Museum Issues 58.360/201
Dr. Liana Cheney


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Syllabus of Lectures


COURSE DESCRIPTION: The art museum in the United States is a unique social institution because of its blend of public and private support and its intricate involvement with artists, art historians, collectors, the art market, and the government. This course will study the art museum’s history and status in our society today. Special consideration will be given to financial, legal and ethical issues that face art museums in our time. Short papers, oral reports and visits with directors, curators and other museum officials in nearby museums will be included along with a detailed study of a topic of one’s choice "More than a physical place, the museum represents certain sets of ideas and ideals of a specific culture. This course provides a historical and theoretical overview of museums and their exhibitions."

COURSE OUTCOMES: Students attain an understanding of the social and historical development of the institution of the museum. Through critical readings and writings, they are able to analyze the fundamental assumptions of museums and exhibitions as a medium of and setting for a specific ideology. Students gain in-depth knowledge through analysis of specific case studies.

-I. Karp and S. D. Lavine, eds. Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display. Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991.
-E. Alexander, Museums in Motion. Nashville: American Association for State and Local History, 1990.
-S. Crane, Museums and Memory. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000.

-G. Kavanagh, Making Histories in Museums London. Leichester University Press, 1996.
-S. M. Pearce, Museums, Objects and Collections. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992.
-D. Maleuvre, Museum and Memories. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999.
-S. Lee, ed. On Understanding Art Museums. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc. 1995.
-B. Sylvan, A Short Guide to Writing About Art. New York: Prentice Hall, 1992.

WEBSITES: See the Art History website "links" section for museums throughout the world.

CLASS COMPORTMENT: Since this is a professional presentation at the university level, students are not permitted to eat, drink and use cellular phone during class lectures and discussion. Students are not permitted to tape the lectures. Disable students must see me on the first day of class to accommodate their individual needs.

EXAMINATION: There will be two take home examination, an oral presentation and final paper based on your oral presentation. In addition there will be four museum reports based on visiting and studying those museum Examination misses without prior excuse from the instructor or excuse for medical or other emergencies cannot be made up. No voice mail, email or fax will be acceptable.

VISUAL AND WRITTEN ASSIGNMENT: In order to familiarize yourself with museums of different nature in your area, your Museum Report Assignment will be as follows. You will visit 4 museums, including art, science or technology, enhancing your cultural and aesthetic experience as well. After careful study of the function and structure of the museum, you will write a two-page commentary for each museum. See Instruction Format.

The museum visit that you will attend or select may be from the following categories. However, you may not choose more than two museums from the same category. You need to produce an item of proof that you participated in any of these events, for example, a photograph or postcard of the object or museum visited, an entrance fee stub, purchase ticket, or a pamphlet from the visited site. The categories are:

1. Visit a museum of science 
2. Visit a museum of technology
3. Visit a museum of art
4. Visit a museum of textile
5. Visit a museum of furniture, cars, trains, etc
6. Visit a museum of numismatic 
7. Visit a historic house

WRITTEN ASSIGNMENT: All paper assignments are due on May 9. All late papers will be penalized or not accepted constituting course failure. Each cultural event commentary should be approximately of two pages long (200 to 250 words per page), double-spaced and typed with copied illustrations or support information regarding your attendance to the cultural event. The written assignment will be graded on form as well as content so that spelling, punctuation, grammar, and syntax are to be considered with some car. You are to consult with me before participating in any of the cultural events. All work done outside of class must be type written or computer printed, double- spaced. Make sure that you keep a copy of your paper.

GUIDELINES FOR WRITTEN ASSIGNMENT: All written material presented for evaluation should follow these guidelines.

CONTENT: You must have an introduction, stating the purpose of your paper, a development explaining thesis of your project and a conclusion, a summary of your findings. Always include information that you have learned from the lectures or the assigned readings. If sources are consulted (books and articles) make sure they date post 1975 with the exception of encyclopedias. You must credit the sources you use in a footnote or endnote. Although you may read survey texts, such as those of Janson, Hartt, or Gardner; however, these do not count among the acceptable sources for research for this art history course at the 300 level. You may consult The Encyclopedia of World Art and The Oxford Companion to Art and other pertinent encyclopedia of science and technology at the Reserve Section of the O'Leary Library/South Campus; however; these do not count among the acceptable sources. The Art Index (an annual index of periodical literature on art) is very helpful source for books and articles in art history. In addition, you may be assisted by internet and websites information; however, be aware of always recording and listing the source of your citation with name of the author, title of the article and date. Downloading information from the internet without proper citation constitutes plagiarism Bibliographical references must be included to demonstrate the sources you have consulted. Illustrations should follow the bibliography. In your paper define the limits of the topic you are considering, clarify the issues surrounding the topic with respect to the relationship between art and culture, comment on the scholarly problems involved, and offer some original incite into the topic. Be sure to see and read critically. You will find little agreement among various authors. 

FORMAT: The computerized typing must be as follow: accepted fonts Arial, New York, Geneva, Courier, Palatino and Bookman; only 12 points in character. A computerized page contains approximately 200 to 250 words, less than this is not acceptable. Papers written in any other format is not acceptable. All pages must be numbered. 

NOTE ON PLAGIARISM: Be careful never to copy directly or directly adapt from another author without crediting the source. General sources must be listed in a bibliography; any indirect or direct quotation or paraphrase must be footnoted. Any unacknowledged copying will receive an F (failure) for the course. Student will be subject to academic suspension from the university.

ORAL PRESENTATION: On May 1 notify me of your oral presentation assignment topic. The presentations are scheduled for May 8, 11 and 15. During the course further information and guidelines will be given regarding the structure of the oral format. Honors students are encouraged to participate in this learning activity. See Instruction Format.

HANDOUTS: A series of mimeographed materials will be given out throughout the course in order to help you with your reading assignments.

EVALUATIONS: The take home exam will count 40% of your final semester grade. The museum paper and oral presentation will count 30% of your final semester grade. And the museum reports will count 30% of your final semester grade.

MUSEUM VISITS: Students are individually responsible for visiting, in particular, the Fogg Art Museum, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Art Museum, the Worcester Art Museum, Museum of Science in Boston, The Harvard Museums of Science, and the museums and historic houses in Lowell and surrounding area.

OPTIONAL MUSEUM VISITS: Probably during the semester the Art History Club will sponsor some field trips to the Boston Museum. Also, there will be scheduled one or two trips to New York City, Worcester, Hartford, New Haven (CT) in order to visit some major exhibitions or museums. You will not be penalized for not participating in these trips.

OFFICE HOURS: Tuesday and Thursday between 5:00-7:00 P.M. Also, other times by appointment. My office is in Coburn Hall, Room 201.

EMAIL FORMAT: When sending me an email, kindly use as subject the following structure:
A. SUBJECT: Museum Studies
B. GREETING: Start your message with Dear or Hello Dr. Cheney,…and then write your message
C. SIGN OFF: with your name.

(N.B. Syllabus information subject to change without prior notice)

Week 1 & 2: Jan. 30-Feb. 1 & Feb. 6-8: Introduction: The History of the Museum
Alexander, "What is a Museum," "The Art Museum," and "The History Museum"; Crane, "Introduction" and "Thinking Through the Museum";
Henietta Lidichi, "The Poetics and Politics of Exhibiting Other Cultures," [handout pp154-160].
Recommended: Pearce, "Museums: The Intellectual Rationale" and "Making Museums Meanings"

Week 3 & 4: February 13-15, February 20-22: Establishing Definitions, Negotiating Meanings, Discerning Objects
Alexander, "The Natural History Museum," "Botanical Gardens and Zoos" and "Museum of Science and Technology"; Henietta Lidichi, "The Poetics and Politics of Exhibiting Other Cultures," [handout 184-194];
Recommended: Kanavagh, "Time Heals: Making History in Medical Museums"; Timothy Mitchell, "Orientalism and the Exhibitionary Order" [handout]; Carol Duncan, "Art Museums and the Ritual of Citizenship "in Karp, pp. 88-103; Pearce, Chapter Two.

March 1: Take Home Exam I
See Instructions

Week 5 & 6: Feb. 27-March 1, March 6-8: Culture and Representation
Alexander, "The Museum as a Cultural Center and Social Instrument"; Crane, "Memories in the Museum"
Recommended: Kaavanagh, "Try to be an Honest Woman"; "Hard Men, Hard Facts"; "Making Family Histories..Australia," "African Americans…""Making Histories of African Caribbeans," "History of Folklore" and "Making Cultural Diverse Histories"; Svetlana Alpers; "The Museum as a way of Seeing" in Karp, pp. 25-32; Michael Baxandall, "Exhibiting Intention" in Karp, pp. 33-41; Masao Yamaguchi, "The Poetics of Exhibition in Japanese Culture" in Karp, pp. 57-67; B. N. Goswamy, "Another Past, Another Context, " in Karp, pp. 68-77;
Maleuvre, "Museum Times"

Week 7 & 8: March 13-15, March 20-22 Semester Break

Week 9: March 27-29: Museums and Identity
Alexander, "Museum as Conservation," "Museum as Research," and "Museum as Interpretation"
Recommended: Maleuvre," Bringing the Museum Home" and "Balzacana"; Kavanagh, "Making Histories from Archeology," Making Histories of Sexuality," "Making Histories of Wars," "Making City Histories" and "Making Histories of Children"

April 5: Take Home Exam II
See Instructions

Week 10 & 11: April 3-5, April 10-12: Museums Collecting
Alexander, "The Museum as Collection"; Crane, "Collectors and Institutions"; Spenser Crew and James Sims, "Locating Authenticity; Fragments of a Dialogue" in Karp, pp. 88-103; Susan Vogel, "Always True to the Object, in Our Fashion" in Karp, pp. 191-204; Patrick Houlihan, "The Poetic Image and Native American Art" in Karp, pp. 205-211.
Recommended: Jeanne Cannizzo, "Gathering Souls and Objects: Missionary Collections" in Barringer, 153-166; Pearce, "Objects Insides and Outsides Museums," "Museum, Objects and Collections," "Collecting: Body and Soul," "Collecting: Shaping the World" and "Objects in Action."

Week 12 & 13: April 17-19, April 24-26: Museum Functions
Pearce, "Meaning as Function," "Meaning as Structure," and "Meaning in History"
Recommended: Kavanagh, "Making Histories, Making Memories" and "Why Not Invent the Past…"; Lee, On Understand Art Museums.

Week 14: May 1-3: Museum Profession
Alexander, "The Museum Profession"
Recommended: Pearce, "Problems of Power," "Projects and Prospects" and "Models for Object Study"; Kavanagh, "Making the History Curriculum"

Week 15: May 8-10: Oral Presentations
See Instructions

Week 16: May 15: Oral Presentations cont.