January 2024, Jessica L. Ambler, Ph.D.

Jessica L. Ambler, Ph.D., is the Director of the Martin Art Gallery at Muhlenberg College and she just joined the Communications Committee as a volunteer for AAMG! Thank you Jessica for your time and talents shared with the AAMG community!

What’s one thing — either industry/work-related or not — you learned in the past month?

I had a studio visit with Amber Cowan, a glass artist based in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago which was very rewarding. Cowan uses glass cullet sourced from scrap yards supplied by defunct pressed glass factories as well as vintage pressed glass and milk glass objects that she collects from flea markets and antique stores. Her knowledge of the history of American glass production is incredible and I learned so much from chatting with her about her practice and medium.  

What do you value about your membership with AAMG?

I am incredibly grateful that I joined AAMG. I have found community, both locally and nationally, through attending events and the annual conference. In fact, at the conference in June 2023, I went to a breakfast organized for those who work solo or with a small staff. It was great to share ideas and to be able to ask questions about how others handle various tasks. I am also so happy that I joined the AAMG communications committee because I get to meet more amazing people in the field and spread the word about AAMG events! 


If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be?

If I could trade places with anyone for a day, it would be an opera singer. I would love the opportunity to be able to sing and perform!

Coffee or Tea?

I enjoy tea but my day isn’t ready to begin without coffee!


Book/Author suggestion? 

I tend to read mostly fiction for fun. My recent favorite reads: Haven, Emma Donoghue; Lapvona, Ottessa Moshfegh; Matrix, Lauren Groff (I’m on a bit of a kick with historical fiction!). I also enjoy nonfiction books about the art market like Georgina Adam’s Dark Side of the Boom and Big Bucks and I just read Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Ways of Curating.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

A poet or novelist – I really enjoy creative writing.

What do you enjoy most about being a part of an academic museum?

I appreciate that in my position at Muhlenberg I am constantly working with faculty, staff, and students which makes the job so rewarding. I think that this kind of collaborative, and often interdisciplinary, work is crucial for exploring new ideas and engaging a broad audience.

What are your hopes for our industry?

I recently read a wonderful article (by Christina Olsen, the director of the University of Michigan Museum) that discussed the importance of academic museums and galleries as testing grounds for new artists and concepts. Because we are situated on college campuses, we have the opportunity to spark conversations with our exhibitions and programming and to push boundaries within a scholarly community. 


Bonus: Do you have a favorite joke to share?

What do pirates do in their free time? They make arrrrrrrrrrrt!