While the museums have been undergoing renovation, our staff have been working hard to strengthen connections between students and the Harvard Art Museums, developing programs that will more fully integrate the museums into intellectual life on campus. The creation of the Harvard Art Museums Student Board is just one example of this effort.
The Division of Academic and Public Programs (DAPP) came up with the idea to have a group of students—from diverse disciplines and backgrounds—who will serve as ambassadors to the museums. They’ll share information about our programs, resources, and spaces with the wider student community and bring their unique perspectives and experience together at a monthly meeting.
When DAPP put out the call to students last spring to apply for the board, the response was overwhelming: more than 120 applicants for just 19 spots. “It was an unprecedented turnout,” said Erin Northington, the museums’ student outreach and program coordinator.
And when Northington saw the caliber of the applicants, she realized she had a tough job ahead of her. The pool of applicants was extraordinary: they represented a broad range of disciplines across the university (surprisingly, there were more science than humanities concentrators) and nine graduate and professional schools. They were also deeply embedded in campus life; they were involved in dozens of student organizations. And as if that was not all, they wrote eloquently and passionately about why the Harvard Art Museums mattered to them, and what they hoped for the museums’ role on campus.
“I could have filled five student boards,” Northington said. “It all came down to the overall composition of the group. We wanted to ensure we had a diverse board with equal representation across undergraduate Houses, graduate/professional schools, academic concentrations, extracurricular activities, and interest in the museums.” Northington was grateful for having so many outstanding candidates to choose from.
Though the Student Board had its first meeting only last week, the enthusiastic group unofficially participated over the summer. They met for an informal meet-and-greet to kick off the year in May, and several board members returned over the summer to participate in—and recruit their fellow students for—a two-day photo shoot for an upcoming book about the museums’ renovation and expansion project. Board members stayed in touch with the museums to share exciting suggestions for the year ahead, drawing inspiration and ideas from their various summer internships, programs, and travel opportunities.
Now that classes have begun, students will likely see the board members around campus, spreading the news about our upcoming opening and answering student-related questions. Just recently, Student Board members were on hand to answer questions about the Harvard Art Museums at the Student Activities Fair.
The museums are thrilled to have these energetic voices on our team!