Spring Semester Curricular Engagement at the Museum of Art
The Museum of Art remains an integral part of the learning experiences of students at Bowdoin and an important resource for faculty in their teaching. In the first half of the spring semester, faculty and students from a variety of departments visited the museum to study artworks in the Zuckert Seminar Room.
For example, students in professor of art Mark Wethli’s drawing course learned about artistic techniques related to their own studio projects, while students in the team-taught Art History 1100 survey visited the museum weekly, using collections to study the global history of art. Students across the disciplines also viewed exhibitions in the galleries to discuss connections to course topics, and several classes created exhibitions and other exciting course projects drawn from the collections. One such class project was a pop-up exhibition entitled “Arts, Industry, and Innovation in Antebellum America,” held in the Zuckert Seminar Room at the beginning of March. Curated by the students in professor of history Patrick Rael’s course “Between Revolution and Rebellion” over the first half of the semester, the pop-up responded to the exhibition Rufus Porter’s Curious World and drew from materials at the Museum of Art and in Bowdoin’s Special Collections & Archives to explore society and values in antebellum New England.
Following spring break in March, Bowdoin transitioned to remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the Museum of Art’s contributions to academic life have evolved to accommodate this transition and support faculty and students completing courses online. In addition to revamping the education landing page and highlighting existing resources, including online collections and digital catalogues, new digital resources are being developed to serve the campus now and in the future. These include new and extended search features for the online collections and the development of “ePackets’” for Bowdoin classes, a new online resource providing students with enhanced access to BCMA objects, including study images and exhibition and label histories. During the current COVID-19 crisis, ePackets offer a timely virtual pathway to engage with the Museum and its rich collections; in future semesters, ePackets will provide classes with new ways to continue visits to the museum.
The team at the Museum of Art is currently working with faculty and students to create new online exhibitions as well. Students in the spring 2020 course “Archaeology of Spectacle,” taught by Ambra Spinelli, visiting assistant professor of classics, have spent the semester curating an online exhibition on the theme of spectacle across the ages, from the ancient Greek to modern worlds. Engaging objects from both the Museum of Art and the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, the exhibition will launch in May. In David Gordon’s history course, “The Powers of Central African Art” (fall 2019), he worked with students in the class to create an exhibition, The Presence of the Past: Art from Central and West Africa, which will be on view when the Museum re-opens to the public. In response to the Museum’s temporary closure, a digital exhibition that presents the students’ contributions to this exhibition has just launched. Through these and similar efforts, the Museum remains committed to fostering curricular engagement and expanding access to its global collections
Read this related article: “During Shutdown, Bowdoin Museums and Special Collections Throw Open Their Online Doors”
Sean P. Burrus
Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow
Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow