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Curatorial Practice Today

“Constructing New Narratives: Curatorial Practice Today” (ARTH 6010) was the second semester-long course offered at the Johnson Museum in collaboration with the Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies, as part of a Museum initiative supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Spring 2014 graduate seminar was cotaught by Ananda Cohen Suarez, assistant professor of art history; Cathy Rosa Klimaszewski, associate director and Ames Curator of Education at the Museum; and Stephanie Wiles, Richard J. Schwartz Director of the Johnson Museum of Art.

Conceived as a platform for understanding the complicated histories of museums, collections, and curatorial practice, the seminar considered the future of museums in an increasingly globalized world. Themes explored in weekly student blog post reading responses and in class discussion included the politics of display, the internationalization of the art market, museum interventions and institutional critique, rituals of spectatorship, provenance and repatriation, community engagement, and museums and the digital humanities. In the spirit of the Mellon initiative, students staged their own curatorial interventions within the Johnson Museum’s galleries as part of their final capstone project.

Uniting critical theory with practice, the course coupled reading of relevant scholarly literature with guest lectures by curators, colleagues from campus, and other museum professionals; hands-on intervention projects; and a behind-the-scenes study trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Morgan Library & Museum in New York. A unique opportunity for students was hearing from Dr. Maryan Ainsworth, curator of Early Netherlandish, French, and German painting at the Met, who visited Cornell to discuss collections care, interpretation, and installation. Students then had an opportunity to participate in a walk through of the Met’s permanent collection galleries guided by Dr. Ainsworth. Other off-campus opportunities included meeting with conservators in the Met’s Sherman Fairchild Center for Works on Paper and Photograph and the Morgan Library & Museum’s Thaw Conservation Center. Students also toured the Morgan’s Drawings Study Center and historic McKim Building with Dr. Jennifer Tonkovich, Curator of Drawings and Prints.

Spring 2014 Curatorial Practice seminar students
William Breitweiser, archaeology
Alex Marko, archaeology
Ruth Hannah Mullett, medieval studies
Louisa L. Nash, archaeology
Anissa Rahadi, history of art
Louisa Smieska, chemistry