Polly Thayer Starr Fellowship in American Art
Boston Athenaeum (Boston, MA)
August 31, 2023
Post date: July 21, 2023



The Boston Athenæum invites applications for the Polly Thayer Starr Fellowship in American Art. This curatorial fellowship will constitute a full-time, one-year appointment, with the possibility of renewal for a second year. The fellowship is open to graduate students in Art History, American Studies, Museum Studies, and allied interdisciplinary humanities fields in the final stages of doctoral study (ABD) or to scholars who have attained the M.A. or Ph.D. in a relevant field within two years of the start of the fellowship. The Athenæum seeks candidates whose expertise and experience will further its goals around matters of representation and inclusion. Candidates prepared to bring new and interdisciplinary perspectives to the interpretation of art and visual culture in the Athenæum’s collections are especially encouraged to apply. 


The Starr Fellow will work closely with the Athenæum’s curatorial team, collaborating on a broad range of departmental initiatives and projects, especially those designed to further cultural equity. The Fellow will be an active partner in expanding access to, and fostering critical dialogue around, the Athenæum’s Special Collections through writing, research, and educational outreach. The Fellow will have opportunities to participate in a wide range of curatorial and programming activities, including rotating displays of works from the permanent collection as part of a recent major reinstallation and reinterpretation project. 

In addition to assisting the curatorial team, the Starr Fellow will consult with the Athenaeum’s curators early in the fellowship to identify and develop a project grounded in the Athenæum’s collections and resonant with the mission of the Starr Trust, subject to approval by the Head of Special Collections. The topic of the Fellow’s approved project and other activities may include: 


• Drawing on the Athenæum’s extensive collection of American paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, photographs, illustrated and artists’ books, and art-related archival and secondary research sources. In addition to the paintings by Polly Thayer Starr in the Athenæum’s collection, the Fellow may also have access to the Trust’s extensive catalog of her work;

• Activating the Athenæum’s special collections, especially those that are less known to the public, through public programs and instructional activities;

• Exploring the roles of historically underrepresented figures in American art and culture, including but not limited to the work of women and people of color; 

• Engaging in multiple, interdisciplinary discourses and critical methodologies; 

• Advancing the Polly Thayer Starr Charitable Trust’s mission “to permanently further Mrs. Starr’s artistic legacy and to enhance the appreciation and knowledge of other artists whose works are reflective of her life and interests”;

• Illuminating the collections and activities of the Boston Athenæum and the Starr Trust for a broad scholarly audience and for the general public. 

Over the course of the fellowship, the Starr Fellow will develop the topic into at least one completed academic project such as a symposium or study day; an installation of collection materials; a scholarly article for submission to a peer-reviewed journal; or an online research or educational resource. The Fellow will give one or more lectures on this topic at the Athenæum and elsewhere. 

The Polly Thayer Starr Fellow will receive an honorarium of $60,000/year, plus benefits, and work space at the Boston Athenæum. The Fellow will have access to travel funds and to project and programming funds, subject to supervisory approval. The Fellow will have full access to the Athenæum’s library and research facilities and, in consultation with the Athenæum’s curators and registrar, its collections of rare and unique materials, including paintings, sculptures, works on paper, rare books, and manuscripts. The position will report to the Head of Special Collections.


Candidates will be evaluated on their record of prior achievement; the originality of their research interests; their skill and experience in navigating primary and secondary research sources, including original works of art; the quality of their writing; skill at public speaking; and ability to meet deadlines, complete multiple projects successfully, and balance self-directed work with contributions to team projects. Prior museum or special collections experience will be strongly preferred; teaching experience is also desirable. Must submit to and pass a background check, including criminal history, personal references, and employment verifications.

Research shows that women and people from underrepresented groups often apply to jobs only if they meet 100% of the qualifications. We recognize that it is highly unlikely that someone meets 100% of the qualifications for a role. If much of this job description describes you, then please apply for this role.


Application Instructions 



TO APPLY: Please submit a cover letter, curriculum vitae, a short writing sample (no more than 20 pages), and the names of two references familiar with the applicant’s scholarly and curatorial abilities and achievements. Applications received by August 31, 2023 will receive first consideration. Apply using the link below:


The Boston Athenæum is an equal opportunity employer. We welcome candidates who will increase our diversity; we encourage candidates of color and all diverse candidates to apply and are committed to hiring individuals who value a diverse and inclusive work environment. The Boston Athenæum is also committed to providing access, equal opportunity, and reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities in employment. To request a reasonable accommodation, please contact the HR Generalist Nora Conley at 617-720-7630 or conley@bostonathenaeum.org


Review Begins: 
August 31, 2023

Job, fellowship, and CFP listings are services that are offered by the American Studies Association to support its members in exploring professional opportunities in American studies. Any questions should be directed to the program, department, or center that has posted the opportunity.