Dana Byrd

Assistant Professor of Art History

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.


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


“ ‘Motive Power’: Punkahs and Performance in the Antebellum South,” in Buildings and Landscapes, Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum, Volume 23, Number 1 (Spring 2016): 29-51 & digital feature, The Punkah Project.

“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).

London: A Tobacco Box in Art Follows Empire: New Scholarship in

Early American Art History” Perspectives published by the Institut National de l'Histoire d'Art (INHA), 2015-2 (Fall 2015):1-10.

"Tracing Transformations: Hilton Head Island’s Journey to Freedom, 1860-1865," Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide volume 14, number 3 (Fall October 2015) [hyperlink http://www.19thc-artworldwide.org/index.php/autumn15/byrd-hilton-head-island-journey-to-freedom-1860-1865 ].

“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, 2015), 15-30.

Digital Projects

Punkah Project  is a digital feature which complements Motive Power: Fans, Punkahs, and Fly Brushes in the Antebellum South, a  Buildings and Landscapes article. This project makes available research not included in the article, and places all of the known fans in a geospatial context for further analysis.  

With Tyler DeAngelis, Tracing Transformations: Hilton Head Island’s Journey to Freedom, 1860-1865, web application,  Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide.

Fifty Years Later: The Portrayal of the Negro in American Art, celebrating the 1964 landmark paintings exhibition of African-American subjects at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art. 

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).

Conferences and Invited Lectures

“Picturing the New South for Old New England via Intermediality,” Moving Pictures: Images Across Media in American Visual and Material Culture to 1900, American Antiquarian Society, Center for Historic American Visual Culture (CHAVIC), Worcester, Massachusetts, November 2015.

“Close Enough to Be Kept at Bay: Harriet Cany Peale’s Her Mistress’s Clothes,” American Art and Visual Culture Seminar, The Newberry Library, Dr. William M. Scholl Center for American History and Culture, Chicago, Illinois, November 2015.

“Conditional Beauty: Harriet Cany Peale’s Her Mistress’s Clothes,” Beauty and Ethics, A Seminar, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, October 2015.

“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.

Honors and Fellowships

Southeast Society for Architectural History (SESAH) Award for Best Journal Article 2016

Mellon Digital Research and Publication Initiative (Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide) 2014-15

Lunder Consortium for Whistler Studies Workshop 2014

Bowdoin College Professional Development Grant (Research) 2012-15

Wyeth Fellowship in American Art, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA), National Gallery of Art 2010-12

Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship  2010

Institute for Southern Studies Research Fellowship University of South Carolina  2010

James Renwick Fellowship in American Craft, Smithsonian American Art Museum 2010

John Enders Summer Research Grant  2009

Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery at Yale, Research Grant 2008

The Dewey Lee Curtis Research Fellowship, Decorative Arts Trust  2007

Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fellowship for Travel Abroad2007

Yale University Summer Language Grant (German) 2006

E. McClung Fleming Thesis Prize, Winterthur Museum2005