O’Donnell Art History Institute Opens New Research Center at DMA

1The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History recently debuted a new research center at the Dallas Museum of Art that will serve as a counterpart to the main offices at UT Dallas.

Designed by Buchanan Architecture, the 1,882–square-foot satellite campus is equipped with state-of-the-art digital art history research tools and provides unique access to the art museum’s collections and the research resources held at the Mildred R. and Frederick M. Mayer Library.

Dr. Richard R. Brettell, founding director of the O’Donnell institute and the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies, said the site will provide a comfortable “living room” for Dallas-Fort Worth area art historians, four senior scholars and four PhD students. The space also includes two seminar rooms.

“For all of us at the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History, the close study of the art object itself remains at the center of serious scholarship,” Brettell said. “For that reason, we are delighted to inaugurate a historic partnership with the Dallas Museum of Art, which has a truly encyclopedic collection of global art.”

For all of us at the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History, the close study of the art object itself remains at the center of serious scholarship. For that reason, we are delighted to inaugurate a historic partnership with the Dallas Museum of Art, which has a truly encyclopedic collection of global art.

Dr. Richard R. Brettell,
founding director of the O’Donnell institute and the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies

Research in the institute is focused on works of art and materials held in regional collections and institutions, and exploring intersections between the visual arts, the sciences and technology.

“The O’Donnell Foundation is, not accidently, a donor to both UTD and the DMA, and the project of digitizing the permanent collection of the DMA, so important for area scholarship, was funded by the foundation,” Brettell said. “We will, in effect, bring art historical research right into the center of the DMA in a beautifully designed space next to the DMA’s Mayer Library and adjacent to the offices of the museum’s art historical brain trust, its curators.”

The complementary spaces also illustrate the new partnership between the institutions.

“The Dallas Museum of Art is pleased to partner with UT Dallas and house the downtown campus for the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History,” said Walter Elcock, interim director of the art museum. “This precedent-setting collaboration expertly furthers the museum’s mission of being an accessible steward of cultural heritage and promoting research initiatives while expanding the knowledge base of works in our collection. We are honored to celebrate the opening of this research center, which will play an important part in the development of the next generation of art historians.”

Upcoming collaborations between the institute and the museum include a scholar’s day to accompany the museum’s new exhibition — “Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots” — and research initiatives in conservation science and Islamic art.

“Initially, our collaborations will focus on two important areas — the global study of Islamic art in honor of the museum’s long-term loan of the Keir Collection of Islamic Art and in the area of conservation science, which will partner with the museum’s newly endowed and equipped Conservation Center and UTD’s Department of Chemistry,” Brettell said.

2“The space will also make available UTD’s state-of-the-art computer technology and high-speed Internet access, which will have direct benefits to the DMA’s own research agenda. This partnership will only grow and deepen in future years.”

The main campus location, designed by Cunningham Architects, opened in May and features art from UT Dallas alumnus Gabriel Dawe MFA’11 and visual arts professor John Pomara, among others.

The 3,700-square-foot space at UT Dallas also houses a collection of European art auction catalogs from the 1960s.

The O’Donnell institute was founded in 2014 with a $17 million endowment gift from arts patron Edith O’Donnell, and serves as a center for innovative research and graduate education in art history.