Art History 401

ARTH 401: Museum Studies I

Prerequisites: ART 215 or ART 216 or permission of instructor

Credit Hours: (3)

An introduction to museology or the study of museums, its focus is their history, their narratives, and their role in the communication (or suppression) of cultural values. Other students may use it to fill a 400-level art history elective if space permits.

Note(s): Students can not receive credit for both ART 491 and ARTH 401.


Detailed Description of Course

To paraphrase Mary Anne Staniszewski, in the introduction to her book on The Power of Display, art history traditionally studies the work of art as a discrete fact, but the reality is that we (and the public) never see art works as isolated units. Whether part of a permanent collection or a temporary special exhibition, each work is an actor in a staged context that influences not merely our response but even what we see. This class is the first part of a 2-course sequence devoted to examination of the history of museums (ARTH401) and the changing paradigms of exhibition display (ARTH430). ARTH401 must be taken before 430.


The major topics to be covered include:

I. Museum histories: museums before the 19th century

II. The Academy and the Salon in the 19th century

III. Art markets and museums: the commodification of art; the museum as a department store

IV. Influential museums – case studies: MoMA; NMWA; Guggenheim, Whitney, National Gallery of V. Women as patrons of the arts and founders of museums -- case studies: Isabelle Gardner, Katherine Dreier, Peggy Guggenheim, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and others

VI. The museum’s public: who goes to the museum (any museum), who doesn’t, and why or why not

VII. Unconventional museums – case studies: the ecomuseum, the community museum, the fair museum, restaurant-museums, etc.

VIII. Displaying the marvelous or marvelous displays: the architecture of museums

IX. Ethical questions: who “owns” the art in the museum? Do museums have the right to de-accession their holdings? Who “owns” national treasures?


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The class will be conducted as a seminar. Students will be expected to complete readings, to respond to topic questions, and provide feedback on one another’s major projects.

The major course project will involve ongoing research and presentation on a regular basis of new findings and new questions for your study. The final project will include a class presentation with the use of visual aids (a web site) and a product which can be turned in. Individual assessment and class feedback will contribute to the grade.

Project topics will probably be derived from the case study topics listed in the syllabus.


Student Goals and Objectives of the Course

Although all the art history learning objectives will be reinforced in this class, students in this class will demonstrate advanced mastery of the ability to:

• Analyze the impact of gender, culture and social developments in art history

• Explain changing patterns of patronage, markets, and exhibition structures in the art world

• Compare and apply different art historical methodologies to the analysis of artworks, styles, and museum and gallery exhibitions


Assessment Measures

Assessment will be based on course participation and the level of achievement in the major project. Each step in the research process will be critiqued and contribute to the final grade.


Other Course Information

Examples: Bibliography of readings relevant to the course, special teaching aids, and any other information not contained in one of the above sections.


Review and Approval