Alumni Profile: Doreen Bolger '71
"Museums are mirrors of society - they show people what they are. Museums are also windows to different places, like taking a trip in your own hometown."
Art advocate - Appreciating and protecting
Doreen Bolger '71 did not start out with a "plan" to become director of a major art museum. But following her passion led her to the directorship of the Baltimore Museum of Art.
As a high school student, Bolger was always interested in art, but she traces her fascination with art history to Bucknell Professor Gerald Eager. She says, "He is just the most amazing man with the most amazing insight and perspective on works of art." Bolger jokes, "If I hadn't bumped into him, I might have been a corporate lawyer."
A specialist in 19th-century American art, Bolger began her career at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she was a member of the curatorial staff for 13 years. She left New York for Fort Worth, Texas, where she curated painting and sculpture at the Amon Carter Museum.
Next, she became director of the RISD Museum at the Rhode Island School of Design. She was named director of the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1998.
From the moment she began her career, Bolger knew she "never wanted to do anything but work in a museum."
What she loves about her job is the variety of experiences. She has researched works of art and artists for a catalogue, acquired great masterpieces for museums, and most recently has worked with the holdings of a long-established museum. Baltimore's collection contains more than 90,000 works of art.
It's Bolger's job to make sure that these holdings are appreciated, protected, and installed properly and that the people who come to view them are moved by the experience.
The most challenging part of her job is to connect with the next generation. She says, "Younger people have been raised in a generation of popular culture and technology and constant change."
It's her goal "to interest them in coming to a museum to stand in front of a great painting and just look at it and think about it for a period of time." In seeking to attract a younger audience, she knows what she won't do: "We won't try to be a theme park. We can't compete with entertainment or popular culture or technology. We have to be what we are and celebrate what's different and unique about being in a museum."
For Bolger, "Museums are mirrors of society - they show people what they are. Museums are also windows to different places, like taking a trip in your own hometown."