Location: Bowdoin / Dana Byrd

Art History

Dana Byrd

Assistant Professor of Art History

Contact Information

Art History

Visual Arts Center - 104

Teaching this semester

ARTH 3600 / AFRS 3600. Race and Visual Representation in American Art

Dana Byrd
Explores the visual construction of race in American art and culture from the colonial period to the late twentieth century. Focuses on two racial "categories"--blackness and whiteness--and how they have shaped American culture. Using college and local museum collections, examines paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs, film, and the spaces in which they have been displayed and viewed. Approach to this material is grounded in art history, but also draws from other disciplines. Artists under study include those who are well known such as Homer and Walker, as well as those who are unknown or have been forgotten.

ARTH 2440. Shoot, Snap, Instagram: A History of Photography in America

Dana Byrd
A survey of photography made and experienced in the United States from the age of daguerreotypes until the era of digital image processing. Addresses the key photographic movements, works, practitioners, and technological and aesthetic developments while also considering the social, political, cultural, and economic contexts for individual photographs. Photographers studied include Watkins, Bourke-White, Weegee, and Weems. Readings of primary sources by photographers and critics such as Stieglitz, Sontag, Abbott, and Benjamin bolster close readings of photographs. Builds skills of discussing, writing, and seeing American photography. Incorporates study of photography collections across the Bowdoin College campus.

Dana Byrd - Bowdoin College Art History


  • Ph.D., Yale University 2012 
  • M.A., University of Delaware/ Winterthur Program in Early American Culture
  • B.A., Yale University 

Dana E. Byrd is a scholar of American art and material culture. Her research engages with questions of place and the role of objects in everyday life. Her book manuscript, “Reconstructions: The Material Culture of the Plantation, 1861-1877,” examines the experience of the plantation during the Civil War through the end of Reconstruction. She is presently developing a project that examines the nineteenth-century representations of sociable interiors in three cosmopolitan cities: New Orleans, Paris, and London.

Motive Power: Fans, Punkahs, and Fly Brushes in the Antebellum South is a digital feature which complements the recently published Buildings and Landscapes article of the same title. This project places all of the known fans in a geospatial context for further analysis, and in the coming weeks will make available research not included in the article.

“ ‘Motive Power’: Punkahs and Performance in the Antebellum South,” in Buildings and Landscapes, Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum (Spring 2016).

“Ebony and Ivory: Pianos, People, Property and Freedom on the Plantation,” in The Oxford Handbook of History and Material Culture, Ivan Gaskill and Sarah Carter, eds. (New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2016).

“London: A Tobacco Box,”  Perspective published by the Institut National de l'Histoire d'Art  (forthcoming).

"Tracing Transformation: Hilton Head Island’s Journey to Freedom, 1860-1865," Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide (forthcoming October 2015)

“Northern Vision, Southern Land: Designs for Freedom on Hilton Head Island, 1862-1880,” in The Civil War in Art and American Memory (Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, forthcoming 2015).

“Loot, Occupy, Rebuild: The Plantation during the Civil War,” in The Civil War in Material Culture (Houston: Bayou Bend, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2012).

Exhibition Review of “Grass Roots: African Origins of an American Art,” Journal of Modern Craft 4, no. 2 (July 2011): 207-211.

“Punkah,” World of a Slave: Encyclopedia of Material Life of Slaves in the United States, eds. Martha Katz-Hyman and Kym Rice (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press 2010): 381-385.

“There Is No Place Like Home: Student Rooms at Yale, 1870-1910,” Yale University Art Gallery Magazine, Fall 2009.

Digital Project

Fifty Years Later: The Portrayal of the Negro in American Painting. 2014.

“P is for Piano: People, Property and Freedom on the Sea Island Plantation, 1861–1870,” Cambridge University, Center for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities June 2015.

“London: A Tobacco Box,”  “London and the Americas, 1492-1812” Society for Early Americanists, London, England, July 2014 (invited lecturer). 

“Parsing Place: The Material Culture of the Reconstructed Plantation,” Bard Graduate Center, New York City, May 2014 (invited lecturer).

“Northern Vision, Southern Land: Designs for Freedom on Hilton Head Island, 1862-1880,” From Shadow to Substance: The Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry and the Augustus Saint-Gaudens Shaw Memorial, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, November 2013 (invited lecturer).

“In Motion: Art and Material Culture of the Civil War,” Bowdoin Alumni College Brunswick, Maine, August 2013.

“Occupied: The Civil War-Era Plantation, 1861-1877” Pejepscot Historical Society, Brunswick, Maine, July 2013. 

 “The Space Between: Seeing the Civil War Plantation,” Midwestern Art History Association, Columbus, Ohio, March 2013.

“Woodville’s Things: Objects and Meaning,” New Eyes on America: The Genius of Richard Caton Woodville, The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, Maryland, March 2013 (invited lecturer).

“Photographing the New South for Old New England: Henry P. Moore's Views of the Sea Islands,” Early Photography in New England: From Heliography to the Handheld Kodak, 1830-1900, Deerfield-Wellesley Symposium, Massachusetts, March 2013.

“Reconstructions: The Material Culture of the Plantation,” David B. Warren Symposium, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, October 2011 (invited lecturer).

“ ‘Just the Man We Want’: Henry P. Moore, Photographer on the South Carolina Sea Islands,” Southern Nation Conference, Department of American Studies, Princeton University, April 2010.

“Picturing Emancipation, Henry P. Moore, Photographer,” After Slavery, Race, Labor and Citizenship in the Post-Emancipation South Conference, College of Charleston, Charleston, SC, March 2010.

“ ‘Motive Power’: Punkahs and Performance in the Antebellum South,” Historic New Orleans Antiques Forum, Historic New Orleans collection, New Orleans, LA, August 2009 (invited lecturer).

“Punkahs in the Antebellum South,” Gordon Conference, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, Winston-Salem, NC, October 2008.

“ ‘Winnower of Souls’: The Punkah and the Creation of Comfort in British India,” Center for Material Culture Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT, February 2008.

“Crafting Freedom, John Needles, Antebellum Cabinetmaker” National McNair Scholars Research Conference, Newark, Delaware, October 2005 (invited lecturer).

“Way Finding: Work, Space and Evangelism at a Truck Stop Chapel,” Material Culture Symposium for Emerging Scholars, Winterthur, Delaware, April 2005.

“Furnishing for Faith: Truck Stop Chapels,” Popular Culture/American Culture Annual Meeting, Albuquerque, New Mexico, February 2005.

Talking Turkey: Fowl, James McNeil Whistler, and the Venice Set,” in Fine Impressions: Whistler, Freer and Venice. Online contribution to Freer/Sackler exhibition; October 2014).