Past Patterns, Future Visions: Data in the Museum Winter 2023

Class Details

The course introduces students to analyzing and visualizing humanities data with a focus on questions that are critical to the future of art museums and other cultural heritage institutions: How can the format and content of museum metadata, especially collections catalogs, be used to promote works of art, and the people and cultures who created them, that have been marginalized? How can museums use data and data analysis in ways that are transparent, accessible, and allow for critique? How can we use data visualization and data storytelling to make museum collections more accessible and welcoming? Students will spend about six hours a week in class learning tools and approaches to humanities data and discussing case studies of museum and cultural heritage data projects at institutions like the Getty and National Gallery of Art. We will use the Williams College Museum of Art Data set, often alongside data sets from other museums, to explore different approaches to data using methods like mapping, text analysis, and network modeling. Outside of class, students will have short readings on different approaches to humanities data and the challenges of humanities data, as well as short assignments that work toward the final project. The final project will be a data analysis and visualization project, with accompanying project journal, on a topic of the student’s choice incorporating WCMA’s data set.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 15
Expected: NA
Class#: 1286
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: Final project or presentation
Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites. However, students will find the class more approachable if they have already worked with data in spreadsheet formats like google sheets or excel (for example, sorting content and using basic formulas).
Enrollment Preferences: Sophomores and juniors
Unit Notes: Beth Fischer '05 is the Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities at the Williams College Museum of Art, where she develops digital resources and provides consultation and training in the use of digital tools and methods for museum objects.
Attributes: EXPE Experiential Education Courses
SLFX Winter Study Self-Expression
STUX Winter Study Student Exploration

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