Digital Art History

Digital Art History

At Bucknell University as part of a Library and Information Technology Mellon Summer Curricular grant, Art History Professor Janice Mann worked with me to redesign her ARTH 373 “The West Encounters the Rest.” The class examined what happens to the visual arts when European cultures encounter those in other parts of the globe. Moving chronologically from the 15th to the early 20th century, ARTH373 explored how the visual arts develop in response to encounters between cultures with different cultural identities and artistic traditions. The redesign focused on facilitating collaborative learning and co-inquiry through activity-centered digital projects.

Students in the Samek Gallery creating Smart History style videos with their smart phones.

Students collaborated on a range of digital projects over the course of the semester. Beyond regularly contributing to a course blog, students developed concepts for curating works of art from the Samek. They created two SmartHistory-style videos: the first assignment was based on works housed in the Samek and the second assignment was based on works housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They researched, wrote, and collaboratively edited a Wikipedia entry on Chinoiserie. The Wikipedia assignment resulted in heated and thoughtful conversations about description vs. opinion and the cultural readings and ramifications of word choice.

In producing the culminating project for the semester, students worked with objects housed in the local Packwood House Museum. Students identified objects that aligned with the focus of the course and created a digital exhibition: Asian Objects at the Packwood House. The project was created in Adobe Spark. There are formatting limitations to Spark, but two of the deciding factors in using the platform was that it was free and HTML5 compatible, which means that it readily adapts to smart phones and devices. This was crucial for us in deciding on the platform because we wanted people visiting the museum to be able to use the project as a virtual tour guide.

After the course, three of the students applied to do summer research with Professor Mann, which resulted in the Packwood House Museum Digital Collections. One of the students, Ariel Senackerib is now pursuing a masters program at Sotherby’s.