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Art+History was an exhibition and community programming series about the processes of interpreting history.  It was on view at the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage from March 31, 2009–October 2, 2009.  The exhibit was curated by Meg Rotzel and Rosemary Branson-Gill.

Although the exhibit is no longer on view, we hope that this site serves to document Art+History and its programs and critical responses.  Moreover, we hope that the exhibit and the website can serve as models for future interdisciplinary projects or as case studies for future students to learn from.

If you would like to know more about Art+History, or would like to contact the curators, please contact the public humanities program at Brown University.  publichumanities@brown.edu

Mark Your Calendars for Saturday, October 2…

…because that’s when Meg Rotzel, Leah Nahmias and Jill Slosburg-Ackerman will be presenting a panel about Art+History at the New England American Studies Association conference.

Panel 5.3: Art+History

9:00 am–10:30 am

Meg Rotzel (chair)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Art+History, Curating Between Disciplines

Leah Nahmias

American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, “How History is Random, How Interpretation is Arranged: Crafting an Educational Program for Art+History

Jill Slosburg-Ackerman

Massachusetts College of Art and Design, “ART+HISTORY: Import/Export”

The theme of this year’s NEASA conference is “The Arts and the Public” and the schedule of panels, workshops, and speakers looks pretty stimulating!  The conference will take place at the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston Street, Boston.  Information about registration, accommodations, and parking are all available from the NEASA website.

Art+History to be Featured at NEASA Conference “The Arts and the Public”

We’re excited to announce that a session on Art+History will be included in the upcoming New England American Studies Association’s conference “The Arts and the Public.”  The conference will be in Boston on October 1-3, 2010.  The panel session will feature curator Meg Rotzel, educator Leah Nahmias and artist Jill Slosburg-Ackerman.  The complete conference program will be available on NEASA’s website on June 1.

From the text of the proposal:

In 2009, public humanities graduate students in Brown University’s Department of American Civilization commissioned an exhibition of site-specific artworks inspired by the historic Nightingale-Brown House.  The exhibition and related programs inspired conversation about how historical narrative is crafted while presenting a distinctive model for engaging audiences in historical sites and museums through contemporary artwork.  In addition to an art exhibition, Art+History was also a laboratory for re-thinking historical house interpretation through contemporary art, suggesting a way that historic sites and arts organizations can incorporate new voices and audiences in the creation of narratives about shared pasts.  This presentation brings together a curator, an educator and an artist to discuss the exhibit and its themes.

Meg Rotzel, curator, will discuss the process of conceiving and organizing the exhibit; the process for inviting participation from artists, students, and the general public; and the challenges of mounting contemporary work in a historical space.

Leah Nahmias, educator, will present her paper “How History is Random, How Interpretation is Arranged: Crafting an Educational Program for Art+History,” which addresses the goals of the curriculum Place Explorations, framing it in the context of traditional art and history museum education practices.  The paper addresses the possibilities (and need) for an interdisciplinary art museum education model presented in Art+History.

Jill Slosburg-Ackerman, artist, will discuss her practice as it relates to the artwork Import/Export and how the combination of places and things extend or alter meaning.  As Slosburg-Ackerman notes, one of her goals was to “extend the venues for encountering sculpture by placing hybrid works of art…in locations that are outside of conventional art spaces with the purpose of collapsing conventional boundaries between works of art and the mundane.”

An Art Installation Inspired by The Tenement Museum

I thought folks might enjoy reading about a project that has some striking similarities to Art+History.  Irish artist Jennifer Walshe is currently exhibiting “sound reliquaries” she created and then photographed in the rooms of the Moore family apartment at the Tenement Museum in New York City.  In addition to being a meticulous and moving artwork in itself, it is also another great example of how artists can draw inspiration from historic spaces and how art installations can enliven a historic house museum.  I imagine that this project could come up at the NEMA Conference panel, featuring Art+History curator Meg Rotzel, about enlivening historic sites through art in November.

Read about the project here.

Sound Reliquary

Art+History Featured at 2010 NEMA Conference

Art+History will be included in “Can you Revitalize Historic Sites Through Contemporary Art?”, a panel for the 2010 Annual New England Museum Association conference.  Kate Burgess, a grad student in Harvard’s Museum Studies program, organzied the panel.  Thank-you, Kate!

We will post more information about the panel in the future, so stay tuned!

For more information on NEMA’s 2010 conference, please go here.

To learn more about Kate Burgess’s work, please visit her thesis website.

Art+History Reviewed in The Public Historian

The Public Historian, the major quarterly journal of public history, featured an exhibit review of Art+History in the Fall 2009 journal.  The reviewer praised the curators for

[hitting] upon a central question regarding creativity in historical and artistic processes that could be explored with success. They nurtured truly imaginative work with collaborating artists and devised public presentation and education strategies to support it.

Of Import/Export, the reviewer noted

Slosburg-Ackerman engaged the house as physical space; she used the china and photographs in ways that made me imagine a range of family and servant relationships within the building—who was getting those teacups from the pantry shelves, drinking tea in the library, organizing children’s activities and so on. Her arrangement of contemporary Asian art im- ages served to underscore the colonial wealth and mother country relationship (conscious or not) that the dining room paneling suggests.

The reviewer also appreciated the methodological questions raised by Keep the word vanishing until the end.

The review ends by praising the exhibit:

[T]he Art + History project goes far to meet the standards Henry Glassie suggests for public history projects: “ . . . [to adhere] to a standard of excellence . . . to be oppositional on behalf of . . . complexity against simple argument. [Projects] ought also to be beautiful . . . because that’s the way you catch someone and bring them in.”

The review can be found in Vol. 31, No. 4 (Fall 2009) of The Public Historian.  The John Nicholas Brown Center has provided a link to the PDF of the article.

This post will also be included in the Critical Perspectives portion of our website.

Art+History is up for an award!

The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research hosts an annual New England Art Award, and Art+History was nominated!

Winner will be announced at a February 8th Ball in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

A Few Notes on the Art+History Website

As with all aspects of Art+History, the website was created partly for its own sake (i.e., so the exhibit would have a website) and partly as a laboratory for students in the public humanities program at Brown University to test their ideas.  The Art+History website was created using the model and tools described in the Public Humanities Toolbox.  The Public Humanities Toolbox presents a framework of free or inexpensive online tools to help small cultural heritage organizations or tightly budgeted public humanities projects to share their work and resources with a wide public audience.  I  co-developed this resource with my colleague Al Lees.  You can read more about the goals, evolution, and model of the Toolbox here, but I wanted to briefly reflect on the development of the website for Art+History, because I think by doing so I can help explain what we mean when we say our project is a “laboratory” and not just an exhibit.

Continue reading ‘A Few Notes on the Art+History Website’



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