The Board of Directors of the Norman B. Leventhal Map and Education Center at the Boston Public Library announced last week that Garrett Dash Nelson, the Center’s Curator of Maps and Director of Geographic Scholarship, will become President and Head Curator on July 16, following the departure of current President Connie Chin.
A historical geographer whose work bridges landscape history, urban and regional studies, and critical cartography, Nelson (l.) joined the Leventhal Map and Education Center in 2019, after three years as a Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows and Department of Geography at Dartmouth College. During his tenure at the Center to date, Nelson has managed exhibitions in the Center’s gallery and launched the digital exhibition Bending Lines, overseen development of new tools and resources to enhance access to the Center’s vast holdings, and designed and hosted public-facing community events that have brought the Center and its work into critical local and regional conversations about people and places.
Nelson holds an A.B. from Harvard College in Social Studies and Visual & Environmental Studies, an M.A. from the University of Nottingham in Landscape & Culture, and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Geography with a minor in Culture, History, and Environment. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals on topics ranging from Frederick Law Olmsted to the spatial analysis of American commuting, as well as in public-facing outlets such as The Boston Globe, Places Journal, and CityLab. He is also a designer and developer, and has produced numerous interactive projects for researchers and the public.
“We are very pleased to welcome Garrett into the top leadership role at the Leventhal Map and Education Center,” says Alan Leventhal, chair of the Center’s Board of Directors. “His work is an appealing, impressive mix of academic rigor, and a keen sense of how to make the history and social implications of maps and data relevant to modern audiences. It is particularly exciting as we plan for the public reopening of the Center’s gallery.”
“I couldn’t be more excited to lead the Leventhal Map & Education Center right now,” says Nelson. “It’s an organization packed with talented staff, supported by thoughtful and committed board members, and brimming with creative ideas. Connie has done an exceptional job leading the Center in the past years, and we are on a solid footing to accomplish great things in the years to come.”
For the next two months, Nelson will co-lead the Leventhal Map and Education Center with Chin, who has served as its President for five years. In her time at the Center, Chin strengthened the organization’s financial position, evolved its move toward work that centers social justice, oversaw a major exhibition on the American West, launched a key partnership with the Washington Library at Mount Vernon, and developed the Center’s core partnership with the Boston Public Library. Chin is leaving the Center to take another non-profit leadership position in the Boston area.
“We thank Connie for her extraordinary leadership and signal accomplishments for the Map & Education Center,” Leventhal says. “We wish her well as she pursues another exciting opportunity.”
Nelson says his vision for the future of the Center emphasizes the possibilities of working with maps across different ways of thinking. “I believe public humanities in the 21st century will be championed by institutions like the Leventhal Map and Education Center: organizations that can bridge between scholarly discoveries, a commitment to preserving history for the public trust, an ability to engage with a diverse mix of audiences, and a facility with the new methods made possible by digital technology. We are bringing those strengths together to make the case for why geography is so crucial for stories about the past, present, and future.”
Nelson lives in Melrose, Massachusetts, with his wife and daughter.