The Harvard Museums of Science & Culture Welcomes New Executive Director Brenda Tindal
The award-winning educator and scholar steps into the role Monday, May 17
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., May 10, 2021—Claudine Gay, Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, recently announced the appointment of Brenda Tindal as the next Executive Director of the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture (HMSC).
Dean Gay praises Tindal’s strengths, saying:
“A forward-thinking leader and public historian, [Tindal] brings to her work a heartfelt belief in the power of museums as profound sites of connection and new learning, [leading] with a passion for the work of museums as incubators of courageous inquiry. Throughout her career she has prioritized meaningful civic dialogue and learning among broad and diverse audiences and has skillfully built the trusted partnerships and authentic community relationships needed to center museums in advancing public knowledge.”
The HMSC partnership was established in 2012 to develop a strong, coordinated face for the four public-facing Faculty of Arts and Sciences museums at Harvard: the Harvard Museum of Natural History, the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East, and the Harvard Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments.
The appointment of Tindal to the role reinforces the HMSC’s mission to provide meaningful and inclusive experiences to the broad public with the goal of supporting lifelong learning.
Tindal most recently served as the Founding Director of Education and Engagement at the International African American Museum (IAAM) in Charleston, South Carolina. Under her leadership the museum launched an inaugural education program. Prior to IAAM, she served as Director of Education at the Detroit Historical Society during the start of its widely acclaimed Detroit 67: Looking Back to Move Forward exhibition and community-engagement initiative. In 2020, she received the Museum Leadership Award from the Southeastern Museum Conference (SEMC) for service leadership and innovative practice.
She also served as Staff Historian and Senior Vice President of research and collections at the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was the first woman and first African American in that role. During her tenure at the Levine, she helped curate the 2017 project K(NO)W Justice K(NO)W Peace, one of the first exhibitions in the country to show community law-enforcement relations in a historical and socio-cultural context; and Courage: The Carolina Story That Changed America, which explored the region’s role in the landmark school desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education (1954). In 2005 the museum was awarded the National Medal for Museum Service, the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries.
Tindal remarks on what she’s learned as part of her work in the museum field:
“As a museum leader, I’ve encountered and had to navigate a number of challenging and sensitive community and institutional matters. Some of the controversies and delicate dilemmas museums face require courageous inquiry, thought partnership, and creative solutions. Museums are not merely cabinets of curiosity; they are well-positioned to serve as hubs for new learning and play a meaningful role in helping their communities and stakeholders grapple with hard truths and nuanced issues.”
Tindal has worked extensively in the diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility space as well as that of race and slavery and institutional reconciliation. In 2017, she served as consultant for and participated in The Atlantic’s third annual summit, “Race + Justice: Charlotte.” At Princeton University (2011‒2012), her research as an Institute of Museum and Library Services fellow and associate archivist laid the groundwork for the Princeton & Slavery Project, and she cocurated “Your True Friend and Enemy”: Princeton and the Civil War. She has taught numerous courses and workshops, including the history of American slavery and emancipation to civil rights in the national imagination, and has led training on best practices for engaging descendant communities in the interpretation of slavery at museums and historic sites.
Tindal looks forward to her time at Harvard:
“One of my sweets spots as a museum practitioner is working with undergraduate students and faculty. Having taught at the university level, I’ve always incorporated museums into my instructional practice. I believe museums are essential parts of the learning ecosystem, and the opportunity to be back on a college campus and leverage Harvard’s extensive collections—I’m just thrilled at all the possibilities. There are so many unique opportunities to engage with the museums and deepen connections. I’m honored to join this community of scholars and museum practitioners, and I look forward to building upon HMSC’s interdisciplinary prowess and its robust, public-facing enterprise."
Tindal will begin in her new role at the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture on Monday, May 17, 2021.
About the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture
The mission of the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture (HMSC) is to foster curiosity and a spirit of discovery in visitors of all ages, enhancing public understanding of and appreciation for the natural world, science, and human cultures. HMSC works in concert with Harvard faculty, museum curators, and students, as well as with members of the extended Harvard community, to provide interdisciplinary exhibitions, events and lectures, and educational programs for students, teachers, and the public. HMSC draws primarily upon the extensive collections of the member museums and the research of their faculty and curators.
The Harvard Museums of Science & Culture (HMSC) partnership was established on July 1, 2012 by former Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Michael D. Smith, to develop a strong, coordinated public face for the six museums that are within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard:
- Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments
- Harvard Museum of Natural History
- Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East
- Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology
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Harvard Museums of Science & Culture:
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Harvard Museums of Science & Culture
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