History of Art and Architecture

Almuni Bio: Janet Marstine

Janet Marstine (Ph.D. 1993) is Lecturer and Programme Director of Art Museum and Gallery Studies in the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester.  Her research focuses on artists and museum ethics.  Marstine is editor of The Routledge companion to museum ethics:  Redefining ethics for the twenty-first century museum (Routledge, 2011) and is currently completing a study on artists’ interventions as reconciliations between museums and communities, Institutional critique: Artists, museums, ethics (Routledge 2013). She contributed an essay on and interview with Fred Wilson to Richard Sandell and Eithne Nightingale’s volume, Museums, equality and social justice (Routledge 2012). She is principle investigator for an AHRC networking grant, with partners the Museums Association and the Interdisciplinary Ethics Applied, University of Leeds, on embedding the new ethics in the museum sector. From 2007-2010, Dr. Marstine was Founding Director of the Institute of Museum Ethics at Seton Hall University where she was Principle Investigator for a Twenty-First Century Museum Professional Grant on museum ethics from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. She has taught at Central Washington University and at Bowdoin College.

At Pitt, Marstine studied with David Wilkins and Elizabeth Johns and wrote her dissertation on allegories of labor and industry in turn-of-the-twentieth century American mural painting.  How and why did she move from art history to museum studies? While writing her dissertation, she held a pre-doctoral fellowship at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and was fascinated by the ethics discourse that erupted around the politics of representation and censorship in The West as America exhibition. She began teaching a seminar in museum ethics during her first job at Bowdoin. While at Central Washington University, she learned about Fred Wilson’s interventions from time spent at the Seattle Art Museum where he had recently done a project. She started teaching an introductory course in museum theory and, when she found a lack of appropriate texts for upper level undergraduates and beginning graduate students, she decided to write one. Her edited volume, New Museum Theory and Practice: An Introduction (Blackwell 2006), was her entrée to the museum studies world and to her position at Seton Hall.  Marstine is still deeply engaged in art historical concerns but she marries that expertise with her interest in the social agency of museums—that museums have the right and responsibility to help create a socially just society.  Her PhD in art history provides a lens by which to understand how contemporary artists may be moving that agenda forward.

Marstine loves her work at the University of Leicester which has the world’s oldest and largest museum studies program and the only autonomous school of Museum Studies. She enjoys the collaborative interdisciplinary model of the curriculum and the close ties between the School and the museum sector. She also appreciates supervising PhD students whom she finds inspirational to her own research. Though she feels her career has blossomed later in life than she had originally anticipated, she remembers Beth Johns as a model for this career trajectory and David Wilkins as an inspiration for entrepreneurial thinking. Marstine is married to Mark Polishook, a pianist and composer, and is mother to two teenage children, Jeanie and Jake.