Life and Religion
|Brenda Tindal, former Levine Museum historian, moves to Harvard|
|Charlottean leads Museums of Science and Culture|
|Published Thursday, April 22, 2021 5:00 pm|
|PHOTO | TROY HULL|
|Former Levine Museum of the New South is now director of Harvard Museums of Science and Culture.|
Brenda Tindal believes museums inspire imagination.
That mentality guided the Charlotte native from her days at Independence High School to her new position at Harvard University, where she assumes the role of executive director of Harvard Museums of Science and Culture on May 17.
Tindal will serve as the public face of their faculty of arts and sciences research museums: the Harvard Museum of Ancient Near East, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University Herbaria, Museum of Natural History, the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments and the Mineralogical and Geological Museum.
Tindal joins Harvard from the International African American Museum in Charleston, S.C., where she was the founding director of education and engagement and led the launch of their education program. Tindal’s journey also included a stop in Detroit, where she served as the director of education at the Detroit Historical Society, spearheading “Detroit 67: Looking Back to Move Forward.” The community-engagement initiative and exhibit chronicled the city’s uprising in 1967.
Tindal was the first female and first Black staff historian at Charlotte’s Levine Museum of the New South, where she also served as senior vice president of research and collections. She was named to the role in 2015, but her journey with the cultural institution began over a decade earlier. As an intern in 2003, Tindal worked on “Courage: The Carolina Story that Changed America,” an examination of the region’s role in the Brown v. Board of Education (1954) U.S. Supreme Court case. The Levine Museum earned the National Medal for Museum Service, the highest national award a museum or library can earn, in 2005.
“One of the most exciting moments in my own career has really been working with community during moments of crisis, and helping them grapple with issues using history, as Levine Museum would say, ‘using history to build community,’” Tindal said.
Her time as Levine Museum’s staff historian presented an opportunity to help the city better understand itself. She co-curated “K(NO)W Justice K(NO)W Peace” in 2017, guiding an initiative that told the story of Charlotte’s unrest following the death of Keith Lamont Scott, who was shot and killed in 2016 by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Brentley Vinson. The museum fast-tracked the exhibit to open a year ahead of schedule, and it set record-breaking attendance numbers, with 56,000 visitors in fiscal year 2017.
“My work at Levine of the New South with the ‘K(NO)W Justice, K(NO)W Peace’ exhibition has been absolutely instrumental in helping me use my expertise as a historian to really connect with not just community, but my hometown,” Tindal said. “When I think about those critical moments in my own development as a community stakeholder, as an advocate, as a public historian and as a museum practitioner that work continues to be one of my proudest moments.”
In addition to her cultural institution positions, she also has extensive experience in academia, serving as a lecturer at UNC Charlotte, her alma mater. Tindal was also an Institute of Museum and Library Services archival fellow at Princeton University, where she co-curated “Your True Friend and Enemy:’ Princeton & the Civil War,” establishing the foundation for the Princeton & Slavery Project, which investigates the institution’s involvement in slavery and the impact of institutional racism.
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