David Odo
Division of Academic and Public Programs, Harvard Art Museums

Title: Academic and Student Programs at the Harvard Art Museums


In November of 2014, the Harvard Art Museums reopened after a dramatic six-year renovation and expansion, resulting in a 40 percent increase in gallery space, an expanded Art Study Center, new conservation labs, classrooms, and a striking glass roof that bridges the facility’s historic and contemporary architecture. This lecture will discuss the museum’s work in academic and student programs as it has unfolded during our first several years of operation, focusing on how students have activated and invigorated the museums through their substantive contributions. The essential challenge of our work is to engage students in the museum in a meaningful way. As such, academic museum work in the twenty-first century requires a steadfast commitment to engaging with as broad a range of disciplines as there are students studying these subjects, even beyond the traditional fields of study with which museums are typically comfortable. The lecture will further argue that it is also critical to engage students in the museum outside of their coursework in ways—including and especially using object-based teaching—that are as important and can be as rigorous as curricular engagements. Indeed, this co-curricular work with students offers the potential for some of the most creative, challenging and rewarding intellectual and other work that students will undertake during their time on campus. This goes far beyond the important social role campus museums can play, and the lecture will explore how the museum can be situated as space integral to student learning on campus, in ways that may connect to but in fact reach beyond the classroom, and that active students, faculty, and museum professionals alike to participate.

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