The Humanitas Visiting Professorship in Museums, Galleries and Libraries is a unique initiative at the University of Oxford dedicated to examining the crucial role that cultural institutions play in society. Ambitious in its scope, the initiative holds Visiting Professorships that bring individuals of outstanding practical and academic expertise to the University Oxford, which is home to some of the oldest and most important museums, libraries and collections in the Western world.

The initiative enjoys a special relationship with the Humanitas Visiting Professorship in Contemporary Art, often overlapping to provide a dynamic forum for exchange about arts and culture.

The Visiting Professorship in Museums, Galleries and Libraries has been made possible by the generous support of Foster + Partners and is hosted by Balliol College, Oxford.

Stephen Greenblatt 2015-2016

Stephen Greenblatt is John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University.

In Stephen Greentblatt’s two public lectures, entitled In the Bathhouse and Getting real, he offers his thoughts on the history and origins of  the greatest single story ever invented in the West – the rise and fall of Adam and Eve.

Stephen Greenblatt is Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University. He is the author of twelve books, including The Swerve: How the World Became Modern and Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare.

He is General Editor of The Norton Anthology of English Literature and of The Norton Shakespeare, has edited seven collections of criticism, and is the co-author (with Charles Mee) of a play, Cardenio. His honours include the 2012 Pulitzer Prize and the 2011 National Book Award for The Swerve, the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre, and two Guggenheim Fellowships.

Among his named lecture series are the Adorno Lectures in Frankfurt, the University Lectures at Princeton, and the Clarendon Lectures at Oxford, and he has held visiting professorships at universities in Beijing, Kyoto, London, Paris, Florence, Torino, Trieste, and Bologna, as well as the Renaissance residency at the American Academy in Rome.

Michael Govan 2013-2014

Michael Govan is the CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

In Michael Govan’s public lecture, entitled A Voice from the Pacific: Re-envisioning the Art Museum he offers his thoughts on what the museums of the 21st century could be. He questions the fundamental purpose of traditional encyclopaedic museums and suggests ways of making museums representations of the present rather than repositories of the past.

Ivo Mesquita 2012-2013

Ivo Mesquita is the Artistic Director of the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo in Brazil.

Ivo Mesquita opened his series with a lecture titled Museums: Experience Versus NumbersReflecting on the power of art to provoke very personal reactions within us, Mesquita explores the transformative and liberatingpower of art and the role of the museum in contemporary society.

By raising the issue of Latin America’s current globalization and its colonial past as part of the collective memory, Mesquita discusses how art institutions should reflect this, rather than shy away from such a fact.

As he underlined, Latin America today is the product of generations of ethnic mixing. It is not a hybrid – with all the connotations of scientific control which come with that; rather, it is the result of clashing and collision of different cultures – something which should be represented and celebrated in its art.

In a final panel discussion Mesquita discusses the process of writing about art in Pictures and Texts with William Kentridge and Estrella de Diego Otero.

Malcolm Rogers 2011-2012

Malcolm Rogers is the Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Professor Rogers’ inaugural lecture was on the subject of ‘The Art Museum in the 21st Century’Drawing on his long and eminent career at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, as well as on his extensive experience as an art historian, Professor Rogers sets out his reflections on the ideal of accessibility; both its importance in a democratic age but also the challenges, pragmatic and philosophical, which the concept encounters.

He makes a trenchant case against the excesses of an academic-theoretical approach to the public presentation of works of art, and champions instead the more inclusive ways in which a museum might display its treasures to the widest possible audience.

In a final conversation Malcolm Rogers and Dr Brown, the Director of the Ashmolean Museum, discuss and compare their experiences of overseeing the extensive renovations of the Ashmolean Museum and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Glenn D. Lowry 2010-2011

Glenn D. Lowry is Director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Glenn D. Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York, was appointed as the first Humanitas Visiting Professorship in Museums, Galleries and Libraries. A strong advocate of contemporary art, he conceived and initiated MOMA’s successful merger with PS1 Contemporary Art Center in 1999. He has lectured and written extensively in support of contemporary art and artists and the role of museums in society, among other topics.

In his first lecture, he speaks on ‘The abodes of the muses: theorising the modern art museum’. In his final symposium on ‘The museum and the artist’Lowry is joined by photographer Thomas Struth , Neil MacGregor, Director of The British Museum  and Penelope Curtis, Director of Tate Britain to discuss the relationship between artists and the institutions which house their work.

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