Maureen Donovan graduated from Boston College in 1978 with Bachelor’s degrees in English and Art History. She began working at the Harvard Art Museums as soon as she graduated from Boston College, and has since worked her way up to the position of Deputy Director of the Harvard Art Museums, consisting of the Fogg Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, and Arthur M. Sackler Museum. Maureen Donovan is one of the many alumni visiting BC campus to network with current students and lend them career advice on Thursday, November 17th in the Heights Room at Lower (Corcoran Commons) for Career Night for the Arts 2016. Read some of her pre-Career Night for the Arts advice below to get to know Ms. Donovan, then be sure to come ask her your personal questions on November 17th!
Did you always want to study art and pursue a career in the arts?
No, actually. I wanted to major in English when I first started in Boston College. But after taking an Art History course, which was part of the core curriculum, I immediately fell in love and knew that I needed to learn more, so I ended up getting degrees in both disciplines.
How did you end up at the Harvard Art Museums?
During my senior year at BC, I volunteered at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and worked with the Conservation/Curatorial team. This experience provided me a direction in terms of my future career path.
When I graduated, I decided to take a year off to work before getting a graduate degree in Art History. I worked in Collection Management (then called Registry) at Harvard Art Museums. And I never left!
Art is a field where it can appear difficult to “get started” or “get your foot in the door.” Do you have any advice for students who are interested in building a career in the arts?
BC students and young professionals in general today have all kinds of resources that were unavailable back then. When I studied here, I used to have to take the bus down to Wellesley to find art books, and now we such a well-funded, expansive department. Back then, there were no Museum Studies programs at the graduate level. Now there are three just in the Boston area: at Harvard, Tufts, and BU. What’s great about these programs is that they usually require you to spend 200 hours working in an institution in order to get the degree. It allows you to have actual experiences. I myself hire regularly from these programs.
Reaching outside of your classes and finding volunteer and internship opportunities are also a good place to begin. My experience at the MFA definitely made me more certain that this is a profession I enjoy and want to pursue further in the future. Moreover, it’s important to not only look at the big names, such as the MFA, or the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum. There are so many small, fantastic collecting agencies in this area that can provide great learning experiences.
Besides, when I majored in art history, I used to think that the two prospective careers in this major were to curate and to teach, but there are so many more aspects to this line of work. There is communication, technology, data visions, and conservation… This is why it’s important to reach out and speak to people from different positions in this profession. This is a multi-dimensional industry, and there are so many different things to do.
Lastly, I believe that it’s always helpful to just sit down with someone in the profession and talk to them. Find me at Career Night for the Arts 2016 on November 17th in the Heights Room and ask me questions! I’d be more than happy to answer them.
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