As Director of Garden and Landscape Studies at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, John Beardsley oversees a fellowship program, a lecture series, an annual symposium, a publications program, summer internships, and a series of installations of contemporary art in the institution’s historic gardens, as well as a new Mellon-funded initiative in urban landscape studies. Recent publications include the edited volumes Landscape Body Dwelling: Charles Simonds at Dumbarton Oaks; and the proceedings of the 2010 symposium, Designing Wildlife Habitats and the 2013 symposium, Cultural Landscape Heritage in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Trained as an art historian, with an AB from Harvard and a PhD from the University of Virginia, he is the author of numerous books on contemporary art and design, including Earthworks and Beyond: Contemporary Art in the Landscape (fourth edition, 2006) and Gardens of Revelation: Environments by Visionary Artists (1995), as well as many titles on recent landscape architecture. He has extensive experience as a curator for numerous museums, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Among the exhibitions he has organized or co-organized are “Black Folk Art in America” (Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1982); “Hispanic Art in the United States” (MFAH, 1987); and "The Quilts of Gee's Bend" (MFAH and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2002). In 1997, he was curator of the visual arts project, "Human Nature: Art and Landscape in Charleston and the Low Country," for the Spoleto Festival U.S.A. in Charleston.
Beardsley has taught in departments of landscape architecture at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard University, where he was an adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Design from 1998 to 2013, teaching courses in landscape architectural history, theory, research, and writing. While at the GSD, he also co-organized the exhibitions “One Hundred Years of Landscape Architecture at Harvard” (2000) and "Dirty Work: Transforming the Landscape of Nonformal Cities in the Americas" (2008) which examined efforts to improve environmental conditions in low-income communities across Latin America.