Museum Studies Meets 360° Course Clusters
The Museum Studies program is fundamentally interdisciplinary and fieldwork based, reaching across disciplinary boundaries and outside of the Bryn Mawr campus. For this reason, the Museum Studies program is a welcome complement to Bryn Mawr’s 360° Course Clusters. The 360°s are an innovative and interdisciplinary curricular opportunity that allow students to participate in a cluster of courses in different disciplines, connecting different ideas around a common theme and applying their academic learning beyond the traditional classroom.
Over the course of the 2016-17 school year, two courses organized exhibitions from the College's Special Collections. One of these 360° Clusters, The Poetics and Politics of Race: Querying Black and White, featured courses led by Monique Scott, Anthropologist and Director of Museum Studies; Anne Dalke, Professor of English Literature; and Jody Cohen, Professor of Education. The College's growing collection of African artifacts, including the recent gift of Dr. Jane Martin '53, M.A. '58, was at the center of students' research and curatorial activities. Students used part of the Rare Book Room as their classroom, newly conceived as a Collections Laboratory, to familiarize themselves with objects and to experiment with modes of installation and storytelling. The final version of the student-organized exhibition was on view during the first half of the spring semester.
A second 360° Cluster, Mirroring the Self/Exhibiting the Self, follows on the model established by the 360° Exhibiting Modern Art, which produced the exhibition, A Century of Self-Expression. These courses combined rigorous art historical research, theoretical exploration of display strategies, and practical execution of an exhibition and catalogue. During the fall semester, students studied self-portraiture under Professor Steven Z. Levine in the Department of History of Art. Given the global and historical range of the collection, the class considered art and artifacts of all kinds in relation to practices of self-portraiture, self-representation, and self-fashioning. They met with guest subject experts and visited museum exhibitions with recently appointed curator Carrie Robbins, Ph.D. '13, and Lecturer in the pilot program for Museum Studies, who led the second course in the cluster. With her advice, students selected objects from the collection for the exhibition, which they researched to produce catalogue entries. The student-curated exhibition was on view in the Rare Book Room, accompanied by a student-authored catalogue.
Both course clusters explore theories of exhibition-making and equip students to identify curatorial approaches as they visit local museums. Enrolled students apply what they've learned in class and through museum visits to determine their collective curatorial agenda, to produce didactic materials, to develop public programming, and to install exhibitions on campus.