Training 21st-Century Curators for a 21st Century Audience: Presenting Historical Objects in Digital Media

Professor Gülru Çakmak (Assistant Professor, 19th-Century European Art, UMass Amherst), has received a Five College Blended Learning Initiative grant for 2016-17. These awards are supported by the Five College Deans and a multi-year grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The goal of the grant is to engage faculty members in the exploration and evaluation of blended learning’s potential to enrich teaching and learning in liberal arts settings. Professor Çakmak will be working with UMass Amherst IT to create some of the resources for this course. A summary of her project is below.

I propose to launch a digital exhibition platform that will host student research projects conducted in conjunction with undergraduate course requirements. The pilot project is an undergraduate seminar on nineteenth-century sculpture to be offered at UMass Amherst in Fall 2016. The students shall gain experience in the scholarly curatorial tasks of selecting artworks drawn from the Five College Museums Collections, conducting archival and historical research, and orchestrating a combination of textual and audio-visual material that presents their scholarship online in a language accessible to a general public. The blended course will teach the students new skills in the use of digital technologies, and stimulate them to explore innovative ways to access and mediate the experience of artworks, including those kept in museum storages and not displayed in the galleries, in a manner that will come alive for a non-academic audience. This will deepen the students’ learning, inducing them to practice different kinds of thinking, bringing their own original solutions to the question of how to translate real-life embodied experiences of sculptural objects to digital space, which would be unavailable to them in a conventional classroom seminar.