Nancy Netzer
presented at the Museum Conversations seminar on Wednesday, November 18, 2015, from 6 to 7:30 pm, at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City. Her talk was entitled “Material Culture, Academic Research, and the University Museum.”



Nancy Netzer is Director of Boston College’s McMullen Museum of Art and tenured Professor of Art History in the Department of Fine Arts at Boston College, where she teaches medieval art and the history and philosophy of museums. A Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and chair of the board of the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, Netzer holds a PhD from Harvard and an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of Ulster in recognition of her contribution to the study of Irish art. From 1982 to 1990 she was a research fellow and assistant curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston where she completed catalogues of their medieval enamels, glass, and metalwork. At Boston College she worked with the architect Royston Daley on the design of a new Museum that opened in October 1993, in the context of which she supervised the conservation and reinstallation of the Museum’s permanent collection and has since organized more than sixty major loan exhibitions with faculty curators from a variety of disciplines and has overseen publication of more than thirty-five scholarly catalogues including, most recently, Paris Night and Day (2014); Wifredo Lam: Imagining New Worlds (2014); Roman in the Provinces: Art on the Periphery of Empire (2015); and John La Farge and the Recovery of the Sacred (2015). Currently she is working with the architects DiMella Shaffer on designing a new home for the Museum in a renovated neo-Renaissance palazzo with a new addition at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue, to be completed in January 2016. Her own publications include Cultural Interplay in the Eighth Century: The Trier Gospels and the Making of a Scriptorium at Echternach (Cambridge University Press, 1994) and many articles on early medieval illuminated manuscripts and metalwork in Britain, Ireland, and the Continent, as well as the subsequent reception and display of medieval art. She has received fellowships from the Whiting Foundation and the American Council for Learned Societies, as well as numerous grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.

At Bard Graduate Center Nancy Netzer assessed recent scholarship on the ways that museums as organizers of knowledge contributed in the nineteenth century to the construction of disciplines in the Academy. The resulting disciplines, which nonetheless privileged textual evidence, have become entrenched as the primary organizing principle of universities. Focusing on the history of the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College and decisions made for renovation of its new building, this talk considered opportunities for the modern university museum to leverage the disciplinary structure of the institution in which it is embedded to elevate material evidence in the university’s research mission to generate knowledge.