Encyclopedic art museums are complex enterprises seeking to gather and care for artworks and art experiences, and to foster understanding about creative accomplishments spanning five millennia across multiple continents. As museums endeavor to meet these goals, the programs that succeed are rooted in the expertise of scholars and revealed in displays both permanent and semi-permanent. Without foundational art historical knowledge, museum programs risk devolving into mere entertainment devoid of the educational benefit we seek. By privileging scholarship as the essential R&D of a museum, institutions can have an impact locally and around the globe.
Through our newly announced partnership with the Edith O’Donnell Institute for Art History of the University of Texas, the Dallas Museum of Art signals a fresh commitment to research, a key ingredient of our strategic plan. Our intention is to build up the scholarly resources at our disposal in two fields: art history and art conservation. This unparalleled collaboration with UT Dallas and its sister campuses elsewhere in Texas affords the DMA a unique opportunity: to help host the first Ph.D. program in art history in an encyclopedic museum. In addition, we will help host a new program in conservation science, in partnership with the other leading art museums in our metropolitan area, along with the other research universities in North Texas.
With no fewer than 24 faculty members in art history and conservation attached to the O’Donnell Institute, we are poised to catapult the DMA to a new level of scholarly ambition. Opportunities to publish research about works in our 23,000-object collection, the largest in North Texas, together with the ability to undertake more ambitious exhibition-related research inquiries, will put the DMA on a new footing. With multiple doctoral candidates from around the world moving to Dallas to enter the Ph.D. program, together with resident and adjunct faculty, the DMA will stake out new ground in service both to the academy and to the museum profession. No less seismic will be the fruits of high-level research, which can help illuminate our efforts in public education through lectures, symposia, and panel discussions, along with other public programs.
This historic partnership will afford the DMA access to scholars in art historical fields today outside our reach—and will reinforce the Museum’s pursuit of innovation, collaboration, and public service to scholars and schoolchildren alike.
Our new fiscal year, which began in October, promises new relevance in other dimensions. With almost 670,000 visitors in FY 2014—the highest in our history—we have seen the advantages of both free general admission and free membership. We are committed to continuing to serve audiences far and wide—now fortified by an invigorated research team—and to promulgating the premise that one museum can be simultaneously committed to intellectual leadership and to public access.
I welcome your tweets at @MaxAndersonUSA—and hope to see you whenever I volunteer at the entrance visitors’ desk or in our galleries!
Maxwell L. Anderson
The Eugene McDermott Director