Transition at USC Museums

Message to the USC Community

From: Charles F. Zukoski, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Today we are pleased to share that Dr. Bethany Montagano has been named the new Director of USC Museums, effective January 1, 2022. Dr. Montagano will be assuming the artistic and creative leadership role from Dr. Selma Holo who has chosen to retire after more than four decades at USC.

Dr. Holo brought relevant and exciting exhibitions to our campus and to our wider community, free of charge, as director of the USC Fisher Museum. She forged close relationships with curators, educators, and directors from museums across the city and the globe.

As director of USC’s successful Museum Studies Program from 1981 to 2005, Dr. Holo launched Dornsife’s International Museum Institute in 2005 that resulted in global partnerships in Mexico and Latin America that were chronicled in her book Remix: Changing Conversations in Museums of the Americas. From 1977-1981, she was curator of acquisition at the Norton Simon Museum where she worked directly with Norton Simon whom she credits with “giving her the world.”

Dr. Holo will hold the honorary designation of Executive Director of USC Museums Emerita and will continue to lend her influence and expertise.

During Dr. Montagano’s tenure as director of USC Pacific Asia Museum and interim director of USC Museums and Galleries, she enacted a visionary plan to deconstruct orientalism by rethinking and reprograming the museum’s collection. She championed contemporary and immersive art exhibitions including Oscar Oiwa: Dreams of a Sleeping World, and We Are Here: Art and Asian Voices in L.A. and Divine Immersion: The Experiential Art of Nick Dong. Additionally, she forged a partnership between the USC Shoah Foundation and USC Museums to form USC’s Stronger than Hate initiative, a campus-wide collective dedicated to using the arts to resist identity-based hate. She has a strong strategic vision for the USC Museums and we look forward to her bold leadership.

Prior to her appointment at USC PAM in 2019, Dr. Montagano played formidable roles in the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Notably, she carved out a niche in the museum field for supporting social justice and human rights exhibitions to amplify the voices of marginalized artists and communities through the curated exhibitions titled Black is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite, and Fearless Fashion: Rudi Gernreich. In addition, she contributed to the academic publications Indivisible: African and Native Lives in the Americas and Why We Serve: Native Americans in the United States Armed Forces. In addition, Dr. Montagano served as senior Curator at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles where she created major art, photography, and fashion exhibitions to promote a more equitable society.

Dr. Montagano earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Asian Studies and studied at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan. She has a master’s degree in Museum Studies and earned her doctorate in American History with an emphasis on gender, race, and cultural representation from the University of Notre Dame.

President Folt and I look forward to honoring Dr. Holo’s accomplishments and celebrating Dr. Montagano’s new role next semester. Please join us in wishing them well as we further advance our university’s enduring legacy of artistic excellence.

cc: Office of the President
Academic Deans
President’s Senior Leadership Team
Provost’s Leadership Team
Academic Senate
Staff Assembly
GSG President
USG President