Nice Girls, Left-Wing Ladies, and Merry Bands: A New Generation of Art Museum Educators in the 1970s

Open Access
Kletchka, Dana Carlisle
Graduate Program:
Art Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
October 06, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Mary Ann Stankiewicz, Dissertation Advisor
  • Mary Ann Stankiewicz, Committee Chair
  • Yvonne Madelaine Gaudelius, Committee Member
  • Kimberly Anne Powell, Committee Member
  • Mrinalini Sinha, Committee Member
  • Carol Stapp
  • Linda Sweet
  • museums
  • gender
  • history
  • art museum education
  • Elaine Heumann Gurian
The field of art museum education underwent a significant transformation between the years of 1965 and 1980. What was initially considered a minor position in art museums quickly became a serious profession—with an historical, theoretical, and philosophical foundation—propelled by a new generation of young, educated, and progressive women. In this research, I explore how and why this phenomenon occurred by conveying the personal and professional stories of three female art museum educators who were active as young professionals in the late 1960s and 1970s and thereafter continued to work in the museum field. I utilized the methodology of oral history to learn how their work and their personal philosophies were shaped by larger social, political, and cultural discourses and identified common themes that emerged through their interviews. I argue that the three conditions, including the gendered contexts in which they grew up, their personal progressive philosophies, and the social relationships that each of them built with colleagues were deeply influential to their work, enabling them to impact the field in ways that were transformative and enduring.