Midterm Presentation: Collections

The goal of this group assignment is for you to explore a significant collection of objects. This can be a museum, a gallery, or any other collection of objects that is specially curated for public display. In your group, I want you to think deeply about how individual objects obtain new and different meanings when they become part of larger collections. I encourage you to choose a collection related to the interests of your group (either adapted from your major field of study or from your own personal interests). Here are my baseline exceptions for these presentations and how you will be evaluated:

  • The presentation should be interesting and engaging. Use visual materials extensively to support your descriptions of this collection.
  • Presentations should be informative and give the class important background and detail about your selected collection based on well-selected research (books, essays, book chapters, films, documentaries, institutional web sites). In your research you should work with sources from our library and its online databases; go beyond tertiary research sites such as Google and Wikipedia.
  • I want you to become the class experts on your selected collection–this should be a great learning experience for you and the members of your group.
  • Everyone should make a significant contribution to this assignment. I will ask you complete a brief survey at the end to account for your work.

Each group will present in class on October 4th or 7th. Your presentation should be no longer than 20 minutes, which should include about five minutes for questions (I will have to cut you off if you go longer in order to allow everyone the time they need to present).

Here are the components of this assignment–please note that you can divide the work for this project however you would like. I have designed this to make it easy for each person in the group to take on an “assignment,” but you can divide the work however you choose.

  1. Background and Collection Overview Give the class a description of the history of the collection. What are the notable events in the collection’s history? Who or what were its founders? From where did it receive its initial donations and funding, and how does it receive funding today? What are its collection principles? What are the boundaries and guidelines of the collection? Describe its physical environment, building, architecture, layout. How are objects arranged? Give the class a comprehensive overview of details such as these and how they matter to the characteristics of the collection.
  2. Descriptions of ONE or TWO Objects in the Collection Choose objects that you think best represent the collection. These can either be famous objects for which the collection is well-known, or they can be more obscure items that nonetheless represent something that you see as the core of the collection. Give a rich and detailed description of the object, including its physical features and history. How did the collection come to hold this object? Who has owned it previously? Also, explain why you think this object fits in this collection, how the object has changed meaning from its origins now that it is a part of the collection, and (if you can) describe how the object is displayed in the current collection.
  3. Blog Post You and your collaborators should prepare a post that gives a short but meaningful introduction to your collection (about 300-500 words). What have been the important findings of your research into this collection? If someone were to visit the collection, what suggestions do you have for them? Your post should also include a bibliography of all the sources you used for this project. Please be creative in putting together your bibliography—you can include traditional scholarly sources like books and essays, but also multimedia (film, documentary) or even people to follow on Twitter or blogs on your topic. Blog post is due by class time on the day you present.
  4. Presentation In class, I want you to imagine that you are a group of collection curators who are taking our class on a virtual tour of your collection. Use images, video, and anything else you can think of to make it feel like an immersive experience. Don’t simply read from your research–share with the class what you have learned by telling us the story of the collection you have selected and the research you have done on your topic in an interesting and informative way. Be creative and have fun with your presentation!

Some examples (not an exhaustive list, and feel free to come up with your own!):

-Victoria and Albert Museum, London
-Frick Collection, New York City
-Mütter Museum, Philadelphia
-Mmuseumm, New York City
-Kafka Museum, Prague
-British Museum, London
-9/11 Memorial, New York City