FYS*101*32 Description

First-Year Seminar

As storytellers and keepers of culture, museums have evolved over time. In ancient Alexandria the museum was a gathering place for scholars. During the Renaissance wealthy Europeans collected "cabinets of curiosities." Today many museums have found an empowering role as centers for civic engagement, challenging an exclusive past. In this course, we'll dust off museum "curiosities"-the material culture of the past and present-to reveal the stories they tell about individuals and societies, necessity and desire, creation and possession. Combining the theoretical with the practical, students will take a hands-on approach to learning about material culture, and probe ethical issues facing museums around the globe. By applying critical thinking to scholarly articles, exhibitions, film, and literature, students will examine questions of ownership, cultural patrimony, authority, and representation in both a historical and a contemporary context. With a focus on history museums, this course will feature guest speakers and field trips to local museums, as well as the Smithsonian Institution. Students will hone their research, writing, revision, and oral communication skills through a variety of writing assignments and a final presentation that incorporates artifacts.