Chase F. Robinson has been the Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian’s museums of Asian art, since December 2018. Robinson, a highly regarded scholar of Middle Eastern history and culture, previously held senior leadership roles at the Graduate Center of the City of New York (CUNY) for a decade. During his tenures as provost and president (2008–18), the Graduate Center made major investments in the interdisciplinary humanities, social sciences, and experimental sciences, and established itself at the forefront of digital learning and teaching. Robinson recruited distinguished faculty, including the Center’s first Nobel laureate; put in place partnerships with institutions in the United States and abroad; and greatly expanded public programming in the arts, culture, and public affairs. He also led the Graduate Center to its highest levels of fundraising and sponsored research.
From 1993 to 2008, Robinson was a faculty member of the Faculty of Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford, which offers degrees in the history, culture, politics, and arts of East Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East. He chaired its Faculty Board from 2003 to 2005.
A scholar of Islamic history and culture, Robinson has authored or edited nine books and more than forty articles that span the geographical and chronological breadth of the pre- and early-modern Islamic Middle East. They include A Medieval Islamic City Reconsidered: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Samarra (2001), Texts, Documents and Artefacts: Islamic Studies in Honour of D.S. Richards (2003), and the first volume of The New Cambridge History of Islam (2010). His book Islamic Civilization in Thirty Lives: The First 1,000 Years (2016) was translated into Arabic, Indonesian, and Portuguese. In 2017, he coedited The Works of Ibn Wadih al-Ya’qubi: An English Translation, a three-volume set of translations of some of the earliest works of history and geography in Arabic.
Robinson earned his bachelor’s degree from Brown University, having also studied at the American University in Cairo, the University of Cairo, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He received his doctorate from Harvard University’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. He is the general editor of Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization and a member of the editorial board of Past & Present. His editorials and commentaries have appeared in a number of magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times.
Robinson succeeds Julian Raby, who retired in December 2017. Richard Kurin served as acting director of the museums until Robinson’s tenure began.