdotal authority of his office; and as a man fundamentally preoccupied with his own salvation and desire to unite with God through both his sight and touch. In doing so, the manuscript’s paintings raise broader questions about the nature of medieval images, mechanisms of memory, and 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 in medieval writings about art 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 and display of medieval art in the founding era of medieval art history and the evaluation of its present impact on how the Middle Ages are interpreted.


  • Introduction to the Museum: Issues and Ideas (requirement for the minor in M&S)
  • Inventing the Middle Ages (advanced seminar)
  • 21rst century Approaches to Material Culture (digital practicum focused on JHU collections:
  • Art in the Museum (freshman seminar)
  • Exhibits in Focus (B'more intersession intensive)
  • Nature on Display (intersession seminar)

Museums and Society Projects & Areas of Responsibility:

  • Digital Humanities: includes the JHU Collections Web (co-I with Elizabeth Rodini, in collaboration with Reid Szerba and students in the M&S program). The JHU Collections Web supports a new course designed to teach students how to work with historic Hopkins collections using new and emerging technologies of research, analysis and prsentation. Undergraduates will conduct in-depth studies of objects in a rotating series of collections and will present their findings in an interactive website to form a network of information about Hopkins collections and their histories.
  • Living Collections (Mellon-funded collaboration with the Maryland Zoo; PI: Elizabeth Rodini)
  • Local History: includes "A Sense of Place" signage project interpreting sites on campus (course instructor: museum education consultant Elizabeth Maloney) and site-based interpretation work in the Lexington market area of Baltimore (a collaboration with the Baltimore Heritage Area Association)

Selected Publications:

  • "Le Paysage Sensoriel de l'Église du Haut Moyen Âge: Le Témoignage du Mitralis de Sicard de Crémone." Edited by Eric Palazzo. Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévales (forthcoming)
  • "John the Baptist for the Anglo-Saxon and Ottonian Episcopacy." Envisioning the Medieval Bishop. Edited by Evan Gatti and Sigrid Danielson. Medieval Church Studies (Turnhout: Brepols, 2014)
  • The Bernward Gospels: Art, Memory and the Episcopate in Medieval Germany. University Park, 2014. Publication is 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
  • "Picturing the Treasury in Ottonian Art: The Power of Objects and the Art of Memory in the Bernward Gospels." Gesta 50.1 (2012)
  • "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, 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@

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