Janalee Emmer graduated from Brigham Young University in 1997 with a bachelor's degree in art history and in 2001 with a master's degree in art history and curatorial studies. She received her PhD in art history at Pennsylvania State University. Her focus is modern and contemporary art, with a particular interest in nineteenth-century European and American art, women artists, and Asian art and architecture.
Emmer has taught at Ohio Wesleyan University, the University of Tennessee, and Bucknell University. She has worked at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Palmer Museum of Art on Penn State Campus, and the Springville Museum of Art. She returned to BYU in 2014 as a curator and the Head of Education at the Museum of Art.