HISTART 393 - Undergraduate Seminar
Fall 2020, Section 004 - Chambers of Wonder: The Origins of Museums of Art and Natural History
Instruction Mode: Section 004 is  Online (see other Sections below)
Subject: History of Art (HISTART)
Department: LSA History of Art

Details

Credits:
3
Requirements & Distribution:
HU
Other Course Info:
W.
Repeatability:
May be elected five times for credit. May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:

Description

Students who take this seminar will discover that the first museums in Europe and North America were strange places indeed. We expect to find oil paintings in one kind of museum and dinosaur bones in another, but in times past it was common to see such things displayed side by side. The first “cabinets of curiosity” were private spaces, accessible by invitation or by letter of recommendation, where a few people conversed about wondrous objects and exotic artifacts. Not surprisingly, the origins of these collections coincided with the age of exploration and the European discovery of Asia, Africa and the Americas. As we will see, collections became more broadly educational and more commercial as they became more public during the 18th-century. Gradually, the dinosaur bones, shells, meteorites and exotic plants and animals (naturalia) found homes in natural history museums, while rarities of human skill (artificialia) moved to the walls and display cases of art museums. Students will learn about the challenges of separating art from nature in case studies from the 1500s to the 1800s, and we will have opportunities to consider our own struggles with such distinctions today. Class discussions and readings will explore both the historical purposes of collections and the experiences of early museum-goers as recorded in writing and as represented in paintings and prints. In both literary and visual depictions, wonder, curiosity and terror are high on the list of reported emotions. Visitors often reacted strongly to the sight of monstrous deformities or to exotic things explorers and the agents of colonial governments brought to Europe. We will discover over the course of the term that many works of art were deliberately made to push the boundary between art and nature, even to the point of incorporating animal parts into paintings or dressing up anatomical specimens in fashionable clothing. Students are likely to find echoes of this boundary-pushing in our own fascination with artificial life forms and our own ethical questions about the spectacle of human remains in places like the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia or the controversial travelling exhibition Body Worlds.

Schedule

HISTART 393 - Undergraduate Seminar
Schedule Listing
002 (SEM)
 Online
33332
Open
5
 
-
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM
004 (SEM)
 Online
23240
Open
11
 
-
MW 1:00PM - 2:30PM
005 (SEM)
 Online
25169
Closed
0
 
1
MW 11:30AM - 1:00PM
006 (SEM)
  Hybrid
23244
Closed
0
 
-
MW 2:30PM - 4:00PM
106 (SEM)
 Online
41350
Open
5
 
-
MW 2:30PM - 4:00PM

Textbooks/Other Materials

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Syllabi

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