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Spring 2016 Museum Collecting 101

Dartmouth students in the Hood's conference room participating in the 2016 spring session of Museum Collecting 101. Photo by Alison Palizzolo.

Dartmouth students in the Hood's conference room participating in the 2016 spring session of Museum Collecting 101. Photo by Alison Palizzolo.

Dartmouth students in the Hood's conference room participating in the 2016 spring session of Museum Collecting 101. Photo by Alison Palizzolo.

Dartmouth students in the Hood's conference room participating in the 2016 spring session of Museum Collecting 101. Photo by Alison Palizzolo.

Dartmouth students in the Hood's conference room participating in the 2016 spring session of Museum Collecting 101. Photo by Alison Palizzolo.

Dartmouth students in the Hood's conference room participating in the 2016 spring session of Museum Collecting 101. Photo by Alison Palizzolo.

Dartmouth students in the Hood's conference room participating in the 2016 spring session of Museum Collecting 101. Photo by Alison Palizzolo.

Dartmouth students in the Hood's conference room participating in the 2016 spring session of Museum Collecting 101. Photo by Alison Palizzolo.

by Eva Munday '16, Hood Programming Class of 1954 Intern

Dartmouth students take with them various memories of their college years, whether volunteering at a local organization, a performance at the Hopkins Center, service as a class officer, or participation in a particularly important campus discussion. For the past fifteen years, the Hood Museum of Art has been providing another a memorable experience for students, and also an opportunity to leave their mark on campus. In a special non-curricular course, a group of Dartmouth students get to choose a work of art for the Hood's collection. Every time that work is exhibited or reproduced, the names of the students who chose it appear in its credit line.  

Museum Collecting 101 is a class offered by the Hood Museum of Art each year and is open to all Dartmouth students, regardless of their major or class standing. The group of students who signed up for the 2016 course initially met in April at the museum, where they learned about a museum's acquisitions criteria, the Hood's existing photography collection, and the history of photography. They also viewed photographic techniques in the darkroom and digital photography lab in a session led by Dartmouth studio art major Josh Renaud, Class of 2017.

In the course, the students were asked consider the work of ten different photographers, some contemporary and others 20th-century practitioners, all of whom worked during the last 75 years. In late April, the students traveled to New York City to visit three different galleries that represent these artists, which allowed them to see actual prints (as opposed to digital images) of possible acquisitions. They also visited museums and dined with Marina and Andrew Lewin, Class of 1981, a photography collector and book publisher who sponsored the students' trip.

After a serious and spirited debate, the students voted to acquire Miskha Henner’s photograph Staphorst Ammunition Depot, Overijssel (2011). This conceptual work is from a series in which Henner has taken screenshots from Google Earth of sites blocked by governments. The students argued for the work based on its connection to the themes of surveillance and security as well as its aesthetic merits. A close second choice was Jerome Liebling’s May Day, Union Square Park, New York City, 1948, a vintage black-and-white photograph depicting everyday people celebrating May Day, seated in front of a relief with classical figures. The museum has decided to acquire this work as well. Since the course's inception fourteen years ago, Museum Collecting 101 has allowed students to bring over a dozen complex, interesting, and sometimes challenging works into the museum’s collection. The students’ names are included in the credit line of the work they chose, giving them a lasting legacy at Dartmouth.

Museum Collecting 101 was what you'd call a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As a modified studio art major, art history minor, and museum intern, walking through galleries and actually experiencing the work was nothing short of a dream come true. But the fact that the course gave the same opportunities to students with little to no art background was equally as important. It's a hands-on crash course in the history of photography, museum collecting, and gallery operations, and it's impossible not to walk away from the experience with a changed perspective--no matter what sort of prior experience and/or education you have going in. 

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