Current Opportunities

Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Associate Curator of American Art

Job Summary

The Harvard Art Museums seeks an emerging or established curator of American art, focused primarily on pre-20th century painting, sculpture, and/or decorative arts. Engaging in scholarly and public debates on the Harvard University campus and beyond, the curator will lead the charge in deepening the museums’ presentations of American art and proposing fresh perspectives on the definition of American art for the 21st century. We especially welcome candidates with a demonstrated commitment to expanding the existing canon and framework to include art and narratives not traditionally highlighted, including those of Black Americans, Indigenous peoples of the Americas, and women.

Job-Specific Responsibilities

The Theodore E. Stebbins Jr. Associate Curator of American Art in the Division of European and American Art will join the museums in the midst of a broad, multi-year rethinking and reframing of the permanent collection galleries. Integral to this effort will be discussions and collaboration with curatorial colleagues both at the Harvard Art Museums and at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. The American art curator will also contribute to shaping an overall institutional vision for the Harvard Art Museums that promotes a more equitable and inclusive cultural space.

The curator will acquire artworks to diversify the American art collection and will craft an ambitious exhibition and publication program. They will work closely with students and faculty to foster significant and sustained curricular use of the collection for both undergraduate and graduate teaching. The curator will mentor students as well as curatorial fellows, training and nurturing the next generation in the field. Working as an integral member of the Division of European and American Art, they will also promote dialogue, engagement, and collaboration with curators in other areas—especially in the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art as well as potentially in Asian art on East-West exchanges—and with colleagues in the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies. They will play an active role in soliciting funds for mission-critical purposes from individuals, foundations, federal agencies, and other sources.

The Collection

Displayed in galleries that mix not only media but schools of art from America and Europe, the American art collection at Harvard is celebrated and interrogated within a larger story of artistic expression in the west and beyond at the Harvard Art Museums. Harvard’s collection of American art, from its inception in the seventeenth century, now numbers nearly 2,000 paintings, sculptures, and works of decorative arts. The Harvard Art Museums collection includes major works by nineteenth-century painters such as Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, and James McNeill Whistler. The collection of the late seventeenth and eighteenth-century silver is significant; in addition, museum holdings represent many phases in painter John Singleton Copley’s career. Some of these works are part of the 1,300-strong Harvard University Portrait Collection, overseen by the museums’ curators. Areas of the recent growth in the Harvard Art Museums’ pre-20th century American art collection include still-life paintings by William Michael Harnett and by members of the Peale family; a rare portrait by Julien Hudson, a nineteenth-century painter of African descent working in New Orleans; and an early stoneware jar by the potter David Drake. The wider collections of the museums have strengths in nineteenth-century American portrait photography, American modernism, abstract expressionism, and color-field painting. The American art curator does not directly oversee these last areas but may advise and work closely with colleagues on projects related to them. Works by Indigenous artists from the Americas are held by Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology and offer the potential for expected curatorial collaboration between the two institutions.

Basic Qualifications

Candidates MUST at least meet the following basic qualifications in order to be considered for this role; candidates who exceed the minimum are also encouraged to apply.

Ph.D. in art history, American Studies, or related field; minimum of three years’ progressively responsible curatorial, teaching, and/or field-related experience.

Additional Qualifications and Skills

Record of outstanding scholarship and achievement in the field of American art and a commitment to playing an active role in a lively and rigorous university setting.

Demonstrated commitment to equity and inclusion in museum practice and to engaging a wide range of audiences and constituencies.

Experience in teaching, working with students, and/or mentoring a plus.

Experience working with donors, collectors, and museum patrons a plus.

Excellent collaborator with a sense of accountability to others.

Diplomacy, tact, and organizational acumen.

Additional Information

PLEASE NOTE: During the current period of Covid-19 related restrictions, this position may start as a remote position, with the transition to onsite in Cambridge when the office reopens.

We continue to monitor the evolving COVID-19 and the lifting of restrictions. We appreciate your understanding and flexibility with our interview process. We will be conducting interviews virtually for selected candidates until further notice.

The Harvard Art Museums employs associate curators and full curators. The associate-level position—requiring the minimum qualifications as noted above—is a 5-year term position with the possibility of a one- or two-year extension and/or promotion to full curator after demonstration of progression and accomplishment. A full curator position is a regular position with no term. It requires a minimum of eight years of relevant experience.

The museums value staff diversity and are committed to building a culturally diverse community. We encourage candidates from underrepresented groups to apply.

Although the position will remain posted until filled, applicants are encouraged to apply by February 20, 2021

Please submit a cover letter, CV, and list of three referees. Additional materials may be requested later.

Harvard University requires pre-employment screening.

Apply here: 53108BR - Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Associate Curator of American Art 

Salary Range: 
Salary grade 59

About This Job

  • Harvard Art Museums
  • Cambridge, MA
  • Category: Professional
  • Salary Range: Salary grade 59
  • Posted: February 8, 2021