Is a picture worth a thousand words?

Picture of a Continental 4 Dollar Note

Students often associate historical research with the reading of texts. However, studying visual images can also yield valuable insights into understanding the past.

In spring 2017, Assistant Professor of History Desmond Fitz-Gibbon taught The History of Money and Finance that examined “the social, political and cultural meaning of money at different times in the history of the western world.” A major component of the course was a hands-on analysis of “money stuff” utilizing the MHC Art Museum collection of coins, currency and other credit instruments. Each week students examined monetary objects from ancient times to the present, culminating in the writing of an Acquisitions Proposal to the Art Museum. Students took on the role of making a pitch for the museum to purchase a new object, a pitch supported by a detailed examination and an historical analysis of the value of the proposed acquisition.

To help students with the course and the final project, Fitz-Gibbon teamed up with staff from the Art Museum and Bryan Goodwin, the Library, Information & Technology Services (LITS) liaison to the History Department. Together, they developed a research guide drawing upon the college’s extensive research database collection in the humanities and social sciences. Goodwin also taught a research instruction session to help students choose the most appropriate databases and craft effective search strategies.  By the end of the course, students were successfully finding scholarly literature to support their analysis and obtaining additional imagery through services such as ArtStor.

Interested in developing an active classroom project using one of our databases?  Contact your LITS Liaison.