Director's Welcome

Welcome to the O’Donnell Institute

Dr. Michael L. Thomas, Director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History, has been engaged in archeological excavations in Italy for more than 25 years, where he co-directs two projects: the Oplontis Project in Torre Annunziata near Naples, and the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project in Tuscany

As the second Director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History (EODIAH) at The University of Texas at Dallas, I welcome your interest in our institute. Our formation in 2014 was the result of a $17,000,000 endowment gift from Mrs. Edith O’Donnell, one of the great Dallas philanthropists, who has a long-time interest in Art History. Soon after, an augmentation of her gift in the sum of $10,000,000 from the State of Texas joined an additional $3,000,000 from other Dallas-area philanthropists. UT Dallas appointed Professor Rick Brettell as the Founding Director, and the O’Donnell Institute was underway.

Brettell’s accomplishments in just the first five years verge on the unbelievable. In addition to overseeing the construction and designs of our space in the Edith O’Donnell Arts and Technology Building at UT Dallas, he created a partnership with the Dallas Museum of Art that resulted in a research center within the museum itself. Brettell also forged partnerships with Nanjing University in China to create the Institute for the Study of American Arts in China (ISAAC), where we now have a center in the Pearl Buck house in Nanjing. He also partnered with the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte in Naples to create our Center for the Art and Architectural History of Port Cities at La Capraia, which supports residencies and scholarly symposia.

I feel fortunate to be the one who will lead EODIAH into its second phase and I look forward to further developing our current projects, as well as expanding our work into new partnerships and alliances. I come to UT Dallas from the University of Texas at Austin, where I directed the Center for the Study of Ancient Italy. My teaching and research focus on the art and archaeology of the Etruscans and Romans and I have excavated in Italy for over 25 years. This includes my current work as co-director of the Oplontis Project, which centers on an important Roman site near Pompeii. I am thrilled to bring this project to EODIAH as we expand our footprint on the Bay of Naples.

Edith O’Donnell wanted to found a place that would take advantage of the science and technology strengths of UT Dallas and create a “new art history” that is both innovative and interdisciplinary. The pages of this website offer a great deal of information about our outstanding faculty and scholars and their superb research. In addition to the work of our scholars, EODIAH is committed to supporting education and student research. Our faculty teach a variety of courses in Art History at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. In 2018 we launched our new Master’s Program in Art History, and we continue to support several Ph.D. Fellows in the Arts. EODIAH will be very much involved with UT Dallas’s new initiatives in the arts, which include the university’s recent acquisitions of the Crow Museum of Asian Art, the Barrett Collection of Swiss Art, and the Wildenstein Platner library.

I hope this ever-evolving website will provide you a tantalizing introduction to the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History and its many activities.

— Dr. Michael L. Thomas
Director, The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History
and the Edith O'Donnell Distinguished University Chair