I specialize in the arts of the medieval world, considering both the historical moment of their making and their afterlives as part of different processes and cycles of collection, interpretation, and display. The Middle Ages have been reinvented many times in the past five hundred years - as inspirational, nationalist, primitive and nativist - its material culture juxtaposed in both productive and problematic ways with African and modern art. Such changing narratives surface art-history's competing canons and the institutional actors who craft our disciplinary narratives - and have become a central focus of my research, museum practice, and scholarship of teaching and learning.
My undergraduate degrees are in history and art history from Williams College in Massachusetts (2000). I earned my doctorate in the history of art from the Johns Hopkins University in 2007 and joined the Program in Museums and Society (M&S) in 2011, after teaching as a post-doctoral fellow at Columbia University and as a visiting assistant professor at Oberlin College. I have experience in a variety of educational and curatorial roles at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Walters Art Museum and the Cloisters (the medieval branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art), and have been a field editor for exhibition reviews at caa.reviews. I currently serve as a peer reviewer for the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) Museum Assessment Program.
I work actively to develop productive collaborations with regional museums, galleries, libraries and archives. My article "The Practicum Course Model: Embracing the Museum-University Culture Clash" (Journal of Museum Education, Winter 2016) shares lessons learned from years of developing such partnerships. Among my current initiatives are: Exhibiting Black Artists at the Baltimore Museum of Art and The Inclusive Object Toolkit, both with the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the practical ethics oral history project Housing Our Story: Towards Archival Justice for Black Baltimore, with Nathan Connolly (History) and Shani Mott (Africana Studies).
My pedagogy allies the conceptual with the applied in the study of art and material culture in its institutional contexts, and in the work of curating and interpreting them for public audiences. This often requires conceptualizing new methods of teaching. The template I created in the Omeka platform for the JHU Collections Web offers a way for students to build and interpret collections of university objects online and in the process understand collection catalogues and their associated data as socially embedded and historical in their own right. I am also involved in developing engaged models for community-based learning (CBL) and in studying their impact on students.
My research interests range broadly.
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. My 2016 article “Le paysage sensoriel de l'église et les images vers 1200" reads the sensescape of medieval churches through the liturgical commentary of Sicard of Cremona, and I have given papers that expand this inquiry to the writings of Rupert of Deutz and Honorious of Autun.
I have also written about the restaging of art exhibitions - that is the revisiting, remaking, or reflection, in exhibition form, on the exhibitions of the past. In collaborating recently with the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) to investigate an exhibition they showed of contemporary Black artists in 1939, I came across a fascinating relationship between the museum and Vivian Cook, an African-American educator, civic leader and activist who played an important role in diversifying the BMA's collections and exhibitions in the 40s and 50s. I have become deeply invested in researching Baltimore women who served as key advocates for modern art during the first half of the twentieth century, a moment of competing visions and institutional interests over what the story of modern art would be. Museum professionals like Adelyn Breeskin (Curator of Prints and Drawings at the BMA and later Director of the BMA and inaugural director of the Washington Gallery of Modern Art), civic leaders such as Sarah Fernandis and Vivian Cook (of the Women's Cooperative Civic League), and influential elites such as the women of the Garrett family (significant patrons of several arts institutions as well as collectors) played intersecting roles in the creation of public collections of modern art in Baltimore - with the ambition of modeling for the nation what modern art could be. Each operated from their own social position, perspectives from which they actively negotiated and sought to influence the processes by which art's institutions were then fashioning the canon of modern art.
Teaching and curricular development in Museums and Society is inherently interdisciplinary and most of my courses are cross-listed with one or more departments. Working with students to collaborate across disciplines and with diverse communities is among the most motivating and rewarding aspects of my teaching.
- Introduction to the Museum: Past and Present
- Introduction to the Museum: Issues and Ideas
- Inventing the Middle Ages
- Virtual Museum
- Curating Material Culture for the Digital Age
- World of Things
- Collections Remix: Black at Hopkins
- Black Artists in American Museums
- Art in the Museum
- Curatorial Seminar
- Object Encounters at the Baltimore Museum of Art
- Exhibits in Focus
When I first joined the program in 2011 I initiated a review of its courses to identify gaps and redundancies and to systematize our approach to course levels and learning goals. Based on that assessment I led the alignment of the curriculum, establishing a coherent framework for curriculum, instruction and assessment. I grew the curriculum in underrepresented areas of local public history and digital modes of museological inquiry.
- 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. 2015 saw the launch of our first practicum course on Museums and Social Responsibility. It used protests in Baltimore in the wake of Freddie Gray's death as a springboard to examine the social role museums should play in Baltimore. In 2016 I won an Arts Innovation grant and was Community Engaged Faculty Fellow at the Center for Social Concern to support a collaboration with Nanny Jack and Co. an archives and consulting agency specializing in African-American material culture. We worked with students to mine the artistic, cultural and archival collections of the university to engage campus concerns about inclusion and diversity. In 2017 I was awarded with Nathan Connolly (History) and Shani Mott (Africana Studies) a practical ethics grant from JHU's Berman Institute to support Housing Our Story: Towards Archival Justice for Black Baltimore. The project launched two new courses in 2018.
- Digital Museology. In 2012, I received a humanities and social sciences grant from the university’s Center for Educational Resources to incorporate new and emerging technologies into the program's teaching and research (co-I 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. The template has been adopted by colleagues such as Jeremy Green (History of Medicine). I also mentor students on a variety of mobile projects. In 2016 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, and in 2017 the program hosted its first public arts intern to create a participatory mobile tour of the university's art collection.
Scholarship Of Teaching And Learning
- “Working with Museums to Surface the Canon as a Pedagogically Provocative Entity” (submitted to Art History Pedagogy & Practice)
- “The Practicum Course Model: Embracing the University-Museum Culture Clash.” Journal of Museum Education4 (2016): 250-261.
- "Social Justice and Collections Based Teaching" Blog Post at Material Collective. January 2019. http://thematerialcollective.org/3101-2/
- “A Low-Tech Approach to Digital Literacy.” Pedagogy Series. JHU Innovative Instructor.July 2016.
Museology & Art History
- BOOK: The Bernward Gospels: Art, Memory and the Episcopate in Medieval Germany (University Park: Penn State Press, 2014)supported by competitive Medieval Academy book subvention and International Center for Medieval Art Samuel H. Kress Research Award
- “Picturing the Treasury in Ottonian Art: The Power of Objects and the Art of Memory in the Bernward Gospels.” Gesta1 (2012): 19-39
- “To Touch the Image: Embodying Christ in the Bernward Gospels.” Peregrinations1 (2010): 138-73 (online@http://peregrinations.kenyon.edu)
- “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] (2010/2011): 87-98.
- “RevisitingContemporary Negro Art at the Baltimore Museum of Art.” With Morgan Dowty and Gamynne Guillotte. Reconstructing Exhibitions. Edited by Natasha Amadou and Michaela Giebelhausen. Routledge Research in Art Museums and Exhibitions (London: Routledge, accepted)
- “Le paysage sensoriel de l'église et les images vers 1200: le témoignage du Mitralisde Sicard de Crémone.” In Les cinq sens au Moyen Âge.Edited by Eric Palazzo, 669-690. Paris: 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.
- “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, 2012.
- “Collecting the World: Hans Sloane and the Origins of the British Museum” Book review. History: Reviews of New Books 5 (September 2018)
- “A Feast for the Senses: Art and Experience in Medieval Art at the Walters Art Museum.” Exhibition review. reviews: A Publication of the College Art Association of America. December2017.http://caareviews.org/reviews/3167#.WlkX5iOZNBw