Events & exhibitions
event • Lectures

The Intentional Museum

A sepia-toned photo of a mansion and slave quarters, in Medford, Massachusetts.
In the 18th century, the Royall House was home to the largest slaveholding family in Massachusetts. It was a bequest from Isaac Royall Jr. that funded the establishment of Harvard Law School in 1817. In 2016, the Harvard Corporation approved the removal of the Law School’s shield, which was derived directly from the Royall coat of arms. Harvard Fine Arts Library Special Collections

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

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. 

This lecture is presented by Harvard Museums of Science & Culture in collaboration with the Harvard Art Museums and Harvard Radcliffe Institute, as part of the Presidential Initiative on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, a University-wide effort housed at Harvard Radcliffe Institute.


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 American History, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University

Moderated by Tomiko Brown-Nagin, chair of the Presidential Committee on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, dean of Harvard Radcliffe Institute, Daniel P.S. Paul Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, and professor of history in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University

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