Anna Morris | Assistant News Editor
Assistant professor of art history Matthew Milliner was recently appointed to the Senate Curatorial Advisory Board. Chosen by Senator Mitch McConnell, Milliner will serve on the board through January 2015, advising the Senate Curator and the United States Senate Commission on art.
Milliner, whose focus is in Byzantine and medieval art, will serve on a board composed of members from various backgrounds; Milliner said that he counted 13 people at his last meeting, with professions ranging from museum professionals to art historians. His duties will range from giving advice regarding the Senate collection to consulting on the preservation of the Capitol.
Milliner, who is a 1998 graduate of Wheaton College, said that his appointment came as a shock to him and that being chosen by Senator McConnell was a surprise given that his specialization is not in American architectural history.
“I got a call from one of his (McConnell’s) staff members asking if I would be willing to participate,” Milliner said. “Although I have published work on American architectural history, as it is not my primary specialization, I recommended others who I thought might be a better fit. Nevertheless, they asked for my résumé and selected me. “
Milliner said that his responsibilities as a member of the board not only include advising the Senate Curator and Senate Commission, but also taking periodic trips to meet with the rest of the members. However, he said with humor that he will continue to fulfill his duties as a professor at Wheaton College, despite his new appointment.
“I will henceforth be teaching all of my classes via Skype from my office on Capitol Hill,” Milliner said. “Kidding aside, I believe that this appointment will not significantly conflict with my teaching responsibilities. The committee does not meet with great frequency, and I traveled to Washington last week for an all-day meeting on Tuesday while managing to teach three classes on Monday and three on Wednesday.”
News of Milliner’s appointment was published both locally and statewide, with an article written for Wheaton’s website being featured on the Chicago Tribune’s website. The article notes how Milliner’s past research on contemporary art and American architecture have helped develop him for this role.
“Milliner, who completed an M.Div. at Princeton Theological Seminary, then an Art History M.A. and Ph.D. at Princeton University, says his research on the architecture of that campus allowed him to develop an understanding of the architecture of the U.S. Capitol,” the article originally posted on Wheaton’s website said.
Milliner said that he hopes that his appointment will also benefit his students, and that as he gains experience through his work with the board, his knowledge will better engage students, both in the classroom and beyond.
“I believe that this opportunity will make me both a better teacher and a better resource for my advisees,” Milliner said. “My work as a board member has already enriched my lectures on American art history, and it is my hope that the connections I have made at the Senate and with fellow board members will result in new opportunities for Wheaton students.”
Sophomore Maureen Lynch, an art history major who is also an advisee of Milliner, spoke concerning Milliner’s passion and dedication to his field of study, which she said were reflected through his recent appointment.
“It is very apparent to me that Dr. Milliner is invested in his students and in setting an example of the relevancy of art history in our world today,” Lynch said. “For me, it is really encouraging to see an art historian care about his students enough to set the example for them, and it just shows that he is really invested in what he does.”
Milliner said that he looked forward to applying his academic training in his new role, particularly in terms of the Capitol building, which he called “a symbol and record of our democratic ideals.” In addition, Milliner spoke to the areas he hopes to focus on during his two years of service.
“Ultimately, I hope to gain direct jurisdiction over all decorating decisions at Wheaton, including dorm rooms,” Milliner said. “Seriously though, my focus is to be as informed as possible for when (the) board meets for its next consultation. … The non-partisan work of the Senate Commission on Art helps protect the material culture of the Senate from more transitory political considerations. I’m very proud to play any role in that stewardship.”