Nancy Barr is a specialist in modernist and contemporary photography. A native of Detroit, Michigan, she earned degrees in photography and art history from the College for Creative Studies, Detroit, and Wayne State University, Detroit. Barr worked with collections at the Reuther Labor Archives, Wayne State University, and the Detroit Historical Museum before joining the curatorial staff at the Detroit Institute of Arts as an intern in 1993.
She has worked in the department of Graphic Arts (prints, drawings, and photographs) as an assistant curator (1996–2004) and associate curator (2005 to present). Barr has written numerous articles and organized over 20 exhibitions for the DIA including Images of Identity: Photographs of Native Americans (1994), Picturing Paris (1996), Where the Girls Are: Women Photographers (1999), The Enduring Horizon: American Landscape Photography (2000), and Style of the Century : Selections from the DIA’s Collection (2002-03). Most recently, Barr organized a 2004 residency project with artist Dawoud Bey at Chadsey High School, Detroit, entitled Dawoud Bey: Detroit Portraits (2004).
She has also co-curated photography exhibitions for the Center for Photography, Woodstock, and the International Center for Photography, New York City. Her published research includes contributions to the Photography Quarterly, Big magazine, and DIA’s Bulletin, as well as the three-volume edition The Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography published by Routledge in 2006.