Alumni Spotlight: Christopher Oliver

Christopher Oliver

Christopher spent a lot of his undergraduate time honing his passion for museums and art and often finding himself working in several different capacities at the University of Richmodn Museums. One of his favorite projects was the “Looking at Prints” exhibition of 2004. Christopher used his undergraduate experiences and life long passions to get himself to where he is now, working as the Assistant Curator of American Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

What inspired you to pursue your career in art history?

I've long been interested in the history of things. How do people create, use, remember, and sometimes forget objects that hold value for them? The professors and curators that I worked with at the University of Richmond really encouraged me to pursue the different avenues and byways of art history that speak to me. Objects and works of art seem immutable, and we spend a lot of time thinking about "preserving" objects, but really as we research, write, and display them we continue to craft their story. For me, it's not only a lot of fun to be part of that story, but also to share their previous histories with others.

What community engagement work did you do as a UR student?

I worked in different capacities for the University of Richmond Museums, and part of that was offering tours and other experiences to the student body of the University as well as the general public. One of the most memorable projects that I was part of was Looking at Prints (2004), which was an in-person exhibition and online website that described the processes of making different types of prints--engraving, etching, lithography, and screen printing. These were presented with accessible tutorials and real works of art. I think it's important to acknowledge that as much as we want to make all art accessible to all, that there is a fairly high bar to engaging with art via knowing how the works are made. I hope these projects allowed a visitor (virtual and otherwise) to understand how processes affected the aesthetics of the end product.

What advice would you give to UR students pursing this field?

Just be engaged in any way you can. If you love museums, there are many, many ways to be involved. I wouldn't decide you want to serve in one capacity and only be willing to work in that role. We need curators and educators, scientists and technicians, business leaders and philanthropists. Working in different departments has given me a much clearer understanding of how cultural organizations like this run, what makes them successful, and also what makes me successful, which usually can be directly linked to a project that I'm passionate about.