Judy Murray’s Lasting Lessons

Aug 27, 2013

Judy Murray leads a gallery tour at the Harvard Art Museums. Photo: Brennan Moore. 

Judy Murray has brought Greater Boston’s museum galleries to life for countless visitors—public school groups, Harvard undergraduates, ESL learners, and recent immigrants. The Harvard Art Museums, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum have all benefited from her extraordinary talents as a museum educator, thanks to the innovative programs Murray has developed to help people of all ages and backgrounds engage with art in new and exciting ways. When Murray recently announced that she was departing the Harvard Art Museums, we couldn’t help but reflect on the powerful impact she’s had on our community.

Since 2007 Judy Murray has worked at the Harvard Art Museums as a Senior Museum Educator. Murray developed our Student Guide Program, collaborating with curators to train Harvard undergraduates to design and lead gallery tours for their peers, alumni, and other visitors. This select group of students, who have academic disciplines ranging from chemistry to art history, learned from Murray how to teach with the museums’ extraordinary collections—a process that former student guide Jake Weatherly describes as a “phenomenal experience.”  

Weatherly (Class of 2012) is currently studying medicine at Yale University. He noted how Murray inspired the student guides to discover and share their enthusiasm for the collections. Weatherly recalls getting “goose bumps when Judy brought us before Picasso's Blue Period painting Mother and Child . . . Each day [with Judy] was special for my tour groups, fellow student guides, and for myself. We had the great privilege of rubbing shoulders with the immortals, so to speak, and I am ever grateful to Judy Murray for making the introductions.”

While Murray created many valuable partnerships for the museums across Harvard’s campus, she has also done so with numerous public schools and local communities—places like the Honan Allston Library and the Gardner Pilot Academy. In a partnership with Citizen Schools, Murray developed an apprenticeship program for Edison Middle School students in Brighton, MA, that resulted in a museum guidebook designed by students for their peers. Murray was also instrumental in creating a program and sourcebook for recent immigrants called Engaging New Americans: Preparing for US Citizenship with the Harvard Art Museums. Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Nathaniel Saltonstall Arts Fund, this program featured an art-based complement to traditional methods of English-language instruction and citizenship exam preparation.

From the start of Murray’s career—she taught American and European history at Newton South High School in Newton, MA—she has brought her classes to art museums. These visits were more than just field trips: they were an essential part of the interdisciplinary curriculum Murray developed for her students. In the years that have followed, Murray’s groundbreaking work has inspired many, and her influence will continue to be felt in our new galleries, and in the galleries of our peer institutions, for many years to come.

Thank you, Judy.