Huntington Library Selects UCR Grad as Curator

By Laila Rashid, CHASS Dean's Office Student Intern
October 18, 2013

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens has appointed Vanessa Wilkie, who earned her Ph.D. in early modern English history at UCR, as the new William A. Moffett Curator of British Historical Manuscripts. Professor Thomas Cogswell served as her dissertation advisor, and said the competition to replace the previous curator, who retired after 42 years of service, was "particularly fierce.” He noted that Wilkie’s position "is a plum assignment indeed, since the curator must necessarily work closely with the small army of scholars and students of British history and literature who work at the Huntington."  Long considered to be one of the premier destinations in Los Angeles, the Huntington Library is renown not only for its art collection and botanical gardens, but also for its array of rare books and manuscripts, which is among the finest in the world.  Among its many treasures are early editions of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales,” the Gutenberg Bible, and a world-class collection of Shakespeare’s works.

Wilkie earned a bachelor's degree in government and history at the University of Redlands.  In addition to her Ph.D. she also holds a master’s degree in public history from UCR with a specialization in archival management.  "With an M.A. in archival science and public history and a doctoral degree in early modern British history," Cogswell said, "she has won a professional 'daily double' as an archivist and a historian, and her success underscores UCR's emerging strength in both public history and early modern history.'"     

Since her initial visit to the Huntington in 2004, Wilkie has come to regard the Huntington Library as her intellectual “home,” conducting research and attending seminars there.  Her areas of expertise include Tudor-Stuart England, public history, early modern Europe, modern Europe, and gender and women.  Her current book project explores the influences that English aristocratic mothers had on their daughters and how these generations of women worked together to develop patronage networks among poets and playwrights, clergymen and politicians.  Wilkie has taught at both UCR and the University of Redlands; assisted in research at the U of R, San Bernardino County Museum, and city of Corona Planning Division; and presented her research at conferences around the country. Asked about her new duties, she said,"I'm excited by how many different roles I have here: supporting scholars and helping them use the collections, working with donors and visitors interested in British History, growing the collections with new acquisitions, finding ways to make our existing collections accessible in new ways, and answering research questions from around the world.”

“Both CHASS, in general, and the history department, in particular, are delighted to have provided her with the means to pursue her passions while helping others to do the same.” said Cogswell.

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