Brenda D. Tindal, the new Executive Director of the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture, shared her vision for HMSC and her passion for museums, community engagement and civic dialogue in a virtual fireside chat on Tuesday evening .
The event was moderated by Susan J. Thompson, Director of Institutional Advancement at HMSC, who began by interviewing Tindal about her role as a public historian.
Tindal explained that his interest in history started at a young age.
âMy dad always tells a story of when my parents were looking for us to get together for dinner,â she reflected. “My dad would always say, ‘Go check, she’s curled up with a book somewhere!'”
Tindal also described a pivotal moment that piqued his historical curiosity: In grade 10, his debate trainer asked him to read and research an 1851 speech by Sojourner Truth titled âAin’t IA Woman? “
During the event, Tindal embarked on a passionate imitation of Truth, reciting the entire speech from memory.
â’Ain’t I a Woman’ was almost like a compass through which I started to reinvent and develop a new vocabulary around the story,â Tindal said.
Thompson then inquired about Tindal’s career path. Tindal said that in 2003, while an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, a professor encouraged her to do an internship at the Levine Museum of the New South, which she considered as a “critical moment” in his career.
âIt was the first time that I understood the power of museums – the power to be not only a place to come, engage and learn, and a place of enrichment, but also a place that invites members of the community to have more in-depth and nuanced conversations about their communities and to mobilize and activate communities, âshe said.
In an interview after Tuesday’s event, Tindal said that at Harvard, she would continue the community engagement efforts that drew her to museums early in her career, especially around recent legal and ethical critiques of the management by the Harvard Museums of Native American human and cultural remains. artefacts, the remains of potentially enslaved individuals and photos of enslaved people.
âMuseums across the country, including Harvard, are engaged in really deep and important conversations, some of which include how can we be better stewards and engage in more ethical stewardship when it comes to collections that have very sensitive stories, very complex narratives and very complex acquisition narratives linked to them, âshe said.
“Not only do we have to think about ethical management, we also have to think about the community engagement of descendants,” Tindal added.
Tindal concluded the event by expressing her eagerness to embrace her new role at HMSC, which she began on May 17.
âI’m excited to roll up my sleeves and understand how we re-imagine what community engagement looks like in the aftermath of a pandemic,â she said. âWe can make sure that there is no lack of imagination as to how we do what we know how to do best – that is, promote discovery and engagement, and really activate science and culture for diverse audiences. “