Interview conducted by Sarah Braver, MA student
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Theresa Huntsman, and I completed my dissertation, “Eternal Personae: Chiusine Cinerary Urns and the Construction of Etruscan Identity,” in 2014. My major field (for my comprehensive exams) was ancient Italy before the Romans, and my minor field was Late Antiquity. I am currently an Assistant Editor for the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut.
What did you do in the year or two immediately following the completion of the PhD, and how did you pursue that kind of work?
I moved to Boston in March 2014 and began a 3-year term position as Publications Data Manager for the Sardis Expedition, a long-term archaeological project in Turkey run by Harvard University. Since this job was term, however, and since Boston was an incredibly expensive city, I did freelance proofreading and copyediting for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and for other cultural institutions, and I also taught online for the Classics Department at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Harvard extended my contract by another two years, but the political situation in Turkey, coupled with the high cost of living in Boston, motivated me to get back on the job market. In early 2018, I applied for my current (permanent) position at Yale and was offered the job in April 2018. I continue to do periodic freelance editing work for Sardis, as well as for the Met, but at a reduced level due to the more intensively managerial nature of this position and the lower cost of living in New Haven.
What did you do in your coursework, and in the later stages of your doctoral work, that helped prepare you for this particular career path?
During a 2.5-year break between my MA and starting my PhD, I worked full time for the Kranzberg Art Library. I seriously considered pursuing an MLS for a period of time, but after filling in for someone who had to back out of teaching an evening course for University College, I realized that I really enjoyed teaching and decided to return for the PhD. At Wash U, I made sure to take a wide variety of courses in art history. A course with Professor Alicia Walker really got me interested in the art of Late Antiquity, and I pursued this as a minor field of study. With this in my arsenal, I could “brand” myself as someone who could cover the first half of the traditional art history survey course.
There are several things I did consistently while both an MA and a PhD student that prepared me for my career path: working for an archaeological field school in Italy every summer, something I began as an undergraduate; and proofreading, securing image permissions, and acting as research assistant for multiple faculty members and curators. When I applied for the job at Yale, I had fifteen years of proofreading and editing experience under my belt, and even though I’ve never been trained formally as an editor, my broad art-historical training and museum experience allow me to give a comprehensive, confident level of feedback to authors at the Yale University Art Gallery, who usually share an academic background similar to my own.
What are the skills or competencies you cultivated that have helped you most in this line of work?
The close looking, attention to detail, and visual literacy that art history requires are what has made me an effective data manager and editor, and my broad training helps me to approach a new art-historical manuscript, regardless of subject area, with the tools I need to evaluate whether an argument has the supporting evidence it needs to succeed. Likewise, my work with Betha Whitlow in the VRC gave me an incredibly strong digital foundation for managing large digital collections, from image generation, to cataloguing, to archiving.
How did you take advantage of Washington University outside of our Art History program, and St. Louis and its many cultural institutions, to move into this line of work?
I was a paid curatorial research assistant at the Saint Louis Art Museum as an MA student where I learned a remarkable amount about collecting, exhibition preparation, and curatorial work. I also worked for the Kemper Art Museum in multiple capacities, from digitizing French caricatures, to conducting inventory, to researching and cataloguing Greek vases. In addition to my well-rounded museum experience, I was able to meet people who helped me network and gain access to collections for my dissertation research. I am still in contact with many of these people today.
What are your plans for the future?
I am very happy to be affiliated with a university museum where I can interact with a wide variety of art-historical and archaeological scholarship and their multiple audiences. At the same time, I have access to university resources that allow me to continue my own research projects on Etruscan material culture and archaeological data management and ethics. I have the opportunity to work with Yale University Press, and New Haven is a much more affordable place to live. I hope to stay here and continue my new career in academic publishing, where my well-rounded academic background gives me a unique perspective, and I can continue to work with the material I love in a more stable but just as rewarding capacity.