Summer classes take advantage of Hood Museum resources

by Amelia Acosta | 8/13/12 10:00pm

Access to the Hood Museum of Art's extensive collection for both academic and personal use has proved an invaluable resource for students and faculty members this summer and in past terms, according to students interviewed by The Dartmouth. Students and professors are able to make appointments for "personal, intimate showings" of the Hood's more than 70,000 objects to supplement in-class experiences or simply explore their interests, according to Amelia Kahl, the museum's coordinator of academic programming.

"Most students and professors use the museum through the Bernstein Study-Storage Center or through the gallery itself," Kahl said. "I work with professors to enable them to work with objects and bring their classes in, either to work from the collection or specific exhibits. I also help determine what kinds of activities and assignments would work best for the class."

An online directory helps interested parties see what pieces the Hood has available, at which point they can request that the pieces be pulled out for viewing. While the smaller number of course offerings in the summer makes for less traffic through the museum, an average term will see between 25 and 30 classes make between 40 and 50 visits, with about 2,500 students visiting throughout the course of the year, Kahl said.

Kara Hedges '14 visited the Hood this summer with her class "A Visual Culture in Tibet and the Himalaya," which is cross-listed in the religion and Asian and Middle Eastern studies departments.

"We were able to look at some of the types of art we were talking about in class, including Thangka paintings, prayer flags and handheld prayer wheels," Hedges said. "It was really cool to see in front of us such a wide variety of the things we had been taking about in class."

Hedges, who will be traveling to India for Fall term on a transfer program, was originally attracted to the class as a way to get exposure to a proximal region of the world.

"I wanted to know as much about the culture and area before going," she said.

In the spring, Graylin Harrison '14, experienced the resources the Hood had to offer with her art history class, "Northern Baroque." While she had visited the museum for previous classes, Harrison said it was the first time she had been expected to write a paper based off on her time there.

Archived resources from past exhibits can also be important academic sources, according to Hedges.

"For my final research paper, I'm writing about sand mandalas, which are symmetrical sand art figures that can only be made by Buddhist monks," she said. "A year ago, a handful of Buddhist monks came to the College for a week to create an actual sand mandala. While it's not still there, the Hood has video recordings and discussions with the monks that I definitely plan on using as resources for my paper."

Harrison emphasized the difference between seeing reproductions of artistic works in slides or textbooks and seeing the actual object directly in front of her.

"There's nothing comparable," she said.

The "huge value" of the in-person experience is available because the museum is "really there for Dartmouth students," according to Kahl.

"It's not that only you can see things, like detail and scale that you wouldn't get a chance to really see from reproductions," Kahl said. "You also have this great intimate experience with objects, and it's a way to gain knowledge and excitement and figure out what questions to ask next."

A variety of classes across disciplines have used the Hood as an educational resource, Kahl said. She cited "The Map," a course offered this summer and cross-listed in the studio art and film departments as an example of a unique class that has visited the museum. The class includes various assignments combining different technological resources to introduce students to the unique art of mapmaking, according to Cooper Thomas '14, a student in the class.

"I've never had a more interdisciplinary academic experience at Dartmouth, and through this course I've discovered a whole host of academic resources I previously didn't know existed," Thomas said. "Many of the assignments are designed to push us out of our comfort zones, in terms of both content and design. In the past few weeks, I've handled authentic 18th-century patents in Rauner Special Collections Library, drawn maps using resources from the studio art department and spent hours modeling three-dimensional environments in a computer lab."

Thomas called it "refreshing" to take a class that emphasized practical skills like computer savvy, as well as artistic creativity. Access to various resources, including the Hood, allowed him to explore interests in interactive media and digital arts, both of which are relatively new areas of study both at Dartmouth and worldwide, he said.

Students interested in exploring the Hood's resources do not need to be affiliated with a class but can visit on a personal appointment basis, according to Kahl.

"In the fall, we have a big exhibit on Australian art coming up, so we hope that will be a good resource and area of interest for student," she said. The exhibit, titled "Crossing Cultures," will premiere at the Hood on Sept. 15.

The Hood Museum of Art holds regular visiting hours Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday 12 noon-5 p.m. and is closed on Mondays.

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