Caroline Jean Fernald has been named executive director of Harvard Museums of Science and Culture, Hopi Hoekstra, Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences announced today. Fernald will begin her position on Jan. 3.
“Through the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture, the extraordinary collections of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences foster curiosity and a spirit of discovery in all who visit them,” said Hoekstra. “I’m delighted to welcome Caroline to Harvard to advance this important mission and further our efforts to enhance the public understanding of and appreciation for the natural world, science, and human cultures.”
In her new role, Fernald will serve as the public face of HMSC, which include the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University Herbaria, Museum of Natural History, the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, and the Mineralogical and Geological Museum.
“I am looking forward to working closely with the leaders of each of the HMSC museums and the very talented staff team in advancing HMSC’s mission, sharing my enthusiasm for museums and each institution’s collections with the broader public, and connecting the research and expertise of each museum’s faculty and researchers with engaging public programs and exhibits,” Fernald said.
Fernald joins the FAS research museums from the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum at the University of California, Berkeley where she served as executive director since 2019. Before that, she served as executive director of the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, New Mexico. At the Millicent Rogers Museum, she increased philanthropic support by 50 percent and doubled its income from grants.
She was also involved in the repatriation of Native American ancestral remains and cultural items through the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) process at the Hearst Museum. As executive director, Fernald coordinated the repatriation efforts at the museum and worked to share the importance of repatriation with the museum’s vast network of stakeholders.
She previously taught courses on Native American, Mesoamerican, and South American art histories at the University of Oklahoma — where she also obtained her doctorate in Native American Art History.
Fernald said she also looks forward to working with former HMSC directors Jane Pickering and Brenda Tindal. Pickering currently serves as the William & Muriel Seabury Howells Director of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology. Last February, Tindal was named the inaugural FAS chief campus curator.
“I’m very fortunate that I’ll have both of them as colleagues and consultants,” Fernald said. “My hopes are to continue to build off of the successes that they’ve already established. The Harvard Museums of Science and Culture have really fascinating programming and I’m excited about the diversity of what HMSC offers. Building off of these successes and getting more people into the museums, that’s what I’m all about.”