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Community of Learners: Museum Collecting 101

Hood Quarterly, spring/summer 2010

Each year the Hood staff (assisted by interns and Dartmouth faculty) offers an extracurricular program for Dartmouth students called Museum Collecting 101. The course affords students a behind-thescenes look at the core work of the museum: acquiring, exhibiting, and teaching with original works of art.

When the program was offered in winter 2009, it focused on contemporary photojournalists who address global issues such as conservation and the environment, international and civil war, poverty, immigration, and other human rights issues. The subject matter drew wide-ranging student interest and the sixteen participants represented all four classes at Dartmouth and twelve different majors.

After learning about the museum’s purpose and acquisitions process and being introduced to the Hood’s photography collection, participants reviewed the work of several contemporary photojournalists and decided which artist’s work the Hood should purchase, and then which specific photograph. The level of engagement on the part of students and the quality of the questions and discussion they generated were extremely rewarding to witness. After a heated debate, they selected a stunning work by photographer Daniel Beltrá, an artist who has worked extensively for Greenpeace and other environmental organizations. The names of the students who participated in the program were added to the credit line for the photograph, and so will remain a permanent part of the history of the object.

When participating students were asked if they would recommend the course to other students, every one of them responded with a resounding yes. When asked what they felt they gained by participating, they said:

“A better understanding of the acquisitions process, and of how photojournalism fits into the art, political, and academic worlds.”

“I’ve come to understand the complexity of selecting a work of art for a museum. I think I will be able to go to the Hood now and look at a piece of art and see why it was acquired, what educational and aesthetic value it might hold, and how it is relevant.”

“There is definitely a feeling of accomplishment that comes from being a part of the course.”

This winter, Museum Collecting 101 participants selected a photograph by contemporary South Korean artist Atta Kim for acquisition. The work will be used by Professor Allen Hockley in art history courses he teaches on Asian art, as well as by faculty in other disciplines, and thus this extracurricular student experience will enrich the curriculum as well as all visitors’ experiences at the museum. The purchase of the photograph was made possible in part with donations given in memory of Vicky Ransmeier, who would have been deeply excited about the intensive educational nature of the program. This winter’s Museum Collecting 101 program was made possible thanks to a grant from the Krehbiel Foundation.

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