Helen M. Shannon, Ph.D., flanked by Dr. David Milburn and Cecile Keith Brown, date unknown. Source: Dr. David Milburn Legacy Award webpage. Photographer’s name not known.
It is with deep sadness that we report the passing of Helen M. Shannon, Ph.D. The photo was likely taken when Helen worked in the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Education Department, 1976-87, according to her LinkedIn page.
We have suffered a profound loss in our field and it will be felt among those with whom she worked. A few years back, a former student wrote that Helen Shannon had been an important mentor, calling her “one of the most inspirational career driven women I have ever met. I have never had a professor who has pushed me so hard to succeed, and I will be forever grateful to the role she has played in the development of my career as I pursue my Master’s Degree.” Helen inspired many of us, and she will not be forgotten.
Mark Campbell of the University of Arts, where Helen was Associate Professor and Director of the M.A. Program in Museum Studies, has written this account of his colleague:
“It is with great sadness that we announce the sudden passing of
Associate Professor Helen Shannon. Helen has been a well-respected
member of the UArts faculty since joining the University in 2006,
directing the Museum Education program within Museum Studies, and
since fall 2013 serving as coordinator of Graduate Studies. An
accomplished educator and museum professional, Helen has had a deep
and lasting effect on the scholarship and professional training in her
Helen received a BA from Stanford University, an MA from the
University of Chicago, and a PhD from Columbia University – all in Art
History. Her dissertation was titled “Race and cultural nationalism in
the American modernist reception of African art.” Notable
professional appointments include executive director of the New Jersey
State Museum and educator in charge, Office of Public Programs, at the
Metropolitan Museum of Art. Freelance curatorial work includes “In the
Spirit of Martin: The Living Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” a
Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibition, and “Biennial 2000: At
the Crossroads,” for the African American Museum in Philadelphia.
In 2015 Helen published, “Norman Lewis: Presence and Absence” as part
of “Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis” (University of California
Press – Ruth Fine Editor). She was in the process of completing an
important book in the field of Museum Education, “History and
Understanding of Museum Learning.” Active in the museum world through
lectures and symposia, Helen has served on many boards including
current appointments with the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums and
the African American Museum. She was also an ongoing member of the
African American Collection Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of
Within the UArts community and beyond, Helen was a respected scholar,
known for her integrity, grace and solid professionalism. She
instilled in her many students a tenacious work ethic, deep respect
for knowledge, and an awareness of the central role that museums play
in the enrichment of our lives.
An event celebrating the life of Helen Shannon will be announced to
the community in the coming weeks.”
– –Mark Campbell, Dean
College of Art, Media & Design
The University of the Arts
320 Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
IMAGE BELOW: From the award-winning exhibition catalogue, Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis (2015). Source: GoogleBooks.