Milestones

New coast. New career.

Former dean Mary Miller '81PhD lands at the Getty.

Courtesy Getty Research Institute

Courtesy Getty Research Institute

Former Yale College dean Mary Miller ’81PhD has found a new home at the Getty Research Institute. View full image

On clear days, Mary Miller ’81PhD can see the Pacific Ocean from her window. Her office is on the second floor of the Getty Research Institute, and the first thing Miller wants to tell me about is the view. “To my left is the Getty Museum, and way out directly in front lies Malibu.”

Admittedly, it sounds like it beats the Yale College dean’s office, which boasts a view of the back of Sheffield-SterlingStrathcona Hall.

Miller spent nearly 40 years at Yale, first as a graduate student and then as a professor in the art history department. She served as master of Saybrook College, then as the first woman dean of Yale College. Her final two years at Yale were spent as senior director of the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage. A year ago, she fled the frigid ground of New Haven and moved across the country to become the director of the Getty Research Institute.

For a world-class academic like Miller, the Getty—which boasts the largest art history library in the United States—is one of the few establishments that might top a place like Yale. But Miller is bringing a few lessons with her. She credits the Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage as the place that taught her “how science and art are now partners in understanding the past.”

Last month, The J. Paul Getty Trust announced a $100 million global initiative focusing on ancient worlds. In a press release, the Getty announced that the initiative’s goal was to “promote a greater understanding of the world’s cultural heritage and its universal value to society.” Ancient Worlds Now: A Future for the Past, spans all four of the trust’s programs, including Getty Research Institute.

Among the projects Miller will head is the Florentine Codex Initiative. The Florentine Codex—a sixteenth-century ethnographic study of Mesoamerica—is one of the most detailed documents of the Aztec peoples. “It’s the single most important source for indigenous history of the New World,” says Miller. The GRI will digitize, translate, and host it permanently on the internet.

Miller is thrilled to be a part of the new Getty initiative, which will run for a decade. “Being able to participate in this project is a real opportunity, and the highlight of my life,” she says. Then she laughs—perhaps recalling that she’s speaking to her alma mater’s magazine—and corrects herself: “A highlight.”

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