Claire C. Whitner
Director of Curatorial Affairs and the James A. Welu Curator of European Art
Claire Whitner brings together WAM's curators and conservators to collaborate on new exhibitions and installations that address a central element of the Museum's mission: connecting visitors, communities, and cultures through experiences with art. Whitner takes a leading role in shaping the Museum's collecting efforts, working with the Director and curators to identify and secure gifts and purchases that address specific collection needs. She also oversees the Museum's ongoing work to reexamine installations in permanent collections galleries. She has expertise in German modernism and 17th-century Dutch painting and holds a PhD in Germanic languages from the University of California, Los Angeles. Prior to coming to the Worcester Art Museum, she served as Assistant Director of Curatorial Affairs at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College. She has also held curatorial and research positions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Skirball Cultural Center, and the Getty Research Institute at the J. Paul Getty Museum.
Nancy Kathryn Burns
Stoddard Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs
Nancy Kathryn Burns is the primary steward of the Worcester Art Museum's collection of pan-Atlantic prints, drawings, and photographs, representing over half of the Museum's permanent collection. Since her arrival in November 2008, she has served as the curator or co-curator for 16 exhibitions including Leisure, Pleasure, and the Debut of the Modern French Woman (2011), Winogrand's Women are Beautiful (2013), Cyanotypes: Photography's Blue Period (2016), Rediscovering an American Community of Color: Photographs of William Bullard (2017), Monet's Waterloo Bridge: Vision and Process (2019) and Photo Revolution: Andy Warhol to Cindy Sherman (2019). Burns has received various accolades for her work including a first place Award for Excellence for an Outstanding Exhibition from the Association of American Curators (2017). She is also the co-author of Rediscovering an American Community of Color: The Photographs of William Bullard, 1897-1917, winner of the 2018 Historic New England Book Prize. Burns received her MA at Brown University with a focus on European art after 1850.
Jeffrey L. Forgeng
The Higgins Curator of Arms & Armor and Medieval Art
Jeffrey Forgeng has curated the John Woodman Higgins Collection since 1999, first as the Paul S. Morgan Curator at the Higgins Armory Museum and, since 2014, as The Higgins Curator of Arms & Armor and Medieval Art at the Worcester Art Museum. His responsibilities at WAM entail integrating the Higgins collection of some 2,000 arms and armor objects throughout the Museum. This includes the reinstallation of the Medieval Galleries (2016), the addition of numerous armors in contextually related galleries (2017), and planning the permanent arms and armor gallery (estimated opening 2023). Forgeng is the author of over a dozen books, most recently The Medieval Art of Swordsmanship: Royal Armouries Manuscript I.33. Forgeng holds a PhD in Medieval Studies from the University of Toronto.
Assistant Curator of Asian and Middle Eastern Art
Rachel Parikh oversees a collection of nearly 9,000 objects that represent the richness and diversity of Asia and the Middle East through a wide range of materials. Parikh's responsibilities include developing a vibrant exhibition program, building on the Museum's holdings with new acquisitions. Prior to joining WAM in February 2020, Parikh was the Calderwood Curatorial Fellow of Asian Art at the Harvard Art Museums. She has also held curatorial positions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Department of Arms and Armor and the Art Institute of Chicago in the Department of Asian Art. Parikh specializes in South Asian and Islamic paintings as well as arms and armor, and has published widely, including the 2020 book, The Khalili Falnamah: The Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art (London: The Nour Foundation). She received her PhD in the History of Art from the University of Cambridge in 2014.
Olivia J. Stone joined the Worcester Art Museum as Curatorial Assistant in 2018. She received her MA in the History of Art and Architecture from Boston University in 2015, and holds a BA in French and Studio Art from the University of Virginia. Her research interests include late 19th- and early 20th-century French arts and culture, from the giants of Impressionism, to obscure modernist illustrations and advertisements. Formerly the Assistant Editor at Art New England magazine, Olivia's writing on art has also appeared in Big, Red & Shiny, the Boston Art Review, The Rib, and others. She regularly contributes catalogue essays to the Art Center Gallery at Anna Maria College in Paxton, MA.
George F. and Sybil H. Fuller Term Chair in Conservation and Chief Conservator
Rita Albertson was appointed Chief Conservator at the Worcester Art Museum in 2004. Prior to that she served as Paintings Conservator at WAM and Assistant Paintings Conservator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She oversees a conservation team of specialists in objects, paintings, works on paper, and arms and armor. In addition, she performs conservation treatments on WAM paintings and advocates for conservation and preservation of the Museum's permanent collection. Albertson has also co-curated exhibitions at WAM, including The Mystery of Worcester's Leonardo (2018), The Last Judgment Tapestry (2016), and—with the late Philip Klausmeyer—Portraits by William Hogarth (2014 – 2015). She received her M.S. in paintings conservation from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation in 1982.
Visit the Conservation page for information on the entire Conservation team and the work they do.
Paula Artal-Isbrand joined the Worcester Art Museum in 1996 and was appointed the Museum's first Objects Conservator in 2003. Responsible for WAM's vast collection of sculpture, decorative arts, and antiquities, Artal-Isbrand's expertise includes ceramics, glass, stone and metal. During her 25-year tenure she has overseen and undertaken research and treatment of much of WAM's 3-D collections that had never before received professional conservation attention. This includes the Mediterranean antiquities, the Paul Revere silver holdings, ceramics from Asia, and the Medieval Chapter House. Artal-Isbrand curated the exhibition Orantes: Ancient Statues from South Italy (2013), and co-curated Master Vases from Ancient Greece (2017-2019). Prior to WAM she was at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She received her M.A. in Art Conservation from the Art Conservation Program at SUNY, Buffalo in 1994.
Eliza Spaulding is the Paper Conservator of the Worcester Art Museum's global collection of over 24,000 works on paper. She enjoys working with a broad range of artworks, as well as collaboration and mentorship. Her responsibilities at WAM include studying, conserving, and preserving the works on paper collection and making information about it accessible to a broad range of audiences. Before coming to Worcester, she was the Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Paper Conservation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Ceil and Michael E. Pulitzer Conservation Fellow at the Library of Congress. She received her Advanced Certificate in Conservation and Master of Arts in Art History from the Conservation Center, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.
Associate Paintings Conservator
Associate Painting Conservator Birgit Straehle began her tenure at WAM in 2006 through fellowships supported by the Samuel H. Kress and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundations. Her many accolades include WAM's Frances A. Kinnicutt Award in 2007, a 2017 Citation from the State Senate of Massachusetts for Dedication to Promoting the Arts in Worcester, inclusion in the Leadership Worcester Class of 2019, and selection as one of Worcester's "Power 50" by the Worcester Business Journal in 2021. Strähle received a Master of Arts in Art History with minors in Mediaeval History and New History from the University of Braunschweig, Germany, later attaining a master's degree in Paintings and Sculpture Conservation from the University of Applied Sciences in Cologne, Germany.
Project Conservator of Arms & Armor
William MacMillan began working at WAM in 2014. He is responsible for the conservation of the Higgins Collection of Arms & Armor. He is also involved in the planning and design of the permanent Arms & Armor Gallery, as well as the “Age of Armor” touring exhibition (fall 2021). William came to WAM after 25 years as the conservator at the Higgins Armory Museum, where he was responsible for the care and treatment of the collection. He was also responsible for the design and installation of the permanent, temporary, and touring exhibitions.