Ancient-Art Scholar Takes Helm at Women's Museum


Ellen D. Reeder, a scholar and archeologist specializing in ancient art, took over Monday as director of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Reeder spent the last two years as deputy director for art at the in-the-news Brooklyn Museum of Art and the previous 15 years as curator of ancient art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. A show Reeder organized in 1995 at the Walters, "Pandora: Women in Classical Greece," laid the groundwork for her interest in the director's post.

"The show was all about the depiction of women in ancient thought, ritual and art. It was a transforming experience for me," Reeder said. "And I learned about the need and interest in the public to learn more about women in art. Even now, years later, I still lecture on that subject and am amazed that the interest and thrust for today are the same metaphors used in antiquity."

Through her years in Baltimore and in teaching positions at George Washington and Johns Hopkins universities, Reeder watched the development of the women's museum. The assembling of female artists' work under one roof, she said, has proved the validity of the field: "The exhibitions were solid work. And the museum has had an interesting journey and stayed on its message. We serve a purpose, and I believe when you bring together a critical mass, suddenly the experience is advanced."

A native of Baltimore, Reeder, 54, earned an undergraduate degree from Wellesley College and a master's and doctorate in classical archeology from Princeton. Her own published scholarship includes "Scythian Gold: Treasures From Ancient Ukraine" and "Pandora: Women in Classical Greece." While at the Walters, she also wrote a book on the Hellenistic art in the collection.

The museum is the country's only collection devoted to the visual, performing and literary achievements of women. Open-ed in Washington, D.C., in 1987 by its founder, Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, it has a collection of 2,700 works, dating to the 16th century and representing 800 artists, including Georgia O'Keeffe, Mary Cassatt, Helen Frankenthaler, Alice Neel and Alma W. Thomas.

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