Ellyn McColgan Assistant Curator of Native American Art

Position Summary

At an exciting moment for our Art of the Americas Department, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston seeks a creative, energetic and dynamic curator and scholar to become the inaugural Ellyn McColgan Assistant Curator of Native American Art. Reporting to the Chair of the Art of the Americas, the ideal candidate will help shape the institution’s commitment to Native American art and culture, build, display and interpret the collection through innovative exhibitions and installations, and work with colleagues across the MFA to build partnerships with indigenous communities.

The MFA’s collection of Native American art traces its origins to the 1870s, when the Museum opened to the public. Navajo weavings, Zuni Pueblo pottery, and Plains beadwork were all part of the MFA's foundational collection. Largely missing from the collection, however, are examples of Eastern Woodlands culture and objects representing the historic homelands of the Massachusett and other Algonquian-speaking peoples, on which the MFA and the city of Boston were founded. Today, the growing collection represents a broad diversity of indigenous cultural traditions across the landscapes now known as the United States and Canada, from the historical to the contemporary. Among its treasures are some of the oldest pieces in the Americas: ceramics made by the ancient Mississippian Mound Builders. Ledger drawings by Silver Horn (Haungooah) represent an important highlight of the 19th-century holdings, which also includes a range of objects made for trade with European settlers, such as Mi’kmaq quillwork, Pueblo pottery and weaving, and Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl) carvings. The Museum recently received a major gift of 20th-century Inuit prints and sculptures, and acquired works by living artists including Wendy Red Star, D.Y. Begay, and Jaune Quick-To-See Smith.

Candidate Profile

Minimum Qualifications

  • A Master’s or PhD in Art History or related field with a proven focus on Native American art.
  • Two to three years of experience in a museum or comparable institution.
  • Demonstrated curatorial ability through culturally-meaningful exhibitions, gallery displays, programs or other activities.
  • Demonstrated experience and a strong interest in working with Native American art in a museum setting.

Ideal Candidate

  • Committed to researching, caring for and interpreting Native American art for diverse audiences, and to thinking in new ways about representations of indigenous experiences in art across the Americas by both Native and non-Native artists.
  • Committed to collaborating with indigenous and First Nations communities. Demonstrated experience contributing to/leading exhibitions, programs and projects developed in collaboration with artists, visitors, community leaders, elders, other scholars and experts.
  • A breadth of knowledge and experience, as well as a willingness to gain expertise in new areas. An interest in and commitment to exploring the changing nature of art museums and their relationship to the public.
  • Experience working closely and building relationships with indigenous and First Nations communities.
  • Sensitivity to historical and contemporary issues around representation and the politics of collecting and displaying Native American art.
  • Experience working in partnership and engaging with donors, collectors, scholars, external communities and other partners.
  • Strong planning and project management skills with the ability to manage various projects simultaneously and to collaborate with colleagues across the institution to achieve the best outcome.
  • Strong sense of accountability for achieving stated objectives.
  • Team-oriented and collaborative.
  • Superb presentation and interpretation skills with ability to attract and engage audiences of all demographics.
  • Superior ability to present and defend ideas and projects that earn the respect of colleagues and Museum’s leadership and builds credibility for the department and institution.

Personal Qualities and Attributes

  • Intellectually rigorous
  • Inspirational, passionate, curious
  • Generous of spirit, a team player
  • Superior judgment, tact and diplomacy, with good organizational skills

For immediate consideration to any of our open staff positions, please e-mail your résumé and cover letter to: resumes@mfa.org

You also have the option of forwarding your application materials via postal mail to: Human Resources Department, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Avenue of the Arts, 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is an Equal Opportunity Employer and seeks diversity in its workforce. The Museum is committed to attracting, retaining, developing and promoting the most qualified employees without regard to race, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, pregnancy, gender identity or expression, physical or mental disability, or past, present, or future service in the uniformed services of the United States, or any other characteristic prohibited by federal, state, or local law.

Page Type
Staff Position
Full Time
Art of the Americas