Experiential Learning for History Students (Theme: Curating 101 - Collecting Stories, Creating Narratives) (HIST*3560) | College of Arts

Experiential Learning for History Students (Theme: Curating 101 - Collecting Stories, Creating Narratives) (HIST*3560)

Code and section: HIST*3560*03

Term: Fall 2022

Instructor: Shauna McCabe (Art Gallery of Guelph)


Location: Art Gallery of Guelph (across College Street from War Memorial Hall)

Course Description

We curate many aspects of our daily lives, from the clothes we wear and our belongings, to our playlists to Instagram feeds. In the context of museums and art galleries as well as historical sites and heritage institutions, curating plays a vital role, shaping everything from exhibitions and their content to collections and archives. This course will introduce students to the activity of curating or curation in these settings, with three main objectives: 

  1. to build skills in assessing how historical events or changes are reflected in art and objects as well as how to express and tell these stories
  2. to develop students’ ability to connect art and objects to each other and to larger ideas in the form of exhibitions
  3. to expand their understanding of the ways cultural and historical sites actively define and communicate cultural memory

This course is designed to develop skills through both reflective and hands-on experiential approaches to curatorial practices, in which students will be engaged with readings and real-world examples to support their own digital storytelling projects that explore collection narratives as well as the development of their own exhibition proposals. 

In undertaking this work, a key area of exploration will focus on how anti-racism actions and issues that have catalyzed Black Lives Matter as well as movements in support of Indigenous sovereignty have had a substantial impact on art galleries and museums, highlighting that they are in no way neutral in their communication of messages about history, memory, culture, and identity. Whether exhibitions or collections, the core work of museums and art institutions reflects a long record of excluding and marginalizing the representation and expression of communities identifying as Indigenous, Black, and persons of color – exclusions that reflect and shape values that give museums, art, and other objects their public meaning and significance.

With an eye to the ways visual culture influences conceptions and experiences of place, history, ethnicity, and identity, throughout the course we will consider the roles and responsibilities of arts and heritage institutions and examine how museums address and respond to the need for social change. Engaging the Art Gallery of Guelph and its art collections as well as the work of a diversity of contemporary artists, this course will provide students with a vital opportunity to explore the practice of history through curation. Students will develop the skills involved in critically evaluating various elements of visual and historical cultures by participating actively in interpreting and exhibiting art practices. 

*Please note: This is a preliminary web course description only. The department reserves the right to change without notice any information in this description. The final, binding course outline will be distributed in the first week of class of the Fall 2022 semester.