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John Harvard's Journal

Sandra Grindlay

July-August 2002

Seen here [this photograph not available on-line] at the Fogg Art Museum with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, LL.D. 1859, is Sandra Grindlay, curator of the Harvard University Portrait Collection and manager of the University Loan Program. The author of The Song of Hiawatha was sculpted by Edmonia Lewis—part African American and part Chippewa Indian— who lived in Boston but worked for a time in Rome, where she began on Longfellow, surreptitiously, when the poet visited the city in 1869. Harvard acquired the marble bust in the 1870s, and such records as exist suggest it was the gift of friends of Longfellow. Harvard got Grindlay in 1987, when she took a job in the paintings-conservation lab after course work and apprenticeship in that field—which she decided to pursue following 10 years teaching art history at Buckingham Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge and earlier experience as an art editor at Houghton Mifflin. She became curator of the portrait collection in 1990 and now looks after about 700 portrait paintings (ranging in date across more than three centuries) and 300 marbles, plasters, and bronzes, as well as a hundred or so portraits of Harvard itself. About 900 of these objects are on view in a hundred Harvard buildings. The loan program she manages also gets art out of the storeroom and onto the walls of anyone in a Harvard building who is willing to pay a small annual fee to live with a museum piece. Members of the community have a thousand objects, mostly paintings, to choose from. Grindlay and her husband, their two grown children flown, live in Lincoln, Massachusetts, where she likes to garden, to cook, and to walk in Mother Nature's masterpiece, the countryside.