David Odo has recently returned to Harvard as the director of student programs and research curator of university collections initiatives for the Division of Academic and Public Programs at the Harvard Art Museums.
In his new role, Odo will oversee the Student Guide Program, which trains Harvard undergraduates to lead gallery tours, and the Graduate Student Teaching Program, which trains Harvard graduate students to develop and facilitate gallery experiences for high school students. He will also spearhead student programs and research projects relating to the University Collections Gallery, periodically organizing exhibitions in that space with faculty and student partners from the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, the Harvard Semitic Museum, the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, and Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, among other Harvard museums.
Q I understand this is a welcome back for you. A Yes, and I’m very happy to be back. Up until four years ago, I was teaching in the anthropology department here at Harvard. In 2004, I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard, and during that time I got to know the Peabody Museum’s collection of Japanese photographs—my research interest. I went to the Smithsonian for a fellowship, then to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. I came back to Harvard as a visiting curator at the Peabody, working on a show based on Japanese photographs. In 2008, I began teaching in the anthropology department at Harvard as a lecturer, and in 2010, I started at the Yale University Art Gallery as the Bradley Assistant Curator of Academic Affairs.
Q Tell me about how your return to Harvard came about. A At Yale, I worked with a wide range of courses, departments, and institutes, from the School of Art to the School of Management and the Law School. There’s a real emphasis on transdisciplinary teaching. I focused on how students could learn from collections of art, which is something I’ve been very interested in for a number of years. So when the opportunity came up to expand on that work, and to think about how student guides and graduate student teachers here at the Harvard Art Museums could be part of my work, it was irresistible.
Q What are you most looking forward to in this new position? A I’m excited about working with students to bring their knowledge and ideas—whatever their disciplines—into the galleries with them, and to help them learn from the museums’ curators, conservators, and other staff members to navigate the museums’ rich collections. I’m also looking forward to working with colleagues and students from across campus to develop curatorial initiatives for the new University Collections Gallery, which will draw from a wide range of Harvard collections.
Q What are your thoughts on the new Harvard Art Museums facility? A I love the openness of the architecture, which relates so beautifully to the museums’ philosophy of access; it’s a fitting reflection of our relationship with the wider university community. I’m also thrilled at how the study spaces have come into being—they are truly a statement on the importance of studying original works of art. I can’t wait to get the students in there!