The Harvard Art Museums are among many institutions on campus that provide unparalleled opportunities for teaching and learning, such as the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, the Harvard Semitic Museum, and the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments. In this spirit, the University Collections Gallery in our new facility is dedicated to the display of works from fellow campus institutions, which will place university collections in a different display context and allow for expanded dialogue between these objects and those held by the Harvard Art Museums. The space will also serve as a platform to consider collecting histories and museum practice. The inaugural installation, curated by Kristina Van Dyke, director of the Pulitzer Arts Foundation , will feature African objects from the Peabody Museum.
Van Dyke first encountered the possibilities for dialogue between the university’s vast collections while serving as an Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Intern at the Harvard Art Museums. During her internship, she curated the first collaborative exhibition between the Harvard Art Museums and the Peabody Museum, Marking Places: Spatial Effects of African Art, a project that served as her introduction to the Peabody’s extensive collections. The exhibition explored how objects physically and conceptually define particular locales as well as the social and spiritual relations within them.
“The Mellon internship was a transformative experience for me, as it presaged my getting a job in the museum world,” said Van Dyke. “It taught me about thinking through objects, and that an exhibition is something very different from an article that you write and illustrate with images—it requires thinking in three dimensions.”
Although Van Dyke’s career has taken her away from Cambridge—first to Houston at the Menil Collection as curator for collections and research and at Rice University as adjunct lecturer in art history, and then to St. Louis at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation—her relationship to Harvard and its rich collections has strengthened over the years, most recently with her work as guest curator for the Harvard Art Museums.
We’ll report more in an upcoming story about this exciting collaboration between the Harvard Art Museums and the Peabody Museum.