It’s with great excitement that I write to announce the appointment of Brenda Tindal as the next Executive Director of the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture, which will begin on May 17, 2021.
Brenda is an award-winning educator, scholar, and practitioner who leads with a passion for the work of museums as incubators of courageous inquiry. A forward-thinking leader and public historian, she brings to her work a heartfelt belief in the power of museums as profound sites of connection and new learning. Throughout her career, she has prioritized meaningful civic dialogue and learning among broad and diverse audiences and has skillfully built the trusted partnerships and authentic community relationships needed to center museums in advancing public knowledge. With an unflinching commitment to expanding access to museums and their collections, Brenda brings expertise in interpretation, public programming, and community engagement that, working in close collaboration with our faculty curators, will continue to advance HMSC’s mission to foster curiosity and a spirit of discovery in visitors of all ages and backgrounds, enhancing public understanding of and appreciation for the natural world, science, and human cultures.
Brenda joins HMSC from the forthcoming International African American Museum (IAAM) in Charleston, South Carolina, where she served as the founding Director of Education & Engagement. In this role, Brenda has had primary responsibility for conceiving, developing, and delivering all IAAM’s core public-facing initiatives. Under her leadership, the museum launched its inaugural education program, engaging K-12 and adult audiences to share the untold stories of the African American journey, from slavery through the 20th-century civil rights movement to the present. As a museum leader, Brenda’s work champions the perspective of descendant communities, which informs her thinking about the unique contributions of museums in representing authentic narratives of the past that both expand public understanding of our shared history and enliven and contextualize that of our present and future.
Brenda’s career as an innovative practitioner has developed through roles at multiple public museums and archives. Prior to joining IAAM’s leadership team, Brenda served as Director of Education at the Detroit Historical Society, where she oversaw the K-16 education initiatives, public programming, and provided organization-wide leadership in the areas of museum visitor experience and strategic engagement. She also served as the Staff Historian and Senior Vice President of Research & Collections at the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she was the first woman and first African American to hold the role. In 2017, she was the lead co-curator of the Levine Museum’s pioneering K(NO)W Justice K(NO)W Peace—one of the first rapid-response exhibits to place local and national community-law enforcement relations into historical and sociocultural context. As part of that widely acclaimed project, she launched several successful public programs and community initiatives, including the Breaking Bread Dinner & Dialogue series, the #KNOWCLT civic and corporate enrichment experiences, and delivered hundreds of talks and lectures across the country. She began her museum career at the Levine Museum in 2003, serving on the curatorial team that developed the award-winning exhibit Courage: The Carolina Story that Changed America, which explored the region’s role in the landmark school desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The exhibit was awarded the National Medal for Museum Service in 2005—the nation’s highest honor awarded to museums and libraries.
Brenda is also the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a 2011 Institute of Museum and Library Service (IMLS) fellowship at Princeton University—where she co-curated the exhibit Your True Friend and Enemy: Princeton and the Civil War and served as a key researcher for the Princeton & Slavery Project. More recently, she received the Southeastern Museum Conference’s 2020 Museum Leadership Award, one of their highest honors, recognizing innovation, service, and leadership in the museum profession.
In addition to her professional experience in museums, Brenda holds a B.A. in History and Africana Studies from the University of North Carolina Charlotte, an M.A. in American Studies from Emory University, and maintains an active research and writing agenda, including her current project based on her graduate work at Emory entitled “What Our Common Past Had Done to Us”: Movement Widows in American Public Life, 1940s-2013—a survey of the social and political trajectory of Coretta Scott King, Myrlie Evers-Williams, and Betty Shabazz—activists and widows of martyred civil rights leaders.
I am profoundly grateful to the members of the search committee—James Hanken, Peter Der Manuelian, Melissa McCormick, Lori Gross, Russ Porter, Barb Beaudoin, Leslie Kirwan, and Chris Keller—who, alongside our search partners at Russell Reynolds, worked diligently to identify and review an outstanding pool of candidates in this national search. I would also like to thank Barb Beaudoin and Jan Sacco for their tremendous interim leadership, and the entire HMSC staff who worked through extraordinary circumstances to continue to advance HMSC’s strategic priorities and public mission.
As the public face of the FAS research museums, HMSC is an important convener of people and ideas that invites members of our campus community and beyond to connect with the FAS’s distinctive collections and vital research on human civilizations, biodiversity, and the history of Earth and science. I look forward to partnering with Brenda to advance this important work and am eager for the benefit of her leadership as HMSC continues to expand its reach and impact. Please join me in welcoming Brenda to Harvard!
Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences