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Dartmouth Students Make an Acquisition

Hood Quarterly, summer 2004

This past term, twelve Dartmouth undergraduates gave up their Monday evenings for six consecutive weeks to participate in a non-credit course offered by the Hood. As a group, these individuals studied the museum’s small but distinguished collection of photographs, participated in discussions about the history of that medium, and became acquainted with the ethics of standard curatorial practice. Ultimately, these students helped strengthen the permanent holdings by advising the Hood on the acquisition of a single work of art. The work they identified comes from the young Daniela Rossell’s recent, controversial series entitled Ricas y Famosas, which vividly depicts the lifestyles and material excesses of elites—many of them Rossell’s friends—in contemporary Mexico City. The large color photograph was put to use right away by Megan Fontanella and Jennifer Schreck, who incorporated it into their curatorial project, Looking Backward, Moving Forward: Women Photographers in the Hood’s Collection.

The course, entitled “Acquiring Great Art,” was organized by Katie Putnam ’04, Academic Programming Intern at the Hood Museum of Art. Students were both challenged and guided in their decision-making by Hood staff members Derrick Cartwright and Katherine Hart. This is the third year in a row that undergraduates have led the way toward a photographic acquisition in this fashion. Each one of these objects bears the students’ names in its credit line, together with the names of several exceptionally generous individuals who made the purchase possible. “There are multiple goals for this kind of experiment,” Cartwright emphasizes. “First of all, my colleagues and I are interested in de-mystifying museum practices for Dartmouth students who want to know how the Hood functions. We want to equip these young people with real knowledge about the art market, and at the same time we hope to instill an appreciation for the high responsibility that accompanies all acquisitions decisions.” The class always provokes thoughtful debate between the students about a variety of aesthetic issues. “The class was a wonderful and unique opportunity,” said Ellie Smith ’04. “It was excit- ing to be exposed to the behind-the-scenes workings of museums, the Hood’s fabulous collection, and to actually take part in acquiring a piece of art that will be in the collection for years to come. I looked forward to it every week!”

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