Student Meredith Lancaster’s Passion for Art History and Archives

Community Profile
Meredith Lancaster

“I wake up in the morning and can’t think of anything else but art. When I go to bed at night, I can’t think of anything else but art. That’s how I know I was meant to be an art historian and archivist.”

 Meredith Landcaster, MLIS Student (degree expected spring 2022)
Los Angeles Metropolitan Area

Meredith Lancaster is an art historian who earned her B.A. in Art History from DePaul University and her M.A. in Art History from the University of Oregon. She has an extensive background in art history, museums, and nonprofits. Her passion for art curation and object preservation led her to San José State University’s iSchool to become an archivist.

Art History

Meredith’s love for museums and art started young, as she frequently visited museums with her parents. She found the exhibits remarkable, especially one that showed Edvard Munch’s “Scream,” which captured the fascination of her young mind. As she progressed through her undergraduate studies, she discovered that art history was a subject she could specialize in, thus starting her journey to majoring in the subject for both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. 

While the museum workforce is challenging in today’s society, Meredith managed to find opportunities to showcase her talent as an art historian, museum curator, and arts educator. One of her biggest accomplishments was curating the art exhibit, “Don’t Touch My Hair: Expressions of Identity and Community.” The exhibition investigated the politics of hair, racialized beauty standards, hair rituals, the importance of consent, and the differences in expectations between men and women with regard to hair.  “Don’t Touch My Hair” showcased original art by four University of Oregon student photographers. The photographs were of university students of all ethnicities and backgrounds. For the exhibit, each model worked directly with the photographer to create an image that reflected their personality and to participate in conversations about hair, both seen and unseen. Below are some of the photographs used in the exhibit.

'Don't Touch My Hair' Art Exhibit

To this day she remains active in the art history community by staying connected in organizations such as the Association of Art Museum Curators, where she networks with other field experts and engages in the field’s latest discoveries.

Transition into Librarianship and Archival Studies

After several years’ of doing freelance curatorial work, Meredith considered the prospects of expanding her career opportunities. With the guidance of her father, a retired senior librarian, she decided to become an archivist and enrolled in the iSchool’s MLIS program. Her career goals would be to work in a museum, special collection, or a digital library as an archivist. 

Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

Along with her experience, Meredith is also an active member of nonprofit organizations such as her local NAACP chapter and serves on the Board of Directors for the University of Oregon’s Black Alumni Network. Her passion for diversity and inclusion is reflected in her impressive resume, and she aims to combine this passion with her other passion of archiving.

“What I really hope happens is that there will be more training for librarians in terms of diversity and equity and inclusion. Especially when it comes to customer service. I think a lot of it should be towards constructive conversations with other people who are not of the same ethnicity as you. In order to serve the public, we have to be open to having those conversations.”

Mentors and Heroes

Meredith credits Marcel Duchamp as being her main artistic inspiration, given his nonconformist attitude and thoroughly innovative mindset. She also credits her success and ambition to her mentors, who have made it important to see her through her growth. Her greatest inspiration has been renowned science fiction author, Octavia E. Butler, whose work is a symbol of strength, discipline, and determination for her. She recommends Butler’s books for everyone: “her books are really heavy, but if you’re willing to sit in that heaviness, they’re life-changing.”

Her advice to other students: “be adaptable, and if you have to make changes (and) pivots, that’s okay, because it could lead you to something so much greater than you envisioned.”