By Matthew Biro
May 30, 2012
Dear Alumni and Friends,
Once again, the department has had a banner year. Among the new books that appeared since I last wrote you are Pat Simons’s The Sex of Men in Premodern Europe, from Cambridge University Press, and David Doris’s Vigilant Things: On Thieves, Yoruba Anti-Aesthetics, and the Strange Fates of Ordinary Objects in Nigeria, from the University of Washington Press. Kevin Carr’s book, Plotting the Prince: Topographies of Shôtoku Cults in Early Medieval Japan is forthcoming this fall; and, as chair, I’ve just seen four of our faculty members submit final manuscripts to their respective publishers on topics such as realism in post-1945 art, photography and architecture, abstract painting in Korea, and cult images and visual culture in early modern Florence. As suggested by this range of topics, chronologies, and areas, we are not only a very diverse department, but we are also one that thinks both cross-culturally and in a highly interdisciplinary way.
I am also pleased to announce that our top two candidates for assistant professor positions this year, Nachiket Chanchani and Paroma Chatterjee, have accepted our offers and will be joining us in the fall. Chanchani will be our new South Asianist; he is, among other things, an expert in the art, architecture, and the visual culture of the Himalayas. Chatterjee is an authority on the art and architecture of the Byzantine world. In particular, she focuses on depiction of the saints in Byzantium and Italy as well as strategies of textual and visual narrative. We are tremendously excited about assimilating these two new, cutting edge scholars into our ranks. We are gaining strengths in key areas that will supplement our already existing faculty expertise and that will make the department one of the best places to study new forms of interdisciplinary and cross cultural art history. Welcome Paroma and Nachiket!
We also had a banner year as far as graduate admissions went, with our top five students accepting our offer of admission. In admissions, we continue to play to our strengths–by targeting students in the areas where we have the most faculty depth and synergies as well as by utilizing endowment funds much more effectively to support graduate student research travel and publication. We are also working hard to expand the graduate student career track, most particularly in the area of museum careers. This year, as part of a larger award won by the University of Michigan Museum of Art, the department received a $165,000 Andrew W. Mellon grant to support a graduate student curatorial fellowship at the museum for the next three years. In addition to making museum studies a more prominent part of our graduate program, we are continuing to provide more help to our graduate students through more frequent review and professionalization workshops (grant writing, interviewing, etc.).
Our undergraduate program also continues to grow successfully. Not only have our enrollments climbed this year, but our students also continue to be accepted in top graduate schools around the country, including Columbia University and the Cranbrook Academy of Art. We are also in the processes of becoming the host department for the museum studies minor, something that will enhance our career track offerings to undergraduates. In addition, the digital transformation of the teaching collection is nearing its completion. All our faculty members now use digital images in their teaching, and our Visual Resources Collection effectively serves the department by producing, cataloguing, and maintaining the digital teaching collection. We are currently in the process of consolidating the remaining physical archives that we have in our collection, created finding aids, and placing them in compressed storage.
In conclusion, I hope that all alumni and friends will continue to visit our new (and evolving) website, which went live in the winter of 2011. There you can meet and learn about our faculty, staff, and students; read current and past issues of our newsletter; explore our affiliations both at the university and beyond; preview coming events; and keep us informed about yourself. Above all, I remind you that you are a part of what makes the University of Michigan Department of the History of Art, past, present and future. We need you, so keep in touch, and don’t forget to mark your calendars for the events that you find most compelling. We look forward to seeing you in person.
Professor and Chair