I am an educator, scholar and curator with more than twelve years of cumulative experience working in museums and universities. I joined the Program in Museums and Society in 2011 where I have built a robust and diverse curriculum that prioritizes applied learning and publicly engaged research.
I specialize in the arts of the Middle Ages, considering both the historical moment of their making and their afterlives as part of different processes and cycles of collection, interpretation, and display. The medieval world has been reinvented many times - 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 them. Those narratives and actors have become a central focus of my research, teaching and practice.
My classroom teaching centers active learning techniques and my pedagogy emphasizes community based learning. I have a proven track record of building and maintaining multi-institutional collaborations that engage undergraduates in creating projects for public audiences. These enhance the research, exhibitions, and educational mission of museum partners and extend the outreach and impact of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
My museological practice lies at the edge of curation and museum interpretation (more traditionally housed in museum education departments). I have worked in a range of genres from wayside signage for historic sites to more traditional object-based exhibits and from audio experiences to the digital presentations of collections.
My research interests encompass the art of the medieval world and its museumification. I have published 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 scholarship also includes museology more broadly and matters of canon-formation in art history.
My book, The Bernward Gospels: Art, Memory and the Episcopate in Medieval Germany (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014) is the first comprehensive study of one of the most significant examples of the 11th-century book arts, an illustrated 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 afford us broader insight into the nature of medieval images, mechanisms of memory, contemporary struggles with the evolving social roles of bishops in the period, and ideas about spiritual perception around the millennium. The book privileges touch together with sight over other sensory modes as the particular province of the bishop. That specificity is significant and suggests that medieval patrons and audiences engaged with objects in codified sensorial ways that scholars have yet to fully unpack. It also underscores that the trend towards the synaesthetic or multisensorial study of art requires more precise investigation, with attention to scientific, philosophical and liturgical sources. My review of the exhibition “A Feast for the Senses” at the Walters Art Museum contextualizes the field's interest in the connections between medieval art and embodied sensations, and points to some of the more promising approaches in the field. I continue to contribute to this conversation. 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 (principally studied by historians for his work in canon law), and I have given papers at national medievalist conferences that expand my inquiry to the liturgical writings of Rupert of Deutz and Honorious of Autun. I maintain an active interest in studying aesthetic sensescapes, including the changing nature of the sensory relationship between people and medieval art in post-medieval contexts such as museums.
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. That research, which originated in preparatory work for a collaborative practicum course with the Baltimore Museum of Art, has opened a new area of inquiry. I have become deeply invested in researching Baltimore women like Vivian Cook, 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 - a canon in which masculinized narratives would ultimately prevail for much of the twentieth century, and continue to dominate the scholarship.
Museums, archives, and historic sites hold tremendous creative power over cultural heritage, collective identity, and social memory. A principle goal of my teaching is to help students develop the skills to be critical interpreters of these consequential institutions. I strive to help students realize that by looking carefully and thoughtfully at museums, broadly defined, they can begin to ask questions and explore ideas that will lead them to a richer understanding of their world.
To that end, my teaching allies conceptual work with applied learning, and historical thinking with attention to contemporary issues as they manifest in real time. I involve students in publicly engaged research that result in outcomes ranging from museum exhibitions to educational publications, websites and historic signage.
I want all my students to see that humanistic inquiry matters beyond the academic classroom, to develop the tools to engage effectively with difficult concepts, and to feel empowered to encounter, and effect change in, institutions of power and privilege from which many in our society still feel excluded.
- 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
- Encountering American Art at the Museum
- Exhibits in Focus
SCHOLARSHIP OF TEACHING AND LEARNING
- “The Canon as Provocation: Partnering with Museums for the Future of Art History” Art History Pedagogy & Practice1 (2019) https://academicworks.cuny.edu/ahpp/vol4/iss1/3/
- “The Practicum Course Model: Embracing the University-Museum Culture Clash.” Journal of Museum Education4 (2016): 250-261.
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)
- “Reconsidering the Medieval Oliphant: The Ivory Horn in the Walters Art Museum.” Journal of the Walters Art Museum 68/69 (2010/2011): 87-98.
- “The Reflexive Riff: Revisiting Contemporary Negro Art at the Baltimore Museum of Art.” With Morgan Dowty and Gamynne Guillotte. Reconstructing Exhibitions in Art Institutions. Edited by Natasha Amadou and Michaela Giebelhausen (Routledge Press, forthcoming Fall 2020)
- “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 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. December 2017. http://caareviews.org/reviews/3167#.WlkX5iOZNBw