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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Ackland Art Museum selects Dana Cowen as first Peck Curator

Dana Cowen

Dana Cowen, former associate curator of European art at the Josyln Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, is the inaugural Sheldon Peck Curator for European and American Art before 1950.

In this newly endowed position, Cowen will be responsible for the care, cataloguing, display, expansion and refinement of the Ackland’s distinguished collection of European and American art before 1950, organizing and overseeing exhibitions, conducting research, publication, curricular engagement and public outreach, within the context of a global public research university. Cowen will also serve as curator of the Peck Collection.

“Cowen’s range of curatorial accomplishments and art historical interests make her ideally suited for this important new position at the Ackland,” said Katie Ziglar, director. “I look forward to her energetic contribution to our ambitious goals of engaging the entire campus and our broader community under the motto ‘look close, think far.’”

The Ackland’s collection in this area encompasses more than 10,000 works of art, with special strengths in prints, photographs and drawings. The collection has recently been dramatically enhanced by the gift of 134 outstanding Dutch and Flemish master drawings of the 17th and 18th century from the collection of Drs. Sheldon and Leena Peck. The Pecks’ generosity also endowed this new curatorial position, along with acquisition and stewardship endowments. 

“Cowen distinguished herself in our international search by her successful dedication to visitor engagement, scholarly acumen, alertness to the potential of new technologies and breadth of experience,” said Peter Nisbet, deputy director for curatorial affairs. “Her passion for the transformational power of art in education and life is infectious.”

Cowen received her master’s and doctoral degrees from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Since 2015, she has served as associate curator of European art at the Josyln Art Museum, where she oversaw a full reinstallation of the European collection, made major acquisitions and acted as in-house curator for several major travelling exhibitions. Between 2004 and 2014, she held several curatorial and other positions at the Cleveland Museum of Art. 

“I am honored to be joining the Ackland Art Museum and the Carolina community,” Cowen said. The museum’s dynamic approach toward exhibitions and visitor engagement, its mission to provide meaningful experiences through scholarship and education, its passionate staff and the vibrant campus drew me to this role.” She began work at the Ackland on Sept. 4.