HAA 279P - The Object in the Art Museum





Makeda Best, Mary Schneider Enriquez

Practicing art history in today’s increasingly mobile art world—whether as a field curator, academic researcher, critic, or other professional specialism—requires museum literacy, intellectual empathy, and the ability to work in multiple voices and mediums, in addition to art historical expertise. This object-centered seminar will introduce students to the central competencies required of art historians working in or with museums today, ranging from skills for assessing the quality and authenticity of objects on the market, to tools for working with living artists and presenting works of art to non-expert audiences. Through practical and written assignments accompanied by key readings, as well as site visits and behind-the-scenes introductions, students will gain an understanding of how the practice of art history in the gallery both differs from and relates to its practice on the page.  The course will consider the key issues, debates, and interpretative strategies driving museum practice, and tackle existential questions about the role and responsibility of the 21st-century museum.  Throughout the semester, students will work towards public-facing outcomes.  They will identify potential acquisitions, and produce and present a temporary installation at the end of the semester.  The course will meet at the Harvard Art Museums, a uniquely rich university museum environment endowed with deep collections and state of the art curatorial and conservation facilities.