UNC Charlotte alumna and former faculty member Brenda Tindal ’04 has been named executive director of Harvard Museums of Science and Culture. She begins her role on May 17.
Tindal will serve as the public face of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ research museums, which include the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University Herbaria, Museum of Natural History, the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments and the Mineralogical and Geological Museum.
Tindal’s connections to UNC Charlotte and the Charlotte community are deep. She earned bachelor’s degrees in History and Africana Studies with University Honors distinction from UNC Charlotte in 2004, before earning a master’s degree in American Studies from Emory University in Atlanta in 2010.
Tindal grew up in the Charlotte region, participating on her high school debate team and planning a career as a lawyer. When she started at UNC Charlotte as an undergraduate, her career path changed with what she describes as a Eureka! moment in a history class with professor Gregory Mixon.
She returned to UNC Charlotte as a visiting faculty member in the Department of History and the Honors College from 2012 to 2015, teaching courses related to 19th and 20th century U.S. and South African history, visual and material culture and global social reform movements. She served on the Advisory Council for the UNC Charlotte Women + Girls Research Alliance and the Advisory Board for the Honors College. In a recent contribution to the University and the Charlotte community, she shared her thoughts as a public intellectual on structural racism and justice.
She also served as staff historian and senior vice president of research and collections at the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, where she was the first woman and first African American in that role. She co-curated the pioneering project “K(NO)W Justice K(NO)W Peace,” one of the first exhibitions in the country to show community-law enforcement relations in a historical and socio-cultural context.
“History can be used as a gateway to community engagement and as a venue through which we – as a community – can deepen understanding and increase knowledge of our past, learn how it shaped our present, and consider how it informs our future,” Tindal said in an earlier interview with the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.
As a museum leader, she has faced challenging and sensitive matters, Tindal told The Harvard Gazette.
“Some of the controversies and delicate dilemmas museums face require courageous inquiry, thought partnership and creative solutions,” she said. “Museums are not merely cabinets of curiosity; they are well-positioned to serve as hubs for new learning and play a meaningful role in helping their communities and stakeholders grapple with hard truths and nuanced issues.”
Tindal joins Harvard University from the International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, where she serves as founding director of education and engagement and initiated the museum’s inaugural education program. Prior to that, she was director of education at the Detroit Historical Society, including during its widely acclaimed “Detroit 67: Looking Back to Move Forward” community-engagement work.