The Lure of the Past: Collecting Antiquity (ARTH-310)

The Lure of the Past: Collecting Antiquity

Students study Greek and Roman objects for their coursework. Photo credit: Laura Shea.

Instructor: Bettina Bergmann

In this course we study the collecting and display of Greek and Roman objects from antiquity to the present.

During the course, we visit very different collections and speak with curators about their installations (the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, the Joseph Allen Skinner Museum, the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, the Smith College Art Museum, and the Yale University Art Gallery).

In addition, students select an ancient work of art from the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum’s collection, retracing the object’s journey from its original cultural context to its eventual acquisition by a college museum in South Hadley.

The culminating course project asks students to design an exhibition using their object as a touchstone for creating a narrative experience for museum visitors. Students integrate ideas about installation, historical context, cultural patrimony, aesthetics and the function of objects. Past students have built three-dimensional object models, while others made virtual installations with software packages.

All the students write papers explaining their exhibition goals, reasoning and process.

“After conducting in-depth research, I had a sound grasp of the information available about the ‘life of the lar’ and the mysteries still unsolved. By the end of the semester, I was prepared and eager to apply this knowledge, along with what I had learned through analysis of ancient art installations, for the creation of my own virtual exhibition. This process exposed the complexities of curation and highlighted the number of choices and level of detail required to organize a successful exhibition.” — Taylor Anderson ’15