The Art and Museum Studies core course and electives are designed to stimulate discussion and to provide first-hand experience in museum specializations. Students may emphasize academic study of art and museums or an area of professional museum work such as education or curatorship, but all members of the program will have some experience in both kinds of study. Most courses meet frequently at area museums. The sample courses listed here are for general information only; seminar topics vary from year to year. Please contact the program if you want to know if a course listed here will be offered during your projected time in the program.
Museum Studies Practicum Courses
Museum Studies Foundations is the core course for the MA Program in Art and Museum Studies. The course will provide an overview of museum theory and practice by examining the history of museums and their collections, their functions and professional standards, and current debates about museum ethics, the role and authority of museums, audience, mission, and management. Our focus will be on art museums, but selected topics in historic and ethnographic museums will also be considered. This is a required course and taken in the Fall.
Schedule determined by student and museum supervisor; 15–20 hours/wk. Museum internships provide concentrated practical experience within selected museum departments as well as an overview of the operations of a museum. Some of our internships include a staff-directed seminar; most involve a linked research project as well as an internship journal. Expectations and placement will be discussed during the orientation session. This is a required course and taken in the Fall.
Students will be active participants in learning about museum education theories and practice. This course situates the functions of museum education and interpretation within the broader context of a changing paradigm in museums. During site visits to area art museums, educators will discuss aspects of interpretation, programming, and research that are unique to their museum. Class discussion will include such topics as how visitors learn in an art museum, new approaches to interpretation, education programming for varied audiences, building audiences and community, and the relationship of mission to education and interpretation. This course is offered every Fall.
The course focuses on general museum concepts and procedures as they relate to collections (objects and their documentation) and their management (e.g., preparation, preventive maintenance & conservation, housing, problem solving) as a whole. The course objectives are to introduce the participants to basic care and preservation of collections as well as a basic understanding of the history and current status of the governance of cultural materials.
By the end of the course, participants should understand the definition and role of collections within a museum context; understand the philosophy of cultural preservation and the meaning of cultural patrimony; understand the importance of collection ethics and the role of collections within museum accountability and accreditation programs; be familiar with museum policy development and the relationship between a collecting plan, a collections management policy, and a collections management plan; understand the importance of a collections management policy, its development, content, and application; and how such a policy governs the daily activities within a museum’s collections. This course is offered every Fall.
Curators are at the heart of the art world yet their role is a notoriously fluid one. This course will encourage participants to think critically about the discipline as it exists today, and will provide an extensive inquiry into curatorial practice. The class will address such issues as working with living artists, curating permanent collections, the place of biennials and art fairs, and strategies for engaging the public. Through readings and site visits to art museums around the city, students will have the opportunity to learn directly from practitioners in the field and gain an understanding of the ideas and practical concerns that shape how art is presented. Class projects will involve in-depth analyses of current exhibitions well as developing proposals for museum projects. This course is offered every Fall.
The many facets of leadership and management in a museum setting are explored through topics including nonprofit organization governance, board/staff relations, strategic planning, financial and human resources management, and diverse community stakeholders. The course introduces the basic components of financial statements of special interest to government oversight agencies and funders. Students develop and write grant proposals with corresponding project budgets. Course sessions on institutional planning address emergency management scenarios. Guest speakers share unique expertise gleaned from hands-on experience in museum administration roles. Students learn about current and new management tools to support how museums respond to social change through understanding organizational and community contexts, informed decision-making about collections, interpretation and programming, and garnering public and private support. Offered each spring.
In this course, we will examine the work of American women printmakers, with a focus on artists represented in the Georgetown University Art Collections. We will study the different forms of printmaking and consider art historical issues specific to prints, including duplication, circulation and reception. We will also consider the history of modern American women artists’ involvement in printmaking. Throughout the course, we will investigate the role of the curator and address the duties and challenges of the curatorial field. The course will culminate in the planning and preparation of a student-curated exhibition, which will be installed in summer 2022 in the Booth Family Center for Special Collections. Last offered spring 2022.
Within the span of just a few decades, digital technologies have made a profound impact on museums: from how they operate to how the visitor experience is constructed. With an emphasis on interpretation and outreach, this course will explore the impact of technology on museum approaches to collections, exhibitions, and education. A variety of digital media platforms will be covered, including websites, social media, in-gallery interactives, and mobile experiences. We will immerse ourselves in key issues that guide and frustrate the successful implementation of technology in 21st-century institutions, such as openness, collaboration, sustainability, and a focus on the museum audience as user. With the help of case studies and guest speakers, we will explore what’s possible—and what’s challenging—when it comes to museums and technology. This course is offered every fall.
What is the role of museums in fostering social justice? How can museums become more just institutions themselves, and how can they encourage us to treat one another more fairly? In this course, we will examine concepts such as acknowledgement, neutrality, empathy, equity, and decolonization as they relate to museum mission, exhibitions, collections, education, and staffing. We will take as case studies the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of the American Indian, and National Museum of African American History and Culture. Through a scaffolded research paper and presentation, as well as shorter assignments and group work, students will learn about museum practices and consider how those practices can better serve society. This course will include museum site visits that will take the place of class meetings. This course is designed for undergraduate as well as graduate students, and Juniors and Seniors may register with the permission of their dean and the instructor. Offered in rotation every three years; last offered Spring 2021.
Museums & Community Engagement focuses on the lifecycle of outreach, participation, and impact, communicated between museums and audiences through a lens of equity. The course is a practical exploration of museums’ complex conjunctions with the space they steward and the publics they serve through the lens of the community. In our increasingly polarized world where societal upheaval and public institutional critique have become the norm, many museums are pivoting to more holistically serve and help visitors interpret and interrogate the world through a lens of social justice. Museums & Community Engagement will feature case studies, readings, and guest lectures that speak to ways institutions enrich, educate, and partner on programs with diverse audiences. Students will learn, deconstruct, and redefine “community” and who and what that encompasses to further illustrate efforts around programs and partnerships from every angle. Last offered spring 2022.
Art History Seminars
The course provides an in-depth analysis of Latin America through the art of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Rufino Tamayo, Maria Izquierdo, Xul Solar, Antonio Berni, Wilfredo Lam, and Fernando Botero among others. By analyzing a wide variety of artistic production that includes painting, sculpture, performance, prints, manifestos, music, film and ephemera, the course considers the diversity of Latin America cultural and artistic production, emphasizing artists’ relationship to religion, tradition, race, gender, and politics. While considering Latin America’s enduring legacies and dynamic processes of change, it addresses several important art movements, such as modernism, surrealism, indigenism, social realism, muralism, and magical realism. Moreover, the course introduces students to the major artistic theoretical issues with an eye on the regional and global changes that defined, challenged, or helped shape Latin American art and culture. This course is offered most Fall semesters.
The course provides an in-depth analysis of Latin America through the art of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Rufino Tamayo, Maria Izquierdo, Xul Solar, Antonio Berni, Wilfredo Lam, and Fernando Botero among others. By analyzing a wide variety of artistic production that includes painting, sculpture, performance, prints, manifestos, music, film, and ephemera, the course considers the diversity of Latin American cultural and artistic production, emphasizing artists’ relationship to religion, tradition, race, gender, and politics. While considering Latin America’s enduring legacies and dynamic processes of change, it addresses several important art movements, such as modernism, surrealism, indigenism, social realism, muralism, and magical realism. Moreover, the course introduces students to the significant artistic theoretical issues with an eye on the regional and global changes that defined, challenged, or helped shape Latin American art and culture.
This course will provide an in-depth look into Georgetown University’s architectural development over time. Beginning in the eighteenth century and moving to contemporary campus developments, students will explore iconic buildings and landscape changes. Among the many structures we will investigate are Dahlgren Chapel, Healy Hall, Isaac Hawkins Hall, the Car Barn, Observatory and Lauinger Library. Structures will be studied within their cultural context with issues relating to the country’s broader political environment, university leadership and slavery playing a role in our study. We will also note various unrealized campus building plans. Wider developments in American university architecture will be discussed. This course will provide students with an outstanding practical research experience as our work will parallel the development of a Georgetown campus guidebook. This course requires no prior knowledge of architectural history and will introduce students to general building styles via university examples. This is a new course as of fall 2022.
The seminar is an introduction to the art of Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) and some of the vast range of interpretations it has attracted. One of the many appeals of Dürer for modern observers is the depth of his engagement with a wide array of historical and intellectual spheres. We will, for example, consider his images with regard to religion (new devotional currents, the fledgling Reformation, iconoclasm); local culture (German identity, gender relations, witchcraft, humanism); international travel and ‘publicity’ (mainly in Italy and the Netherlands); and radical reformulation of the very idea of the artist as a unique individual (via self-portraiture and the distribution of monogrammed prints). Our main focus will be on the works themselves and will include time spent with prints, drawings, and paintings in the National Gallery of Art. While basic familiarity with Renaissance art (e.g. through a survey such as ARTH 102-Renaissance to Modern Art) is recommended, no advanced knowledge of Dürer or Northern Renaissance art more generally will be required or assumed.
This course provides an introduction to critical theory as it applies to art, visual culture, and museum studies. This seminar will begin with the early roots of art criticism and aesthetics in the late-18th century and work forward through a range of theoretical tools used by critics and historians of art—semiotics, modernist formalism, postmodernism, feminism, psychoanalysis, cultural studies, and so on. Key aspects of art historical methodology will be rehearsed, and many course meetings will be in DC-area museums. While this seminar is not limited to majors/minors and graduate students, it is of particular relevance to them. This course is offered every other Fall.
This seminar examines the complex relationship between art and a certain kind of poetry, called ekphrasis. Departing from the Roman poet Horace’s (65 B.C.E. to 8 B.C.E.) observation, “Ut Pictura Poesis,” (as is Painting so is Poetry), we will study ways in which poets have written about works of visual art that inspire them to respond in their own artistic medium of words. The class will investigate the history of this phenomenon, tracing how the established traditions or parameters of the relationship between painting and poetry have been accepted or rejected over time. We will also consider the 19th-century notion of “Ut pictura musica.”
In addition to critical readings, discussions, guest appearances by poets, and a session with the curators from Special Collections to study original works of art, students will compose ekphrastic poems and create their own projects at the end of the semester. This course is offered most Fall semesters.
This course considers the ways in which blackness—in both a racial and chromatic sense—has operated in the history of visual culture and its critical-aesthetic discourses. On one hand, this means questions of “value” and symbolic meaning in the construction of “western art history,” and the myriad formulations of specific Black or Black Atlantic arts; on the other hand, we will consider the ways in which debates around identity and political collectivity effect forms of practice that challenge the boundaries of location, medium, memory, and cultural politics.
This seminar explores shifting means and ends of naturalistic representation, with an emphasis on work produced in Europe and the United States between the Renaissance and the present. Rises, falls, detours, and re-imaginings of “realism” across the centuries have been regarded in surprisingly few and often conventional ways. Through case studies of specific works and discussion of primary and secondary texts, we will try to recover some of the strange energies of an impulse whose ambitions and strategies (in art, literature, theater, film, etc.) are too often taken for granted. Our class will make at least two visits to local collections. This is offered every other fall.
Zen Buddhism is one of the major traditions of Buddhism in East Asia and was moreover an instrumental force in shaping modern perceptions of Japan in the west. Over the course of the semester, we will analyze how the perceived distinctiveness of Zen Buddhism – as marked by concepts such as mind-to-mind transmission, master-disciple lineage, and sudden enlightenment – was constructed through the visual arts and how the arts in turn contributed to monk-patron relations and the cultural lives of monks outside the monastic walls. Among the weekly topics to be covered are: ink landscape paintings, portraits of Zen masters, the tea ceremony and ceramic tea wares, as well as Beat Zen and the impact of Buddhism upon postwar artists in the United States. No prior knowledge of Asian art is required or assumed. This course is offered most Fall semesters.
Museum architecture shapes visitors’ art experience and plays an integral role in the life of a city or region. In this course students will think critically about the architecture of the art museum. Questions to be considered include: How does architecture contribute to a museum’s visiting culture? What is architecture’s appropriate role – should buildings be at the forefront of a museum experience or remain as a backdrop? What challenges arise when designing buildings for contemporary art? How have signature buildings impacted an area’s economic standing? The work of designers such as Renzo Piano, Tadao Ando, Zaha Hadid and Snøhetta will be explored. Case studies addressing institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Louvre will also be analyzed. Students will gain familiarity with field scholarship, visit multiple area museums and complete writing and presentation assignments. Open to juniors and seniors; seats reserved for graduate students. This course is offered every other Fall.
Modernism broadly refers to varied cultural responses to the changing technological and economic forces of the 19th and 20th centuries. The study of modernism and its artistic avant-gardes is often confined to case studies from the European context. This seminar considers a range of recent scholarship on the period from roughly 1900-1960 that explores new histories of modernist practice in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, and the networks of cultural exchange that connected them as part of a global phenomenon. This is offered in the fall on a rotating basis.
It has often been assumed that representation of the human form did not play as significant a role
in the development of East Asian art as it did in the Western tradition. In this seminar, we will
address this issue by exploring various approaches to the issue of corporeality in the art of China
and Japan that not only focus upon representation of the human body, but that also question the
ways in which discourses about the body were related to larger questions about death and the
afterlife, the sacred and the profane, the human and the artificial, and the articulation of national
identity. Selected case studies for weekly topics may range from the famed terracotta warriors to
Buddhist relics, along with an exploration of calligraphy, cyborgs, and dress. No prior
knowledge of Asian art is required or assumed. Last taught spring 2020.
- Art Business
- Contemporary Art
- Asian Art and its Markets
- Decorative Art and Design
- Art Logistics