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Postgraduate Curatorial Fellow in Botanical Art

Position: Postgraduate Curatorial Fellow in Botanical Art
Department: Rare Book Collection
Supervisor: Curator of Rare Books
Location: Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC
Crimson Careers ID: 101187

Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection is an institute in Washington, DC, affiliated with Harvard University. It supports research and learning internationally in Byzantine, Garden and Landscape, and Pre-Columbian studies through its fellowship program, scholarly events, publications, and exhibitions. The Dumbarton Oaks Postgraduate Fellowships are for recent Harvard College graduates who wish to develop and apply their research and professional skills while gaining experience, building a portfolio of successful projects, and contributing to the humanities. These Fellowships emphasize the development of foundational and specific technical skills that enhance the career readiness and employability of liberal arts graduates.

Presently, Dumbarton Oaks seeks a Postgraduate Curatorial Fellow to assist with all aspects of an exhibition focused on the work of botanical artist Margaret Mee (1909–1988). The exhibition is projected to open at Dumbarton Oaks in February 2020 and will run until May 2020. In addition to the 21 gouache paintings by Mee from the Dumbarton Oaks collection, which date to the period 1957–1969, the exhibition will include paintings by Maria Sibylla Merian and Priscilla Susan Bury.

The exhibit will showcase the Dumbarton Oaks collection of Mee’s early work, created during her first three expeditions to the Amazon from 1956–1969 and never before exhibited in concert publicly.  It will highlight important themes in Mee’s work such as her interest in environmental conservation, her dedication to direct observation as both a scientist and an artist, and the epistemological importance of her choice of medium (gouache) in the age of color photography. This is an excellent moment to share Mee’s work as well as to educate the public in the possibilities of the watercolor medium, in light of recent initiatives that seek to document and make freely available historic watercolors documenting the environmental richness of a world before photography. Media such as watercolor also embody the need for space and time for aesthetic contemplation and intellectual engagement with the natural world at a slower, more deliberate pace.

The Postgraduate Curatorial Fellow will assist with all aspects of exhibit development and implementation, and will help design and deliver public programming associated with the exhibit. The Fellow will also improve the documentation of the online exhibit of Mee’s work currently available on the Dumbarton Oaks website; and will support collaborations with other cultural organizations in the context of the exhibit. Lastly, the Fellow will undertake other projects relating to the rare book collection, such as contributing to the ongoing effort to publicize and interpret its holdings through the creation of an online guide. This is an excellent opportunity for recent graduates with interests in special collections, museum education, art history, and/or environmental studies to hone their skills of project management, communications, exhibition development, and public outreach.

Dumbarton Oaks’ mission as a museum, garden, and research institute makes it an ideal venue for exploring the artistic process and value of Mee’s illustrations as well as their enduring relevance to contemporary environmental concerns. The exhibition highlights and connects to Dumbarton Oaks’ Plant Humanities Initiative, a Mellon-funded three-year project to research and describe the cultural significance of plants in the context of today’s pressing environmental concerns.

Postgraduate Fellowships are one-year appointments (potentially renewable for a second and final year). They carry a stipend of $40,000/annum (less any taxes); a medical insurance contribution from Dumbarton Oaks; and a modest research allowance. We offer daily lunch to all fellows in our Refectory. Postgraduate Fellows are responsible for their own housing. The Fellowship year begins in early September 2019.


  • Excellent writing and editing skills
  • Excellent time-management and organizational skills
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently and creatively
  • Strong interpersonal skills


Candidates who have received a Harvard undergraduate degree within the past 3 years are eligible to apply. Dumbarton Oaks is an Equal Opportunity Employer (EOE).


Interested applicants should send a cover letter, résumé, unofficial transcript, and two letters of recommendation (preferably as one PDF document) to by April 1. Short-listed candidates will be asked to submit work samples and will be contacted for phone interview.