Robert Saarnio, a curator, architectural historian and specialist in historic preservation, has been appointed director of historic houses at The Johns Hopkins University.
Saarnio will be responsible for Evergreen and Homewood House, two historic houses owned by the university and open to the public as museums and centers for the promotion of art and history in Baltimore. Homewood, a National Historic Landmark celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, is the centerpiece of the university's Homewood campus in north Baltimore 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."
Steven Knapp, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs of the university, said Saarnio will continue the work of Cindy Kelly, the houses' previous director. 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 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 university's Homewood campus. 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. "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.
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