Training at the Harvard Art Museums: Danielle Carrabino

December 5, 2013
Danielle Carrabino. Photo: Antoinette Hocbo.

The Harvard Art Museums have trained scores of museum leaders who have gone on to make remarkable contributions to the curatorial, conservation, and education fields. We offer a number of opportunities for emerging graduate and postgraduate scholars interested in the production and presentation of original scholarship within the museum context. In this regular series of interviews, we catch up with these museum professionals to see where they are now.

Danielle Carrabino, Theodore Rousseau Curatorial Fellow (2006–7) and Theodore Rousseau Research Assistant (2007–9) at the Harvard Art Museums


Q What is your current position?

A I am currently teaching a course at the Rhode Island School of Design and focusing on my research, especially on my book concerning Caravaggio and Sicily.

Q Can you tell us about your experience as the Theodore Rousseau Curatorial Fellow and Research Assistant?

A It was a wonderful experience. In particular, the project of publishing the Harvard Art Museums’ Handbook provided me with the opportunity to learn about a wide range of objects and to collaborate across departments. I was also involved in other projects, such as cataloging, assisting scholars and students to access specific objects, and conducting research on the collections and new acquisitions.


Q What have you gone on to do following the completion of your time at the Harvard Art Museums?

A After I left the museums, I was a teaching fellow at Harvard University in the Department of History of Art and Architecture. I very much enjoyed using the collections at the Harvard Art Museums in my teaching, which is, after all, the mission of the museums. I later completed and defended my doctoral dissertation at the Courtauld Institute of Art, where I received my PhD in 2011. From August 2009 to August 2013, I was working as the Resident Art Historian and Student Services Coordinator of the University of Georgia's Study Abroad Program in Cortona, Italy. I taught two courses, three semesters a year, and lectured on site during our field trips to over twenty cities around Italy.


Q How did your training at the Harvard Art Museums help you to prepare for the work that you are doing now?

A Having worked closely with objects at the museums, I felt I could really make art history come alive for my students by incorporating the direct observation of works of art into my classes. It also influenced my approach to research, especially concerning the attention I now give to conservation and provenance issues. Until working at the museums, I hadn't really been trained to think about those aspects of art but they became crucial to my PhD and remain important to my current research projects.

On a purely professional level, I learned what made for a good working environment and the benefits of collaboration. People working at the Harvard Art Museums have such breadth of knowledge, and they were so generous in helping me to learn about the collections and museum practices.


Q Was there a specific event during your training at the Harvard Art Museums that you found particularly powerful?

A There were many powerful moments, but one I distinctly remember is the first time I visited the lab at the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies to view a painting under ultraviolet light. I felt as if I had never really "seen" a painting until then! I continue to be fascinated by what conservation adds to the discourse of art history.