AMCV1550 Methods in Public Humanities, Spring 2009
Prof. Steven Lubar
Lectures: MW 11:00, Wilson Hall 309Discussion section: Undergraduates, F 11:00, Wilson 309; Graduate students, W 1:30, JNBCEmail:email@example.comPhone: 401-863-1177Office hours: JNBC, 357 Benefit Street M 2:30-3:30
This course provides a survey of publichumanities work, including cultural heritage preservation and interpretation, museumcollecting and exhibition, informal education,and community cultural development. It alsoincludes an overview of the contexts of that work in nonprofit cultural organizations:management, trusteeship, and development.We’ll put much of what we learn to use in a final project: an exhibition on the Fox Point Cape Verdean community of the 1930s. Working with community members, we’ll find objects and images, determine themes, write labels, and organize a display for the Carriage HouseGallery, and perhaps a virtual exhibition.
This course focuses on the work that public humanists do:techniques, concerns, and practical issues. We’ll look whathappens behind the scenes in museums and other culturalorganizations in order to understand how the people whowork there make decisions about content, interpretation, and presentation. We will try to understand and appreciate thework that public humanists do—as well as to question someof their assumptions and techniques.The course is organized into four parts. Part 1 addresses thefundamental question in any discussion of cultural heritage:what’s worth saving, what’s worth remembering, and why?How do we as individuals and as communities decide whatwe want to keep? What is the role of the expert in that process? Part 2 considers the ways in which the things wesave and remember are interpreted, presented to the public.Part 3 considers civic engagement, and Part 4, theinstitutions that do this preserving and presenting.In general, Monday’s class is a lecture; Wednesday,sometimes a lecture, sometimes a visitor; Friday(Wednesday, for graduate students), a discussion section. Inthe discussion, we’ll talk about the material in the lectures,and also the readings. You should read the assigned weeklyreading (marked with a *) early in the week. Additionalreadings of interest are listed on the syllabus as well. Thereadings are on reserve at the Rockefeller Library or on thelibrary’s reserve site (OCRA): the password is jnbc. Manyare also at the JNBC library. There is a class blog, athttp://blogs.brown.edu/course/spring09_amcv1550s01/. Iwill post the class powerpoints there, as well as other materials of interest. Check it at least once a week. The classdeals with contested issues: it would be good to keep upwith web sites, blogs, and newspaper stories on culturalheritage. Feel free to post articles or web sites of interest tothe blog.The course looks at methods, the art of getting things done.The assignments reflect this. You’ll write letters andmemoranda, presenting guidance to a boss about whatshould be done, and why. You’ll work in teams for some of the assignments. There’s a real project at the end, withdeadlines throughout the semester and an opening date, onethat requires working with curators, designers, and other professionals, and with members of the community. Pleaserespect their time and expertise as you work with them; youneed to have a professional relationship with them. Theclass will work as the exhibition team, and your work will be graded based both on your individual work, and your ability to work as part of a group.Your grade is based on writing, class participation, and thefinal project. The papers are described in detail at the end of the syllabus. Briefly:1.
Advise on a contentious historical project (10%)2.
Proposal for new program in communitymemory, oral history, and intangible heritage(10%)3.
Exhibit labels (10%)4.
“Ethics bowl” question (1 page) (10%)5.
Writing labels for “Fox Point exhibition (20%)6.
Participation in other aspects of the exhibition,including organization, PR, events, installation,and more (20%)Class participation—questions, discussion sections—willcount for the other 20 percent of your grade.