Carolyn Butler-Palmer

Carolyn  Butler-Palmer
Williams Legacy Chair, Associate Professor
Art History & Visual Studies
Office: Fine Arts 143

BA (Carleton), Dipl. Art History (UBC), M.S. (Utah), MA & PhD (Pittsburgh)

Area of expertise

Modern and Contemporary arts of the Pacific Northwest

Areas of research

  • Engaged Art History
  • Modern and Contemporary Arts of the Pacific Northwest
  • Patronage studies and preserving the tangible and intangible legacies of Michael Collard Williams

Brief biography 

Carolyn Butler Palmer is Associate Professor of Art History and Visual Studies and Legacy Chair at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. She earned an M.S. in Folklore and Architectural Studies from the University of Utah and a Ph.D. in the Histories of Art and Architecture from the University of Pittsburgh. She is an engaged art historian who practices and writes about engaged art history. In terms of content, she focuses on Indigenous and Settler relations to art in the Pacific Northwest region, theories and practices of curating, digital presentation of art historical work, and advocacy within the discipline of art history for engaged art history. Her program of research is community-based, public, and open.

Carolyn authored "Big Art History: Art History as Social Knowledge" for the Journal of Canadian Art History, is currently contributing to new CAA Standards for the Practice of Art History that include public scholarship, curating, community-based research, and digital scholarship. At present, she is also working on a book manuscript tentatively titled "Writings from the Edges of Art History" along with an array of other book and curatorial projects. 

Strength in Spirit | Gateway to Art

The Wildflowers Around Victoria Painted on Silk | Gateway to Art

Selected professional achievements

Professional Achievements

2018-Present   College Art Association Professional Practices Committee

2011-2015   British Columbia Representative for the Board of the Universities Art Association of Canada

Editorial Boards

2014-Present     BC Studies, Editorial Board


2020-Present     Deputy Editor for North America, Women’s History Review

Selected publications

Articles (peer reviewed)
“Big Art History: Art History as Social Knowledge.” Canadian Journal of Art History vol. 34, no. 1 (2013): 148-165.

“Building Autonomy: The Fifteenth Ward Hall of the Mormon Women’s Relief Society.” Buildings and Landscapes vol. 20 (Spring 2013): 69-94.

“Renegotiating Identity: ‘Primitivism’ in 20th Century Art’ as Family Narrative.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies vol.29 (Fall 2008): 186-223. 

Book chapters (peer reviewed)
“David Neel: Cosmopolitan and Kwagiutl?” Indigenous Cosmopolitans: Transnational and Transcultural Indigeneity in the Twenty-First Century. Ed. Maximilian C. Forte. New York:Peter Lang Press, 2010. 63-76.

Catalogue essays (Invited)
“Paintings in the Present Tense.” David Neel: Living Legends Gatineau, QC Inuit and Indian Art Gallery and the Canadian Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, 2003: 17-25. 

Multi-year community projects with substantial portfolio
2010-present,Principal Investigator“The Williams Collection Oral History Project and Pacific Northwest” database initiative collects, transcribes, and annotates transcripts interviews. A digitized portfolio of 9 interview excerpts published on line. 

2009-2012Principal Investigator“ACCESS Art.” Installation of about 40 works of art at ACCESS Health, Cool Aid Community Health Clinic, Victoria, British Columbia and web exhibit (with technical and graphic design assistance from Amy Harris.)  

Community projects with demonstrable impact
Principal Investigator, “Art Procession.” March 22, 2012, Performance Exhibition, Victoria, British Columbia, with 11 participants and web exhibition portfolio (with technical and graphic design assistance from Amy Harris), 2012 
Exhibitions (peer reviewed)
Chief Curator, “On Communities and Nations.” April 5-June 9, 2012, Legacy Gallery, Victoria, British Columbia. 

Chief Curator, “Regarding Wealth.” February 24-June 10, 2010,          Legacy Gallery, Victoria, British Columbia. 

Exhibitions (other)
Co-Curator with Peter Morin, “Adasla: The Movement of Hands.” January 16-April 25, 2014, Legacy Gallery, Victoria, British Columbia

Curator, “Creating Con[text].” March 13-June 15, 2013, Legacy Gallery, Victoria, British Columbia. 

Chief Curator, “Connect the Blocks.” Jan 26-Feb 22, 2011, Legacy Gallery, Victoria, British Columbia. 

Chief Curator, “A Walk Through the City: Experiencing Victoria as Flâneur.” February-April, 2009, Legacy Gallery, Victoria, British Columbia. 

Encyclopedia entries (peer reviewed)
“Surrealism and Dance.” Accepted in the Routledge online Encyclopedia of Modernism(anticipated date of appearance: 2015). Approximately 700 words.

Conference proceedings (peer reviewed)
“Creating Metaheritage: Community-Based Work with the University of Victoria’s Williams Bequest,” University Museums and Collections Journal-ICOM, appeared March 2011: 53-60.

Conference proceedings (other)
 “Preservation and Conservation: Separate Disciplines, Common Goals,” Proceedings 1995 Interdisciplinary Conference: Knowledge Tools for a Sustainable Civilization. Fourth Canadian Conference on Foundations and Applications of General Science Theory, (1995): 212-219.

Book reviews
Jennifer Kramer, Kesu’: The Art and Life of Doug Cranmer, Douglas and McIntyre, 2012 print version in press in B.C. Studies. (Invited)

Dawn Ades, ed., The Colour of My Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art, Vancouver Art Gallery, May 28–October 2, 2011, Canadian Art Review 37, no. 1 (2012): 98-100.