and Sally Anne Duncan’s book offers a behind-the-scenes exploration of the career of Paul J. Sachs (1878-1965) and the graduate program he developed at Harvard University and the Fogg Museum that came to be known as the “museum course.” Sachs and the course played a major role in training students who became museum directors and curators at American art museums from the late 1920s through the 1960s. By drawing upon archival correspondence, class notes, and oral histories, The Art of Curating: Paul J. Sachs and the Museum Course at Harvard
(Getty Research Institute, 2018) delves into the practical training in connoisseurship, the art market, exhibition planning, conservation, and financial management as well as the philosophical discussions that made up the class. Participants’ training and insider connections gained at Harvard had a profound impact on the development of American art museums in the first half of the twentieth century. While the book looks into some of the male students that went on to distinguished careers, it and also addresses the women who took the course and the challenges they faced in terms of the museum positions that were open to them at the time.
This book is a compelling read for curators, academic art historians, museum studies scholars, and anyone interested in the history of art museums, the people behind them, and the historiography of art history.
Noelle Giuffrida is research associate and affiliate faculty at the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Kansas.