Students in Art History at Bowdoin make use of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, visiting the galleries and exploring the collections for classes, curating exhibitions, and taking part in social events.
The Bowdoin College Museum of Art is one of the oldest, largest (over 17,000 objects), and most prestigious college art collections in North America. Renovated in 2007, the gallery spaces are spectacular, and the well-conceived storage and classroom spaces facilitate student use of the collection for classes and individual research projects.
Often, an Art History class will schedule a visit to the Zuckert Seminar Room, and works of art relating to the topic of the course are brought out of storage for close examination by students. Other times, students make use of works on display in the galleries. Each year the Museum hosts a number of significant exhibitions, bringing major works of art to campus (the recent display of ancient Chinese bronzes is an excellent example).
Some of the exhibitions are actually curated by students. For instance, students in Linda Docherty's "Private Treasures, Public Gifts" organized an exhibition currently on view in two galleries. The student exhibition drew upon the riches of the Bowdoin collection, selecting works donated to the college over the years by generous patrons; this provided a historical framework for the "Recent Acquisitions" exhibition that opened concurrently at the Museum. Students took part in every facet of exhibition design: selecting works for display, researching them, discussing their installation in the galleries, writing wall texts, and even helping to organize the opening festivities!
Taken together, the major exhibitions and the wealth of the Museum's permanent collection offer countless opportunities for teaching directly from objects. Indeed, the ability to work directly from significant original artworks is one of the things that makes studying Art History at Bowdoin so rewarding.
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