Museum Class Sessions For University Courses

Each academic year, area colleges and approximately 400 Cornell University courses from more than 50 departments and programs organize and develop class sessions at the Museum with the Johnson’s educational and curatorial staff.

In addition to focusing on our current exhibitions, we help design and lead class sessions in our permanent collection galleries and classrooms, using works of art from our global collection spanning 6,000 years, six continents, and more than 35,000 objects.

Class sessions at the Johnson are held Tuesdays to Fridays from 10 AM to 5 PM (special arrangements can be made for Cornell classes that meet only on Mondays or outside of regular hours). Due to high demand, it is recommended that you contact the Museum before the semester begins. Three weeks’ notice is required to reserve a class session; requests made with shorter notice cannot be guaranteed. Sessions are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. Faculty and instructors are required to attend class sessions.

Contact Leah Sweet, Lynch Curatorial Coordinator for Academic Programs, for further information and to set up a planning meeting. Please include:

  • Department and title of course
  • Copy of syllabus
  • Number of students and TAs (if applicable)
  • Preferred dates and times for Museum session

Best Practices for Planning Your Class Session

Whether you’re looking to reinforce skills, contribute to class content, take a break from the classroom, or all of the above, determining clear goals and outcomes for a class session is essential. What do you want your students to know, experience, and produce by the end of their session at the Johnson? Answering this question will help us guide you to meaningful ways to teach with art during your class session and will inform the selection of artworks to study. See the list of class session models for inspiration.

To this end, we believe it is also important to create a strong connection between your class session and the rest of your syllabus. Enjoyable and effective class sessions, including casual ones, feature a thoughtful link between what is happening in the classroom and the collections and learning opportunities that the Johnson has to offer. Instructors are in a prime position to understand and define this relationship, and the Museum encourages active participation in planning and executing class sessions. Here are some helpful tips.

Advise students to bring pencils, and that backpacks, food, and beverages are not allowed in the galleries. Students can leave bags and other items in the Museum’s lobby during the class session. The use of pencils helps to protect the artworks on display.

Teaching with Works on View

Many class sessions at the Johnson take advantage of the Museum’s temporary exhibitions and permanent collections galleries to explore new ideas and test knowledge acquired in the classroom. Class sessions with works on view allow students to discuss artworks within the greater context of a gallery, compare works from different time periods and geographies, and to consider art within the institutional structure of a museum.

Works on view are available for students to access on their own whenever the Johnson is open to prepare or complete assignments such as research papers, group activities, and oral presentations. We have provided suggested activities to spark close observation, visual analysis, and discussion—often in the service of writing—as well as worksheets and suggested prompts to organize your session and deepen discussion.

First-Year Writing Seminars, language classes, and other courses that prioritize skill-based learning outcomes are strongly encouraged to teach with works on view. The Museum asks for reservations to ensure that groups in the galleries do not overlap. Contact Leah Sweet to reserve and create a class session using works on view.

Teaching with Works Pulled from Storage

For class sessions that require works pulled from storage, a maximum of 12 objects not currently on view can be requested. There may be restrictions based on size and availability.

Large Classes

Classes with more than twenty students are often required to split into smaller groups due to the size of most galleries and classroom spaces. The Museum accommodates large classes (roughly 50-200 students) and classes with multiple sections (such as introductory-level language classes) by working with section leaders such as instructors and TAs.

Study Gallery Installations

Small course-related installations in the study gallery can be requested for a period of two weeks to allow for extended viewing and research by students. One semester advance notice is required to organize study gallery installations. Requests are met on a first-come, first-served basis. Please contact Leah Sweet for details.

Semester-Long Courses

Each semester, the Johnson Museum serves as a classroom on a weekly basis for courses that use objects from the collection. To learn more about collaborating with the Museum during a full semester, please contact Cathy Klimaszewski, Associate Director and the Harriett Ames Charitable Trust Curator of Education.

Independent Research

Appointments to view works of art for scholarly purposes can be arranged by contacting:
Ellen Avril: Curator, Asian art
Nancy Green: Curator, European and American prints and drawings, 1800–1945; decorative art
Andrea Inselmann: Curator, modern and contemporary art
Andy Weislogel: Curator, European art before 1800; other areas of the collection
Kate Addleman-Frankel: Curator, photography

You can search our collections online, and access to object files, archival material, and other primary resources related to the collections can be arranged by contacting our curatorial assistant, Laura Libert

Visible storage gallery: More than one thousand works of art from the African, pre-Columbian, Asian, and decorative arts collections are on view on Floor 2L. 

Pedagogical Workshops 

The Museum collaborates with the Center for Teaching Innovation, First-Year Writing Seminars, and others to offer pedagogical workshops for faculty and instructors. These workshops introduce special exhibitions, provide information about works on view, and offer assistance with crafting effective in-class activities and related assignments. 

Visiting Artist and Speaker Program

The visiting artist and speaker program brings artists to campus for lectures, studio visits, and discussions with students and faculty, often in connection with exhibitions. These visits, along with other lectures and gallery talks by distinguished curators, specialists, and art historians, are posted in the calendar section.

Previous artists and speakers include Maryan Ainsworth, Michael Arad, Xu Bing, Willie Cole, Andy Goldsworthy, Mike Hearn, Faye Hirsch, Klaus Kertess, Maya Lin, Sally Mann, John A. Pinto, Susan Rothenberg, Andres Serrano, Storm Tharp, Leo Villareal, Carrie Mae Weems, and Martie Young, among many others. 

Faculty Advisory Committee

Faculty members from a variety of disciplines serve on the committee and interact with Museum staff to generate new ideas about how the Museum can be an even more effective learning resource on campus. For more information, please contact Cathy Klimaszewski.

Faculty Advisory Committee 2016–17

Michael Ashkin
Associate Professor and Department Chair, Department of Art

Xak Bjerken
Professor, Department of Music

David Faulkner
Senior Lecturer, John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines and English

Geri Gay
Kenneth J. Bissett Professor of Communication and Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow

Denise Green
Assistant Professor and Director of the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection, Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design

Salah Hassan
Goldwin Smith Professor of African and African Diaspora Art History and Visual Culture, Africana Studies and Research Center and the Department of the History of Art and Visual Studies

Cynthia Hazan
Associate Professor, Department of Human Development

John Henderson
Professor, Department of Anthropology

Kent L. Hubbell
Professor, Department of Architecture

C. Richard Johnson, Jr.
Geoffrey S. M. Hedrick Senior Professor of Engineering and Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow

Johannes Lehmann
Professor, School of Integrative Plant Science, Soil and Crop Sciences Section

Cynthia Robinson
Professor and Department Chair, Department of History of Art and Visual Studies

Wolfgang H. Sachse
Meinig Family Professor of Engineering

Daniel R. Schwarz
Frederic J. Whiton Professor of English Literature and Stephen H. Weiss Presidential Fellow

Laurel Southard
Senior Lecturer, School of Integrative Plant Science, Plant Biology Section

Michael Tomlan
Professor, Historic Preservation Planning Director, Department of City and Regional Planning

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon
Associate Professor, Department of English

Mary Woods
Professor, College of Architecture, Art, and Planning