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Jennifer Allen Atkinson

Jennifer Allen-Atkinson '99 BA

I have spent the last 15 years at the Harvard Art Museums in a variety of positions from curatorial to project management and finally as Director of Collections Management in 2010.  I thoroughly enjoy my work and find it incredibly rewarding to be immersed in the art world on a daily basis. The time I spent as an undergraduate in the Art History program at UMass gave me a solid foundation in art history that I use every day. 
It is a daunting task to find a job after graduating from college and can be particularly challenging to find one in a field that at first appears to be very narrow.  The best advice that I can give is to not be discouraged.  If you think broadly about employment opportunities in terms of the institution and the position, you will be amazed at the possibilities.  Casting a wide net will open you up to a variety of institutions that you might not have thought of before but can lead to a truly rewarding career. 
I first starting thinking this might be the path for me during my Museum Studies course at UMass.  It was eye-opening to learn about the variety of opportunities that could be out there for work in a museum or other cultural institution. Collections Management and Museum Administration are fields that continue to grow throughout the art museum world.  It is a well-respected profession that provides unique and ample opportunities for people with an art history background to contribute in meaningful ways to their chosen field. 
Starting at the Harvard Art Museums as a curatorial assistant in the Islamic Art department, my connection to UMass and Professor Denny, smoothed my entry into what was for me, a very intimidating place.  Since then, I was fortunate enough to participate in the reinvention of the Harvard Art Museums. Directing a collection-wide inventory of 250,000 works of art led to the orchestration of the largest single collections move in the country.  Changes in the Museums’ administration and the successful completion of the inventory and collections move led to me being selected for my current position.  In this role, I participated in the renovation and expansion project of the Harvard Art Museums which included a complete restructuring of our physical spaces, our program and mission, as well as a complete internal staffing restructure.  The Division of Collections Management here at the Museums is a robust department that is responsible for the care and maintenance of the entire collection.  It comprises three different registration departments, exhibition design and production, collections care and the management of the Art Study Center complex in Cambridge.  I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished with the reopening of the Harvard Art Museums in the fall of 2014.  The response has been overwhelmingly positive which helps to validate the years of hard work and planning.  I can honestly say that I would not have had these opportunities without the Art History department at UMass and the many talented professors that first set me on this path.