Brenda D. Tindal will serve as the inaugural chief campus curator for Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences starting Feb. 13, FAS Dean and University President-elect Claudine Gay wrote in an email Wednesday.
The chief campus curator role was created at the recommendation of the FAS Task Force on Visual Culture and Signage in December 2021. The novel role entails reevaluating and modernizing the University’s historical and cultural spaces, signs, and curricula.
“The visual culture and signage across Harvard communicates what our institution values, who it celebrates, and the kind of community we aim to foster,” Gay wrote in the email. “This appointment is an opportunity to revitalize Harvard’s shared spaces in order to acknowledge the past, while celebrating the diversity of the present and promoting the vitality of the future.”
Since May 2021, Tindal has worked as the executive director of the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture.
Tindal has also served on the Human Remains in the Harvard Museums Collections Returns Committee and the Legacy of Slavery Memorial Project. She has advised engagements between HMSC and Indigenous groups and descendants of enslaved people, Gay said in the email, areas where Harvard museums have faced ethical and legal criticisms for their handling of human remains and cultural objects.
Tindal will have primary oversight of different aspects of the FAS’ campus, such as landscaping, architecture, gates, public art, interior design, and portraiture.
“If we desire to be a campus that embodies inclusive excellence and engenders a sense of belonging for an inherently global and diverse community of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and visitors, the essence of the campus — its visual culture, way-finding, interior and exterior aesthetics, and place-making attributes — must reflect those noble aspirations,” Tindal said in a statement to the Harvard Gazette.
She will launch her duties as chief campus curator by overseeing a campaign of “renewal efforts” for the FAS Faculty Room, Annenberg Hall, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Student Center, according to Gay’s email.
The task force identified these as “priority spaces” and described the rooms as “dominated by homogenous portraiture of white men” in their report. Annenberg, the freshman dining hall, displays 23 portraits. All but three depict white men.
The initial task force was launched in September 2020 as a part of a push by the FAS to advance racial justice following George Floyd’s murder by police. Its recommendations include representing a more diverse range of people and experiences in art around campus and using technology to expand on campus tours and historical signage.
Reporting to FAS Dean for Administration and Finance Scott A. Jordan, Tindal will be advised by the new FAS Committee on Visual Culture and Signage, chaired by Dan Byers, director of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts.
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