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Spotlight on Teaching with Objects: Investigations into the Ancient Mediterranean

Hood Quarterly, spring 2012
Essi Rönkkö, Assistant Curator for Special Projects

This spring term the Hood Museum of Art is presenting a special teaching exhibition in Harrington Gallery featuring long-term loan objects from the Yale University Art Gallery. This installation, titled Investigations into the Ancient Mediterranean, is part of an innovative collection-sharing program created to highlight the importance of teaching with original works of art as part of the college curriculum. Funded by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this program enabled Yale University Art Gallery to lend forty-seven ancient Mediterranean objects to the Hood for a two-year period beginning in December 2010. The materials range from Greek terracotta to Roman marbles and span a time period of three millennia, from the Neolithic period to late antiquity. Highlights include a magnificent Athenian red-figure column krater from the classical period and a Roman marble statuette of the Greek god Dionysos from the second to third century CE, as well as a striking mummy portrait of a youth from Roman Egypt from the second century CE.

Over the course of this past year and a half, Dartmouth faculty and students from a range of disciplines including art history, classics, religion, and history have used both the Yale loans and works from the Hood collection to explore current discourses on such topics as gender systems, representation and identity, and center and periphery in the Roman Empire. By working closely with faculty and students to document these projects, the Hood wishes to highlight this major part of its daily activities as a teaching museum and make visible its work with undergraduate students, most of which happens “behind the scenes” in Bernstein Study-Storage Center. In addition to the exhibition, the project will entail a related website and a documentary film highlighting student and faculty research related to the loans. These projects will also be prominently featured in the installation.

The faculty and student work featured in the show will offer insights into the study of ancient cultures and introduce the various methodologies used by scholars in different fields who are interested in visual and material culture. The intention of the installation is to explore how the close observation of works of art can reveal connections to wider cultural, religious, political, and social themes in the ancient Mediterranean world.

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