Thomas Porter Wu
1) What have you been doing since you graduated from BU? Details about your current and past employment? Accomplishments you’re proud of? Challenges you’ve encountered?
When I graduated from BU in 2015 with a BA in History of Art and Architecture, I knew that I wanted to work in museums, but not necessarily in what capacity. By that time, I had also developed a particular interest in European decorative arts. That summer, I was offered a position in the Finance Department at the Museum of Fine Arts. Despite having no background in finance, I decided to accept. I subsequently held term positions in the museum’s Textile and Contemporary departments, working closely with curators on acquisitions, gallery installations, collection audits, and donor relations. I then worked in the Membership Department, planning member events and coordinating university memberships. On one occasion, I had the pleasure of representing the MFA at a student engagement event on BU’s campus. By being open to moving between departments, I gained a varied, well-rounded body of experience. During my time at the museum, I also co-planned and participated in a series of themed talks and tours designed to engage young adult audiences.
In 2018, I entered an MA program in History of Art at the Courtauld Institute in London, where my studies focused on the decorative arts of eighteenth-century France. I wrote my thesis on the thematic decoration of Sèvres porcelain dinner services, using examples in the Victoria & Albert Museum and Wallace Collection as case studies.
After my graduation in the summer of 2019, I was offered the position of Curatorial Assistant, European Decorative Arts & Sculpture at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco. In my new role, I assist the museum’s decorative arts curator with acquisitions, write text for gallery labels and panels, research for exhibitions and publications, and collaborate with an enthusiastic group of decorative arts patrons. I hope eventually to become a fully-fledged curator within the area of decorative arts.
2) How your time in the department shaped your professional and personal lives?
I had a fantastic undergrad experience at BU. The History of Art and Architecture Department provided me with a solid foundation in visual analysis and a comprehensive survey of art history. Another strength of the department is the variety of courses it offers: given the focused nature of my later MA studies, I am grateful to have received a well-rounded undergraduate education in art history. During my four years at BU and since graduating, members of the HAA faculty have very generously encouraged and supported me, particularly as I tried to choose a career path and when I applied to graduate programs. I have been touched by the interest they continue to take in my progress. Within a university as large as BU, HAA is a very intimate and nurturing department.
3) Any advice that you would’ve given to your younger self?
One of the best pieces of advice I have received (incidentally, from an older and very successful BU Art History alumnus) is always to have a vision of oneself toward which to work.