As an institution focused on research and education, the Harvard Art Museums are committed to training the next generation of museum professionals. We highly value our fellows—scholars who hold or are pursuing advanced degrees in specific areas of art history, museum studies, conservation, or related fields. Still at the start of promising careers, these professionals pursue individualized projects during their short-term tenures (normally one or two years) at the museums, receiving experience in their chosen fields but also making important contributions to them.
Over the past year (and as they do every year), our fellows have helped us in innumerable ways, from researching objects in the collections to leading gallery talks and organizing art installations. For instance, Ming Tu, the 2014–16 technology fellow in the Division of Digital Infrastructure and Emerging Technology, was a part of the collaboration, design, and implementation of more than 50 Lightbox Gallery projects.
“[The] projects have been incredibly varied,” Tu wrote in the February 2016 Index article “Out of the Box,” about the Lightbox Gallery. “[A] grid of nine screens has been used for slideshows and videos to accompany talks by staff, collaborators, and artists; the video wall has let visitors overlay conservation images to see works from the collections in different light wavelengths; the wall has also served as an interactive interface to showcase Harvard students’ research; and it has been a site to present visualizations that offer new ways of thinking about the museums’ collections data.”
New perspectives on objects in the museums’ collections are among the gifts departing fellows leave behind. Fellows in the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies research, conduct scientific analyses of, or even conserve objects in the collections. Claire Grech, the Australian Conservation Science Fellow, worked on a range of projects, for instance, from examining paint samples in a Donald Judd sculpture and a Lilla Cabot Perry oil painting, to analyzing pigments in Islamic lacquer. Grech’s fellowship, which was funded by the Harvard Committee on Australian Studies, was closely connected to the research for the special exhibition Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia.
Curatorial fellows consult existing research—and conduct their own—to help shape installations and programming. Stephanie Rozman, the 2014–16 Calderwood Curatorial Fellow in the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art, curated a series of informative and imaginative installations for the gallery of South Asian art; one featured works on paper from the early 19th-century album Fishes of India and another displayed paintings by Indian artist Nandalal Bose (1883–1966). Rozman also played a key role in researching and proposing new acquisitions, such as Adrift (On Dvaipayana), a video projection by contemporary artist Atul Bhalla, and an important early 18th-century painting from a royal Kota-Jaipur album, among others.
Lola Sanchez-Jauregui, the 2014–16 Maher Curatorial Fellow in American Art, designed the collections gallery installation The Painter on Display, which incorporated artists’ materials from the Forbes Pigment Collection and works from the museums’ collections. The installation, displayed in the rococo and neoclassicism gallery, gave visitors a more holistic view of the practice of art making. Sanchez-Jauregui also has assisted in the organization of an upcoming exhibition about Harvard’s 18th-century Philosophy Chamber.
Quintana Heathman, the 2014–16 curatorial fellow in Japanese art in the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art, worked with the Feinberg collection of Japanese art, an assemblage of dazzling works from the Edo (1615–1868) and the Meiji (1868–1912) periods. Heathman organized several installations of Feinberg works in the Japanese and East Asian galleries, including hanging scrolls and ukiyo-e paintings. For another installation, she curated a series of ukiyo-e prints that were displayed in the impressionist gallery, providing a fascinating glimpse into the cross-cultural artistic exchanges of the late 19th century.
Fellows are familiar faces in the museums’ Art Study Center, where they often lead seminars open to the public about their individual fields of study, or host weekly open hours to welcome visitors to the Art Study Center on a drop-in basis. In one of many articles Heathman wrote for Index, she introduced visitors to a type of object ideal for close study in the intimate setting: Japanese surimono prints. “These small works on paper, many about eight inches square, are like small jewels, shimmering in the hand when turned in the light, revealing their various meanings and secrets only after extended contemplation,” Heathman wrote.
Gallery talks about individual objects on permanent display or in collections gallery installations are another facet of the fellows’ experience. Robert Wiesenberger, the 2014–16 Stefan Engelhorn Curatorial Fellow in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, gave a number of popular talks. A particular crowd favorite was his presentation and activation of László Moholy-Nagy’s Light Prop for an Electric Stage. In addition, Wiesenberger organized and gave a talk on a two-part installation about The Ring, an international group of artists and architects who laid the foundation for contemporary graphic design with their focus on the New Typography.
The primary aim of Wiesenberger’s fellowship was to develop an online special collection called The Bauhaus, which allows viewers to access rich information about the more than 32,000 Bauhaus-related objects in the museums’ collections and archives. “We want this to appeal to all levels,” Wiesenberger told Index. “If you’ve never heard of the Bauhaus, you can use it. If you’re writing your dissertation on the Bauhaus, you will hopefully find new and rich material.”
The work of helping visitors of all ages and backgrounds connect with the museums, while balancing responsibilities as integral members of the museums’ team (and, simultaneously, growing and learning as professionals), is no easy feat. And yet, our fellows past and present have done so with great success. As we bid farewell to a number of our fellows at the end of this summer, we are looking forward to keeping a close eye on their careers. And this fall, we welcome a fresh cohort of fellows, sure to bring new energy and unique perspectives to our always evolving team.