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Tribute to Don Wood

/ Staff Updates

After more than 30 years as Curator of Asian Art at the Birmingham Museum of Art, Dr. Donald A. Wood retired on December 29, 2017.

Don started college with an interest in music and history. Spending his Junior Year abroad in Osaka, Japan encouraged him to rethink his future. He went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in East Asian Studies at Wittenberg University in Ohio, and his Masters, Masters of Philosophy and Ph.D. in Asian art history from the University of Kansas with a focus on Japan and China.

Don’s museum career started at The National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan. He also worked at the Spencer Museum of Art and at the New Orleans Museum of Art before starting at the BMA in 1987. He was only the second Curator of Asian Art at the BMA. He was appointed The Virginia and William M. Spencer III Curator of Asian Art in 2000, and served as Chief Curator from 1996 to 2008.

The First Emperor
The First Emperor

Often called a most “acquisitive curator”—considered by Don a compliment of the highest order—he has, over the course of three decades, worked on a variety of projects and made numerous acquisitions. He organized the acclaimed exhibition The First Emperor: Treasures from Ancient China, as well as Kamisaka Sekka: Rimpa Master—Pioneer of Modern Design, which established Don as an expert in the field of Sekka’s work.

Don also published two catalogues on the Asian collection while at the BMA. He worked closely with the Museum’s Asian Art Society and more recently with the Indian Cultural Society to promote the arts of all Asian nations and to increase their profiles within our community. Don’s final project Afterlife: Asian Art from the Weldon Collection brought together highlights from the renowned Henry and June (“Jimmy”) Weldon Collection, a gift to the Museum by longtime patrons, supporters, and friends of Don. Through his discerning knowledge and incredible dedication to the BMA, Don established its exquisite collection of Asian art as the finest in the Southeast.

In special recognition of his distinguished service to the Museum, the Board of Trustees of the Birmingham Museum of Art appointed Don Curator Emeritus of Asian Art at the Birmingham Museum of Art.

Don’s illustrious career was capped on December 15, 2017 upon receiving one of Japan’s most prestigious honors in the world of culture. Takashi Shinozuka, Consulate General of Japan in Atlanta, conferred on Don the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays, a rarely awarded national decoration that recognizes Don’s dedication to cultural exchange and promotion of the arts of Japan.

The BMA staff is grateful for Don’s collegiality, leadership, and friendship over the years. We wish Don well in this new phase of life and look forward to seeing him back at the BMA!