I have been meaning to commemorate the life of Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura on Star Trek, as well as in a few episodes of Futurama. When I was very young, I liked Scotty because of how he talked. When I became a teenager, Uhura became my favorite character (for obvious reasons). Now that I’m older I like Dr. McCoy the most, for his gravelly cynicism and strong moral streak. Uhura was always doing cool stuff, like intercepting alien transmissions and speaking Klingon, or, in Star Trek V, providing an unusual tactical distraction. In a show filled with great characters, she stood out.
I was very pleased to learn, therefore, that her ashes are going to space. As someone who inspired generations of scientists, engineers, actors and science fiction writers (not to mention Martin Luther King himself), it is fitting she will spend eternity out in the cosmos.
I’ve been meaning to write for a while to comment on two important items of museum-related news. (Well, perhaps ‘news’ is a strong term.) The first is a lovely piece in Hyperallergic about the best museum bathrooms. This one really speaks for itself, and all I would add is an admonition, based on personal experience, never to use a Renzo Piano-designed urinal.
The second item is that the Getty Research Institute has announced its fellowship themes for AY2023-24, of which one is ‘Anatolia,’ that is, ancient Anatolia. This is part of a long series (dated back to my own fellowship there in the days of yore) of ‘The Classical World in Context’ themes, which reflect a proposed series of exhibitions at the Getty Villa (Egypt happened back in 2018 and Persia just closed).
I very much enjoyed my time at the Getty (and not just because I met my wife there), so much so that I hung around for a few more years after my fellowship ended. I therefore highly recommend these fellowships to anyone with a relevant research interest. That said, applying for these fellowships can be very confusing, with all the different Getty locations and constituencies and the multiple research themes. Therefore, I should like to offer here a brief primer on Getty fellowships.
Everything at the Getty is part of the J. Paul Getty Trust, headed by the president (until recently James Cuno, now Katherine Fleming, formerly provost at NYU). Within the Trust are four additional entities:
The J. Paul Getty Museum
The Getty Research Institute
The Getty Conservation Institute
The Getty Foundation
Although entity’s remit seems pretty clear, there’s enough overlap between them to be confusing. For example, the Museum has curators, of course, but so does the Research Institute. The Museum and GRI also each have their own publications departments. The Conservation Institute isn’t actually responsible for conserving the Museum’s collection (or the GRI’s); the Museum has its own conservators.
The Getty has two main locations, the Getty Center in Brentwood, Los Angeles, overlooking the 405 in the Sepulveda Pass, and the Villa in Pacific Palisades, on the border with Malibu. They also own some other sundry properties, such as the scholar housing complex in Brentwood (known as the Pink Palace) and the GRI director’s house in Malibu, and I have heard tell of a vast Getty warehouse in the valley that contains toilet paper as far as the eye can see.
The Center, which has occasionally served as a film set, houses the Trust, Foundation, Conservation Institute, GRI and part of the Museum.
The Villa, which until the 90s was the Getty’s only location, is now just the site of the antiquities department of the Museum.
All fellowships at the Getty are administered by the Research Institute. In most years there are multiple themes. Usually there are one or two broad themes (‘materiality’ in my fellowship year), as well as an ancient geographical one (‘Egypt’ in my year). In general, scholars working on the broad theme have offices at the Getty Center, while scholars working on the ancient theme have offices at the Villa. However, any scholar working on anything ancient gets an office at the Villa; for example, in my year there were a few people working on ‘materiality’ in ancient settings and they were located at the Villa.
In general there are two types of fellowships, pre- and postdocs, and senior fellowships (these are my terms for them). The senior fellowships are generally for established, tenured scholars, and typically last for three months. The pre- and postdocs are for nine months. But there are always exceptions to this pattern. The Villa typically has only one pre- or postdoc in the course of an academic year, meaning that the pre- and postdocs applicants are essentially all judged together. This makes it very difficult for a predoc to get a fellowship at the Villa.
I am always happy to help scholars demystify the Getty fellowships, so please do feel free to ask me if you have questions. Of course, this is all based on my own experience, not on any insider knowledge, so I cannot promise that my information is accurate, or even helpful!