Special Subject: History, Theory & Criticism of Art - Collecting Cultures

Ranging from the curiosity cabinets of the Renaissance to the modernist “white cube” gallery to the return of curiosity in contemporary exhibit design, this course investigates practices of collecting and display, past and present, and the active role of collections in the production of meaning. The course examines these practices in long historical perspective, but particular emphasis will be placed on the emergence of the national museum and on the spread of European models of museums of art and ethnography. How are historical and art historical narratives, collective memories, and conceptions of time and temporality articulated around objects and their recontextualization in private collections and public museums? How has the museum helped to construct disciplinary ways of seeing, whether art historical or ethnographic? How, in particular, has collecting, especially as institutionalized in purpose-built museums and by the heritage industry, helped to shore up conceptions of cultural difference and national culture and how might these same constructs be challenged by alternative “post-narrative” and “post-national” exhibition practices?

Seminar participation, visits to museums and heritage sites, and a research paper are required.