Fall 2010 Syllabus Cindy Ott, Phd tuesday & Thursday 9: 30-10: 45am email

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Fall 2010 - Syllabus Cindy Ott, PhD

Tuesday & Thursday 9:30-10:45am email: cott3@slu.edu

Class Location: office location & hours: Humanities 110 Kolmar Conference Room (Humanities 244) 11 to 1 Tuesdays & by appointment
ASTD 393-01: Introduction to Museum Studies
What can historic house museums, city zoos, national art galleries, and tribal museums tell us about how Americans have thought about themselves and the world around them? In this class, we will study the history, politics, and design of museum collections and exhibitions. We will trace museums’ development from private cabinets of curiosity (such as the art collections of Asian royalty and the zoos of European princes) to public educational institutions in the nineteenth century. We will analyze museum exhibition trends in the context of changes in the natural and social sciences, exploring for example, the shift from displaying artifacts by type to geographic and cultural origins. We will especially focus on the politics of display, that is, how museum objects project and interpret ideas about cultures and nature, and how people have fought against these interpretations. We will explore these topics through scholarly writings, visual and material culture studies, and visits to local St. Louis institutions.
WEEK 1: Why do museums matter?

Aug 24: Introduction

Course Overview
Aug 26: What is a Museum?


Janet Marstine, “Introduction,” in New Museum Theory and Practice: An Introduction (Blackwell, 2006), pp. 1-36.

WEEK 2: Objects as History and Culture

Aug 31: Material Culture Theory


Marius Kwint, “Introduction: The Physical Past,” in Material Memories: Design and Evocation (Marius Kwint, et al, eds.) ((Berg, 1999), pp. 1-16.

Sep 1: Material Culture Workshop: Guest speaker Rebecca Odom


Jules David Prown, “ The Truth of Material Culture: History or Fiction?” in History from Things: Essays in Material Culture (Steven Lubar and W. David Kingery, eds.) (Smithsonian, 1993), pp. 1-19.

WEEK 3: History of Museums

Sep 7: Cabinet of Curiosities & European Influences


Laura Auricchio, “Pahin de la Blancherie’s Commercial Cabinet of Curiosity (1779-87),” Eighteenth Century Studies 36, no. 1 (Fall 2002), pp. 47-61. (available Project Muse)

Sep 9: American Origins


-Charles Willson Peale, “To the Citizens of the United States of America,” Dunlap’s Ameican Daily Advertiser, Philadelphia, PA, Jan. 13, 1792.

-Louis Agassiz, “Letter of 1863 to Mr. Thomas G. Cary,” Mar. 23, 1863

-Carol Duncan, “”Public Spaces, Private Interests: Municipal Art Museums in New York and Chicago,” in Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums (Routledge, 1995), pp. 48-71.

DUE: Topic for exhibition review
WEEK 4: Creating History and Culture

Sep 14: Invented Traditions


Eric Hobsbawn, Mass-Producing Traditions: Europe, 1870-1914,” in Representing the Nation: A Reader; Histories, Heritage and Museums (David Boswell and Jessica Evans, eds.) (Routledge, 1999), pp. 61-86.

Sep 16: History Making: Heritage


Arjun Appadurai and Carol A. Breckenridge, “Museums are Good to Think With: Heritage on View in India,” in Representing the Nation, pp. 404-420.

DUE: Final project topic
WEEK 5: Exhibition Design: The Act of Seeing

Sep 21:


Tony Bennett, “The Exhibitionary Complex,” Representing the Nation, pp. 332-362.

Sep 23:


Lizabeth Cohen, “’Fit for America’: How Fit for Visitors?,” in Ideas and Images: Developing Interpretative History Exhibits (Kenneth Ames, et al, eds.) (Altamira, 1997), pp. 137-161.

DUE: Student presentations of exhibition reviews
WEEK 6: Famous Exhibitions

Sep 28: Degenerate Art

SITE VISIT: STL Regional Arts Commission Roseann Weiss


Mary-Margaret Goggin, “’Decent” vs. ‘Degenerate’ Art: The National Socialist Case,” Art Journal 50, no. 4, Censorship II (Winter, 1991), 84-92 (available at jstor)

Sep 30: Family of Man


Eric Sandeen, “Picturing the Exhibition,” in Picturing an Exhibition: The Family of Man and 1950s America (University of New Mexico Press, 1995)

DUE: Online Exhibition critique topic
WEEK 7: Living History & Issues of Race

Oct 5: Slavery


David W. Blight, “If You Can’t Tell It Like It Was, It Can Never Be As It Ought to Be,” in Slavery and Public History: The Tough Stuff of American Memory (The University of North Carolina Press, 2008), pp. 19-34.

Oct 7: Civil Rights


William Yeingst and Lonnie G. Bunch, “Curating the Recent Past: The Woolworth Lunch Counter, Greensboro, North Carolina,” in Exhibiting Dilemmas: Issues of Representation at the Smithsonian (Amy Henderson and Adrienne Kaeppler, eds.) (Smithsonian, 1997), pp. 142-155.

WEEK 8: Mickey Mouse History

Oct 12: SITE VISIT: The Pulitzer Foundation Director Matthias Waschek


Michael Wallace, “Mickey House History: Portraying the Past at Disney World,” in History Museums in the United States: A Critical Assessment (University of Illinois Press, 1989),

pp. 158-180.
Oct 14: Students presentations of Online Exhibition Critique
DUE: Exhibition Review


Oct 21: Animals on Display

SITE VISIT: Jody Sowell, Missouri History Museum


-Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, “Seeing Ourselves through the Bars: A Historical Tour of American Zoos,” Landscape 25, no. 2 (1981), pp. 12-19.

-Susan Willis, “Looking at the Zoo,” The South Atlantic Quarterly 98, no. 4 (1999), pp. 669-685.

WEEK 10: Holocaust Memorials and Museums

Oct 26: SITE VISIT: STL Holocaust Museum


James E. Young, “Holocaust Memorials in America: Public Art as Process,” in Critical Issues in Public Art: Content, Context, and Controversy (Harriet Senie and Sally Webster, eds.) (Smithsonian, 1992), pp. 57-70.

DUE: Museum Controversy topic
Oct 28:


Reesa Greenberg, “Mirroring Evil, Evil Mirrored: Timing, Trauma, and Temporary Exhibitions,” in Museums After Modernism, pp. 104-118.

DUE: Object and image list for exhibition final project
WEEK 11: On Curating Diverse Cultures

Nov 2: SITE VISIT: SLAM Curator Matthew Robb


Ruth B. Phillips and Christopher B. Steiner, “Art, Authenticity, and the Baggage of Cultural Encounter,” in Unpacking Culture: Art and Commodity in Colonial and Postcolonial Worlds (University of California Press, 1999), pp. 3-19.

Nov 4:


William W. Fitzhugh, “Ambassadors in Sealskins: Exhibiting Eskimos at the Smithsonian,” in Exhibiting Dilemmas, pp. 206-245.
WEEK 12: Museum Controversies

Nov 9:


Michael Kammen, “Nudity, Decency, and Morality,” in Visual Shock: A History of Art Controversies in American Culture (Alfred A. Knopf, 2006), pp. 47-67.

Nov 11: Student Presentations of Museum Controversy

DUE: Museum Controversy essay
WEEK 13: American Indians & Museums

Nov 16: Legacy


David W. Penney, “The Poetics of Museum Representation: Tropes of Recent American Indian Art Exhibitions,” in The Changing Presentation of the American Indian: Museums and Native Cultures (National Museum of American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 2000), pp. 47-66.

Nov 18: Revision


Elizabeth Archuleta, “Gym Shoes, Maps, and Passports, Oh My!: Creating Community or Creating Chaos at the National Museum of the American Indian?,” in The National Museum of the American Indian: Critical Conversations (Amy Lonetree and Amanda Cobb-Greetham, eds.) (University of Nebraska Press, 2008), pp. 181-207.

WEEK 14: Women

Nov 23:


Juli Carson, “On Discourse as Monument: Institutional Spaces and Feminist Problematics,” in Museums After Modernism: Strategies of Engagement (Griselda Pollock and Joyce Zemans, eds.) (Blackwell, 2007), pp. 190-224.

DUE: Draft of Exhibition Script
WEEK 15: Student Presentations of Exhibition Projects

Nov 30: Student presentations

Dec 2: Student presentations
Final projects due December 10

Fall 2010 HIST 393.01: Introduction to Museum Studies Dr. Cindy Ott

Course Requirements


15% - Online exhibition critique

20% - Exhibition review

20% - Museum controversy essay

35% - Exhibition Design Final Project

10% - Class Participation

Students are expected to attend all classes, to have read the material, and to be prepared to discuss it in class. Your active attention and participation is needed to create lively class discussions.

Readings will include primary and secondary source material, including scholarly works that are pivotal to the field of the museum studies and those that address certain topics and eras in museum history and practice. Students are expected to be able to identify the author’s main arguments and to gain familiarity with historic trends and ideas as discussed in the readings. In most classes, I will also present some visual materials, such as images of exhibition displays and works of art, which we can analyze together in class.
Assignments include a 3-page online exhibition critique, a 3-page exhibition critique, a 3-page museum controversy essay, and a design and plan for a single-case exhibition. Each assignment also includes a class presentation of your work.
The topic for the 3-page exhibition review is due on September 9 and the review is due September 23. You will also present your review using images from the exhibition in class. For this assignment, visit a local museum and analyze one of its exhibitions. Determine the themes or “take-away” messages, and analyze the success of the objects, text, and exhibition design in communicating these themes. What was good about the show? What was less so? How does the curator use the objects? Can you offer recommendations for improving the show? I will provide examples of exhibition reviews, for your reference.
The topic for the 3-page online exhibition critique is due September 30 and the critique is due October 14. As with the exhibition review, you will also present your critique using images from the exhibition in class. For this assignment, I want you to discuss the pros and cons of presenting the exhibition in an online format. What works and what does not? Discuss issues relating to the value of seeing the actual objects (being in their presence) vs. viewing images online. What is lost and what is gained? Is there an inherent value in the real objects vs. cyber ones? For example, is it the same to view Picasso painting online as in person? Why or why not? Analyze how the curator takes you through the exhibition, how information is presented in terms of graphics and text.

The topic for the 3-page museum controversy essay is due October 26 and the essay itself and your presentation of it is dues November 11. I will help you select a museum controversy that is of interest to you and then you will write a short essay about the controversy. You will study the exhibition content, the curatorial process, the issues and controversies raised by the exhibition, the visitors’ and critics’ responses to the show; and larger social or cultural issues the exhibition highlighted in American society. The point of this assignment is to look at the ways museums are platforms for debating issues of morality, race, gender, etc. in American culture.

The final project is a small one-case exhibition that you will curate and design. The topic is due September 16, the object and image list is due October 28, a draft of the script is due November 23, and the final project is due December 10. For this assignment, you will create your own small exhibition on a topic of your choice (with the professor’s assistance) using locally available materials. You will identity objects and images to display, write the labels, and determine the exhibition design (including color, font, and object placement).
Grading of the papers is based on the level of analysis, extent of research, and clarity of writing. Exams will include a multiple choice of short identifications, longer essay questions, and perhaps slide or image analyses.
I really look forward to working with you!

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