The Johns Hopkins Gazette: September 30, 2002
September 30, 2002
VOL. 32, NO. 5


Cranbrook Curator to Take Helm of University's Historic Houses

By Dennis O'Shea
Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

Robert Saarnio, a curator, architectural historian and specialist in historic preservation, has been appointed the university's director of historic houses.

Saarnio will be responsible for Evergreen and Homewood House, both university-owned properties that are open to the public as museums and centers for the promotion of art and history in Baltimore.

Robert Saarnio at Homewood House

Homewood House, a National Historic Landmark celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, is the centerpiece of the Homewood campus and one of the nation's finest surviving examples of Federal architecture. Evergreen, a 48-room house on the National Register of Historic Places, was the home of Baltimore's Garrett family from 1878 to 1942.

Saarnio, who will begin work Nov. 11, comes to Johns Hopkins from the Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., where he has been curator and collections manager for the community's cultural properties since 1999. Previously, he was curator of architecture at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Mass.

"Homewood House and Evergreen House stand at the pinnacle of historic residence museums owned and managed by universities across the nation," Saarnio said. "Their professional staff, collections, events, exhibits and programs--and, of course, their sheer architectural grandeur--are immense and unique assets of the university."

Saarnio will continue the work of Cindy Kelly, the houses' previous director, Provost Steven Knapp said. His goal will be to make Evergreen and Homewood indispensable stops for those interested in cultural history and contemporary art in Baltimore and to make their resources more readily available to assist the work of Johns Hopkins faculty and students.

"Rob has a comprehensive understanding of what is involved in the management of historic houses, as well as a clear and compelling vision of their importance to the university and the broader community," Knapp said.

Saarnio's position also involves serving as curator of art collections at the Homewood campus.

"I look forward to building upon the creative legacy left by my predecessor, to collaborating closely with the Provost's Office and others across campus, and to leading a team of dedicated house museum professionals in advancing Homewood House and Evergreen House to new levels of excellence," Saarnio said.

Saarnio is a 1992 graduate of Harvard University with a concentration in the history of architecture. He earned a master's degree in historic preservation in 1994 from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a director of Preservation Action, a national advocacy organization; the Michigan Historic Preservation Network; and the Michigan Alliance for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage.