The Intentional Museum


Mar 24, 2021, 8:00 pm to 9:15 pm


Free Online event via Zoom

Free Virtual Lecture and Discussion

Christy Coleman, Executive Director, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation

Makeda Best, Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography, Harvard Art Museums, Harvard University

Sven Beckert, Laird Bell Professor of History Harvard University

Moderated by Tomiko Brown-Nagin, Dean, Harvard Radcliffe Institute; Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard Law School; Professor of History, Harvard University

American historian Christy Coleman is the distinguished lecturer for the 2021 Seminar in Innovative Curatorial Practice. Coleman is renowned for creating innovative, engaging, and inclusive museum exhibitions and programs that tell a comprehensive story of American history. In this program, she will discuss the power that museums have to genuinely engage with communities around what matters most to them. While expertise within the museums is invaluable, it is wasted if not used to help communities address their issues and aspirations.

Established in 2014, the Seminar in Innovative Curatorial Practice is a partnership between the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture and the Harvard Art Museums. The program engages renowned scholars whose innovative and interdisciplinary practice challenges traditional approaches to exhibitions. These innovators share their work with the broader public through a lecture, and with Harvard students and faculty, through discussions focused on rethinking ways to integrate the university’s art, natural history, science, and social science collections with the teaching and research mission of the university. 

Presented by Harvard Museums of Science & Culture in collaboration with the Harvard Art Museums and the Harvard Radcliffe Institute, as part of the presidential initiative on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery.

About the Speakers

With a career spanning over thirty years, Christy S. Coleman has served as the chief executive officer of some of the nation’s most prominent museums. She is a tireless advocate for the power of museums, narrative correction, diversity, and inclusiveness. Ms. Coleman is an innovator and leader in the museum field having held leadership roles at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the American Civil War Museum, and now as Executive Director of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. She has written numerous articles, is an accomplished screenwriter, public speaker, and has appeared on several national news and history programs. Most recently, she served as Historical Consultant for the film Harriet and Showtime’s Good Lord Bird miniseries. She has also been a featured public historian for several documentaries, most recently the acclaimed miniseries Grant. Ms. Coleman is the recipient of numerous awards including honorary doctorates from William and Mary, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the University of the South for her decades of impact. In 2018, Time Magazine named her one of the 31 People Changing the South and in 2019, Worth Magazine named her one of the 29 Women Changing the World. 

Sven Beckert researches and teaches the history of the United States in the nineteenth century, with a particular emphasis on the history of capitalism, including its economic, social, political and transnational dimensions. He just published Empire of Cotton: A Global History, the first global history of the nineteenth century’s most important commodity. The book won the Bancroft Prize, the Philip Taft Prize, the Cundill Recognition for Excellence, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. The New York Times named it one of the ten most important books of 2015. His other publications have focused on the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie, on labor, on democracy, on global history and on the connections between slavery and capitalism. Currently he is at work on a history of capitalism. Beckert teaches courses on the political economy of modern capitalism, the history of American capitalism, Gilded Age America, labor history, global capitalism, and the history of European capitalism. Together with a group of students he has also worked on the historical connections between Harvard and slavery and published Harvard and Slavery: Seeking a Forgotten History. Beckert is co-chair of the Program on the Study of Capitalism at Harvard University and co-chair of the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History (WIGH). Beyond Harvard, he co-chairs an international study group on global history, is co-editor of a Princeton University Press book series, America in the World, and has co-organized a series of conferences on the history of capitalism. He is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow. He also directs the Harvard College Europe Program. 

Makeda Best is the Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography at the Harvard Art Museums. Her exhibitions include: Time is Now–Photography and Social Change in James Baldwin’s America (2018), Winslow Homer: Eyewitness, and Crossing Lines, Constructing Home: Displacement and Belonging in Contemporary Art (2019). Her fall 2021 exhibition is Devour the Land: War and American Landscape Photography Since 1970. Prior to joining Harvard, she held professorships at the University of Vermont and the California College of the Arts. She has written for numerous catalogs and journals, most recently for the National Gallery of Poland, Kunsthalle Mannheim, The Archives of American Art Journal, The James Baldwin Review and the Rhode Island School of the Design’s Manual. Her most recent book is Elevate the Masses–Alexander Gardner, Photography, and Democracy in Nineteenth Century-America (Penn State Press, 2020). She is coeditor of Conflict, Identity, and Protest in American Art (2016). Her current book projects explore the intersection between photography, gender, race, and ecological issues. At Harvard, she teaches courses in curatorial practice, and in the history and theory of photography. She holds an MFA in studio photography from the California Institute of the Arts and a PhD from Harvard University. 

Tomiko Brown-Nagin is dean of Harvard Radcliffe Institute, Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, and professor of history in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences. She is an award-winning legal historian, an expert in constitutional law and education law and policy, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the American Law Institute, a fellow of the American Bar Foundation, and a distinguished lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. She has published articles and book chapters on a wide range of topics, including the Supreme Court’s equal protection jurisprudence, civil rights law and history, the Affordable Care Act, and education reform. Her 2011 book, Courage to Dissent: Atlanta and the Long History of the Civil Rights Movement (Oxford), won six awards, including the Bancroft Prize in U.S. History. In her new book (Pantheon, forthcoming January 2022), Brown-Nagin explores the life and times of Constance Baker Motley, the pathbreaking lawyer, politician, and judge. In 2019, Harvard president Lawrence Bacow appointed Brown-Nagin chair of the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, anchored at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute. Brown-Nagin has previously served as faculty director of Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute and as codirector of Harvard Law School’s law and history program, among other leadership roles. She earned a law degree from Yale University, where she served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal; a doctorate in history from Duke University; and a BA in history, summa cum laude, from Furman University. Brown-Nagin held the 2016–2017 Joy Foundation Fellowship at Harvard Radcliffe Institute.