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August 27, 2001

Hirschel leaving for Indy art museum

By Michael Terrazas

Carlos Museum Director Tony Hirschel announced Aug. 14 that he is leaving Emory in November to become director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), that city’s largest public art museum.

Hirschel, who came to the Carlos as director in 1997, said the decision to leave was “extremely difficult,” but the opportunity to lead an institution with an annual budget many times that of the Carlos was one he couldn’t pass up. He said the closest equivalent to the IMA in Atlanta is the High Museum.

“I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to have been here,” Hirschel said. “The [Carlos] museum has the best staff, person for person, that I have ever seen at any museum, and it has been a privilege every day to work with them. Equally I will miss the colleageus that I have found at Emory ... in any number of departments. To have so many brilliant professional colleagues scattered around campus, really at one’s fingertips, that’s something I will miss enormously.”

Hirschel’s last day at the Carlos will be Nov. 2, after which he will move from a museum with annual budget of approximately $2.5 million to one with a budget of $15 million and growing in the IMA.

The move will return Hirschel to the kind of museum where he has spent most of his career; prior to joining Emory, Hirschel was director of the Bayly Art Museum at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and before that he spent several years at the Yale University Art Gallery.

“I deeply regret the departure, from this campus and from the Michael C. Carlos Museum, of Anthony Hirschel,” President Bill Chace said. “He has been an energetic, wonderfully knowledgeable and engagingly enterprising member of the Emory and Atlanta community. He has been a great contributor to the world of the arts here and has helped to make the museum a very bright presence in the lives of many people.”

Hirschel pointed to the 1999 acquisition of a collection of Egyptian funerary art from a museum in Niagara Falls, Canada, as the highlight of his time at Emory. After it became widely reported locally that the Carlos was pursuing the collection but was short on funding, Atlanta residents donated much of the $2 million needed to make the acquisition possible.

“There are rare moments in anyone’s career where significant opportunities present themselves, and this really was an extraordinary opportunity,” Hirschel said. “We started getting calls from people who’d never even been here, never been on the Emory campus at all, who simply felt it was so important that this happen for the city that they didn’t ask the normal questions like, ‘Why doesn’t Emory pay for it?’”

Subsequent work on the collection, Hirschel added, was just as rewarding, including the ongoing project with the team of geneticist Doug Wallace, director of the Center for Molecular Medicine, to find a protocol for extracting usable DNA from mummies in order to determine whether one mummy in the collection is that of the pharaoh Ramesses I.

“In every way, it’s a dream project and has involved every aspect of what a museum like this is supposed to do,” Hirschel said.

Since the Carlos Museum reports to the provost, Hirschel said Interim Provost Woody Hunter plans to convene a meeting to determine whether to appoint an interim director and how to begin a search for a permanent successor.


Back to Emory Report August 27, 2001