Brian Gallagher (MA, 1999, MPhil, 2012) is curator of decorative arts at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina, which he joined in July 2007. Since then, he has organized numerous exhibitions, including The Brilliant Period of American Cut Glass, North Carolina Pottery: Diversity and Traditions, and Celebrating Queen Charlotte’s Coronation. Brian was the project manager for several traveling exhibitions, including Made in China: Export Porcelain from the Leo and Doris Hodroff Collection at Winterthur, and Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs 1851–1939. His book, British Ceramics 1675–1825: The Mint Museum (2015), highlights over 225 examples of the museum’s nationally recognized British ceramics collection; more recently he organized a new display of that collection in the installation Portals to the Past: British Ceramics 1675–1825. Before joining the Mint, Brian was an assistant curator in the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Department at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Prior to his museum career, Brian was a research librarian for fourteen years, working in turn for IBM, Salomon Brothers, and J.P. Morgan and Company.

What attracted you to Bard Graduate Center’s program?

I really liked the holistic approach that Bard Graduate Center took to the study of decorative arts. I was a member of the fourth incoming class of master’s students, and even at that early stage in the institution’s history, it had already committed to exposing its students to works of art from many cultures and time periods. I appreciate that they have continued to expand their course offerings over the years, and of course, they couldn’t do that without a top-notch faculty. I am still very grateful for the instruction I received; it has provided a wonderful foundation for my career as a museum curator. I also want to note how invaluable it was for me to have BGC faculty to bring their students to various New York museums, historic houses, and galleries as a part of our instruction.

What was your focus of study here, how did you find yourself involved with it?

I confess that when I entered, I knew almost nothing about the history of decorative arts, except that I liked the American Arts & Crafts Movement. I therefore assumed that it would be my focus. As I was gradually exposed to the great works produced during the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Baroque, and so on, I felt as if whole new worlds were opening to me, and I quickly fell in love with them. For my MA studies, I thus focused broadly on European decorative arts, and my thesis was on German house altars from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. For my PhD studies (I have since been awarded a MPhil), I specialized in the decorative arts of the Renaissance, in part because I knew that would provide me with an excellent foundation regardless of what future projects might be waiting for me.

You are curator of decorative arts at the Mint Museum. Describe your position and how you came to it. What sort of projects are you working on?

I have been at the Mint Museum since 2007. Prior to my move to Charlotte to accept this position, I worked at the Detroit Institute of Arts, where I was an assistant curator in the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Department. The DIA was a wonderful training ground for me as a junior curator. I got to work with everything from sixteenth-century German armor to nineteenth-century French glass. I reached a point, though, when I realized that it was time for me to focus more intently in a specific medium so that I could begin making the types of professional contributions to the field that I wanted to. Ceramics have always been of special interest to me, and so when the opportunity came up to be the curator of decorative arts at the Mint, where that medium is so strongly represented, I knew that I had to make the leap!

And now, nine years into the job, I feel that I have finally begun to make some of the contributions that I had hoped to. Last year, for instance, I published British Ceramics 1675 – 1825: The Mint Museum, a catalogue featuring over 225 examples from our permanent collection. I then led the museum’s efforts to reinstall our British ceramics collection in a gallery display we hope our visitors find far more attractive and informative than the previous installation. I am currently working with my colleagues to plan other enhanced displays and reinstallations at the museum. I am also conducting research for an international loan exhibition I am organizing on the black basalt sculpture made by Josiah Wedgwood and other late eighteenth-century Staffordshire potters.

What ultimately is your professional goal?

Honestly, I am very happy where I am and doing what I’m doing. I just want to focus on trying to be the best curator I can be and to get as many people interested in the decorative arts, especially at our museum, as I can!