Esteemed Yale art historian Mary Miller to lead Getty Research Institute

Art historian Mary Miller
Mary Miller, Sterling Professor of History of Art, senior director of the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, and the first woman to serve as dean of Yale College. (Photo credit: Jon Atherton)

Mary Miller — Sterling Professor of History of Art, senior director of the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage, and the first woman to serve as dean of Yale College — will retire from Yale in December to embark on a new professional chapter, President Peter Salovey announced. Miller, who began a nearly 40-year career at Yale as an assistant professor in 1981, has been named by the J. Paul Getty Trust in Los Angeles as the next director of the Getty Research Institute. Her new appointment begins on Jan. 1, 2019.

In sharing the news with the campus community, Salovey wrote that Miller “has served with distinction in many different academic leadership positions. … Perhaps most indelible of her many imprints on this university are the [roles she] has played in Yale College.” Miller has held varied roles including department chair, director of both graduate and undergraduate studies, and chair of the recent Yale University Art Gallery director search committee. She was head of Saybrook College for nearly 10 years beginning in 1999. In 2008, she was selected by then-President Richard C. Levin to lead Yale College, making her the first female dean in the college’s history. Her six years in the deanship were a time of crucial advances toward the opening of Pauli Murray and Benjamin Franklin colleges.

Mary Miller delivering a lecture at Yale.
(Photo credit: Michael Marsland)

Since 2016, Miller — an expert in the art of the ancient New World — has been the senior director of the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage at the West Campus, also leading Yale’s initiatives in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution. Widely recognized for her scholarship on ancient Mexican and Maya art, she is the author of numerous books and other publications, including the flagship textbook, “Art of Mesoamerica,” now in its sixth edition. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she is the only Yale faculty member to have delivered both the A.W. Mellon Lectures (in 2010) at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Slade Lectures (in 2015) at the University of Cambridge.

The Getty Research Institute (GRI) is the research arm of the J. Paul Getty Trust, an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts. The institute encompasses collections, public programs, institutional collaborations, exhibitions, publications, and programs for residential scholars. As director, Miller will lead the institute’s efforts to develop new approaches to the study and dissemination of cultural heritage.

The GRI directorship is an incredible opportunity for me,” Miller said, “I am so excited at the resources it provides for research in the history of art, archaeology, and related humanistic disciplines, from the on-site library to massive archives that attest to the human imagination on the visual plane.

It’s not easy to leave Yale and New Haven,” she added. “I am so very grateful for the opportunities I have had at Yale, from the stimulating minds I meet in the classroom to the administrative skills I’ve honed and the time I’ve had for research and reflection. I know that Yale has prepared me to take this next step.”

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Alison Coleman: alison.coleman@yale.edu,