ARTH 240
Histories, Communities, and Collections Fall 2018
Division I
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What can the College’s collections of documents, artifacts, art objects, natural history specimens, and rare books–whether housed in the Special Collections of the Library, Archives, or at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA)–teach us about our institutional past? How do we put that past into dialogue with our present? Planned specifically to engage with the WCMA’s The Field is the World, an exhibition that investigates two invisible histories contained within collections here on campus, this course will approach the questions of histories, communities, and collections in two ways. First, in lectures we will survey the history of collecting in Europe and the United States from the eighteenth century up to critical reinterpretations by contemporary artists and consider how collecting was often tied to other endeavors like establishing national institutions, researching human variety, representing colonial expansion, or documenting missionary efforts. Second, in interactive sessions we will meet with curators, librarians, and guest speakers to look at objects first hand and to discuss the relationship between collecting and scholarship. Over the course of the semester we will examine the historical models of knowledge production and audience engendered by collections and their display. Moreover, we will work together to formulate new models of interpretation that address overlooked histories and engage with the current interests of our campus community.
The Class: Type: lecture; two 75-minute meetings per week; one in lecture format, the other in discussion format
Limit: 15
Expected: 10
Class#: 1009
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: participation in interactive sessions, weekly written responses, one 3- to 4-page essay, one 8- to 10-page final project (proposal for an exhibition or a recontextualization)
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis; not available for the fifth course option
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: none; for interactive sessions at WCMA and the Library space will be limited
Distributions: Division I

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