Medievalist art historian Myrtilla Avery began her career in library science. After graduating from Wellesley College with a degree in Greek, she enrolled at State University of New York, Albany. She worked in the university library system while taking classes, and earned her Bachelor’s degree in library science in 1895. Avery was an assistant to the director of the University until 1913, when she received her Master of Arts degree from Wellesley. She then began teaching at her alma mater while also working on her PhD at Radcliffe College.
While at Wellesley, Avery proved to be an innovative force when she began teaching the university’s first art history course in 1915. She also introduced a class at the university’s Farnsworth Museum, which served as one of the first museum curator training programs in the United States. Avery completed her PhD in 1927, and two years later was named both director of the Farnsworth Museum and chair of the Art Department at Wellesley. She was a member of the Medieval Academy of America and the Archaeological Institute of America. Avery retired in 1937 and was named professor emeritus.