Dr. Jo-Anne Berelowitz
Art 578, Fall 2013
Room 512 A
office hours: Tues. and Th. 11-12
Office: 510, tel. 4995
History of Museums and Exhibitions
For inquire, I pray thee, of the former generation,
And apply thyself to that which their fathers
have searched out –
For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing,
Because our days upon earth are a shadow –
Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee,
And utter words out of their heart?
--Job 8:8
having known this fate of ours so well
wandering around among broken stones, three or six
thousand years
searching in collapsed buildings that might have been
our homes
trying to remember dates and heroic deeds:
will we be able?
--George Seferis, Mythistorema, no. 22
Remember the days of old, consider the years of ages past
Deuteronomy 32:7
Objects are really what matter. Only they carry the evidence that throughout the centuries
something really happened among human beings.
Claude Levi-Strauss
Collecting is an illness that ought to be covered by the Americans on Disability Act.
Richard Matteuci in Art and Antiques January 2002
A collector, first of all, has to be a collector with a capital C. The collector with a capital
C is a very rare and special species. They’re people who have a quasi-religious
enthusiasm for art. They look at art and think about art and devote all their working lives
to the pursuit of art.
Leo Castelli
Collectors become obsessive and then addicted. You become addicted to art and then you
can’t live without it.
Eli Broad
This course offers a broad range of readings on museums and exhibitionary practices and
the closely related topics of memory and narrative and the ways we “collect ourselves”
through the objects we surround ourselves with. In addressing these topics, we will
examine histories of early museums, theories of the origins and functions of the museum,
theories about collecting, the concept of the archive, case studies of collectors,
controversial exhibitions, museums and the construction of the nation-state.
Some of the readings are densely theoretical; others are novellas/fictional narratives that I
have included because they illuminate with intense clarity some of the issues that we
Course prerequisite: 12 upper division units in Art History.
Objectives of this course:
To examine the issues of memory and collecting (and its imbrication with obsession); to
learn about the histories of museums and exhibitions; to critically examine how museums
and exhibitions have been a part of the construction of “the West;” to examine how
museums and exhibitionary practices are also manifestations of power; to examine the
relationship of museums to the discipline of art history.
The questions and issues we consider include:
How are practices of collecting related to constructions of self and other; to issues of
memory? When is collecting a means of constituting the self, and when is it a kind of
disease? What roles have museums played in the fabrication and maintenance of
modernity? What is the relationship of the museum to the discipline of art history? What
is an archive? In what ways are museums, colonialism, and imperialism connected? In
what ways are museums devices for “framing”? What does the museum “frame”? In what
way(s) is the museum a performance? What is “performed”? In what ways do museums
exercise power and discipline? What is the relationship of museums, collecting, and
memory? What is the function/what are the functions of museums today?
The modality for learning will be reading and discussion. Each week several texts are
assigned. Students are expected to critically engage with these and to come to class
prepared to enter into active discussion about them. A substantial part of your final grade
is dependent on your meaningful contribution in class.
Class format/structure:
Class is based on weekly reading assignments and class discussion of those assignments.
The success of the class depends on the quality of the discussions. It is therefore
mandatory that everyone read the assignments for each week and be prepared to discuss
them. To that end, each student will prepare each week for each reading a half page of
basic points, bulleted (or in point form) as follows:
1) The author’s thesis
2) Two or three of the author’s main points in support of that thesis (you may quote
specific sentences from the text)
3) A sentence or two (no more) from the text that particularly struck you and a brief
explanation of why it struck you.
4) state what insight (if any) this article has given you (that you did not previously
have) about some issue pertinent to the course.
You may write these in outline or in prose. For each article you are to write NO MORE
than a half page. Be sure to follow the format set out above.
SESSION FOR THE SCHEDULED READINGS. The assumption is that if you are not
prepared to hand in this brief outline of your engagements with the article, then you are
unprepared to contribute to the success of that meeting’s class discussion.
You may disagree with the authors about the issues. Taking issue with the author (and
with one another in class) is perfectly fine – even encouraged. However, be prepared to
support your position and, above all, be courteous to one another and respectful in your
writing about the scholars whose works you are studying.
The readings are challenging, so give yourself plenty of time to read and think about
them. Even brief readings may take you considerable time to understand and to write
Helpful hints for engaging with this material:
a) first scan the reading quickly and note any headings or subheadings for a quick
b) after you have read each page, note what were the main points (and think about how
these points are related to other significant points.)
c) read for content, structure, and underlying assumptions
d) keep a dictionary handy to look up words you do not know. Write down the word and
its definition. You are expected to develop a vocabulary that is part of the toolbox of the
art historian – so work at it!
e) with the novellas, you are encouraged to make a comment on how the narrative has
bearing on the issues that we engage with in this course.
Leading seminar discussions:
Additionally, each week one or more students will be responsible for leading the
discussion of most of assigned articles. In this role, the discussion leader is NOT to offer
merely a summary of the article/s. Rather, the student is to LEAD the discussion by
raising issues that lend themselves to be elaborated upon, clarified, or debated. You may
use the guidelines given above in preparing for leading a seminar discussion. You will be
graded on your preparation according to the criteria given under Readings/discussion
Field Trip. There is one mandatory field trip that will serve in lieu of a regularly
scheduled class (no class April 25). Date and location of field trip to be determined.
Attendance policy:
Attendance is a basic, mandatory requirement in this seminar. This means attendance at
all classes, including those scheduled for final presentations – both yours and others.
Unexcused and excessive absences – and lateness to class – will count in determining the
final grade. Excessive absences (more than four and being late by more than 10 minutes
more than 4x) will result in a Fail grade for the class.
Pluses and minuses will be given for the course grade. Grading is as follows:
93-100 = A; 92-90 = A-; 87-89 = B+; 83-86 = B; 80-82 = B-; 77-79 = C+; 73-72 = C; 7072 = C-; 67-69 =D+; 63-66 = D; 60 -62 = D-; 0-59 = F
You will be graded according to the degree to which you critically and meaningfully
engage with the material of the course, how well you have understood the readings, made
connections between them, and grasped the intellectual and ideological differences
between different writers and concepts. This will be evaluated from the quality of your
participation in class, the way you lead an assigned discussion, the quality of your weekly
assignments, and your paper.
Your final grade will be based on the following factors:
30% meaningful class participation and preparation (as manifest in class and in the
10% first presentation
10% second presentation
25% term paper
25% class presentation for final paper
Classified and conditionally classified graduate students:
THAN UNDERGRADUATES. Graduate students will write a research paper on a topic
to be discussed with the instructor, to be handed in at the end of the semester. The final
grade for graduate students is computed out of a possible score of 200, of which 100 is
assigned for the research paper.
Assigned texts:
For the most part, readings are posted on Blackboard. The one exception is a brief novel
by Bruce Chatwin, UTZ. You can purchase this through Amazon (I got my copy for
$0.01 plus shipping.)
Week 1
Tuesday, August 27
There will be no class today. Class will begin on Thursday
Thursday, August 29
Discussion and overview of course
Class assignment and discussion:
What is your understanding of what a museum is? of what a collection is? of the
questions and issues listed above under “Questions and Issues”? of the relevance of the
quotations that serve as prologue to this syllabus? What do you collect?
Week 2
Tues. Sept. 2
On Collecting, I
Walter Benjamin. “Unpacking My Library,” Illuminations, Schocken, 1969, 59-68.
Discussants:_________________________; ___________________
Thurs. Sept. 5
No class because of Jewish New Year
-------------------------------------------------------------------Week 3
Tues, Sept. 10
Memory, History, Death, Redemption
Benjamin. “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” sections I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII
(Pay particular attention to Benjamin’s claim, p. 256, that “There is no document of
civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” What might he have
meant by this?
This article is much more challenging than “Unpacking. . . “ It (very oddly) attempts to
bring together Marxist theory and theology. Can you identify sentences that seem to be
about one of these two concepts?
Additionally, please comment on the following (thesis IX)
“A Klee painting named “Angelus Novus” shows an angel looking as though he is about
to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth
is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is
turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single
catastrophe which keeps piling wreakage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet.
The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed.
But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence
that the angel can no longer close them. This storm irresistibly propels him into the
future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward.
This storm is what we call progress.”
To what degree is “redemption” an issue for Benjamin? Look up this image by Klee.
What is Benjamin trying to say by referencing the Klee in this way? Which of the quotes
at the top of the syllabus does this passage most connect to?
Discussants: ____________________________
Thu. Sept. 12
On Collectiong, II
Baudrillard, Jean. “The System of Collecting,” The Cultures of Collecting, eds Elsner and
Cardinal, 1994. 7-24.
Discussants:_________________; _________________
---------------------------------------------------------------------Week 4
Tuesday, Sept. 17
Memory, History, Death
Susan Stewart, “Death and Life, in that Order, in the Works of Charles Willson Peale,”
204-223, The Cultures of Collecting, eds, Elsner and Cardinal, 1994.
Discussant: ______________________
Thursday, Sept. 19
Memory and Forgetting
Jorge Luis Borges. “Funes, His Memory,” The Vintage Book of Amnesia, ed. by
Jonathan Lethem, Vintage Books, 2000.
Stephen Zweig. “Buchmendel”
Discussants; _______________ __________________
---------------------------------------------------------------------Week 5
Tuesday, Sept. 24
Saving Trash
Adia Hoffman and Peter Cole. “Hidden Wisdom,” From Sacred Trash: the lost and found
world of the Caio Geniza, Nextbook. 2011, 3-19.
Discussants: _________________________
Thursday, Sept. 26
Memory, History, Archiving
Pierre Nora. “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Memoire,” Representations,
No. 26, Special Issue: Memory and Counter-Memory. (Spring, 1989), pp. 7-24 (Love
Library on-line)
Discussants: Nora ______________
---------------------------------------------------------------------Week 6
Tuesday, October 1
Collecting the Self, Collecting a Culture
James Clifford, “On Collecting Art and Culture,” available on-line via Academic
Program Pages, among other PDFs for this article
Discussant: __________________
Thursday, October 3
Collecting the Self, Collecting a Culture
Stephen Zweig, “The Invisible Collection”_________________
-----------------------------------------------------------------------Week 7
Tuesday, Oct. 8
Collecting the Self, Collecting a Culture
Bohrer. “Inventing Assyria: Exoticism and Reception in Nineteenth Century England and
France,” 191-226.
Discussant: _______________________
Thursday, Oct. 10
Creating Historical Effects:
Preziosi. “General Introduction: What are Museums For?” 1-10
Hayden White. “The Fictions of Factual Representation.” 22-34
Discussants: White__________; Preziosi ____________
----------------------------------------------------------------------Week 8
Tuesday, Oct. 15
Etymology of the “museum”
Findlen. “The Museum: Its Classical Etymology and Renaissance Genealogy,” 159-190
Discussants______________; ______________
Thursday, Oct. 17
Building Shared Imaginaries/ Effacing Otherness
Preziosi. 229-235
Duncan. “From the Princely Gallery to the Public Art Museum,” 250-277.
Discussant: ______________
----------------------------------------------------------------------Week 9
Tuesday, Oct. 22
Building Shared Imaginaries/ Effacing Otherness
Grindstaff, “Creating Identity: Exhibiting the Philippines at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase
Exposition,” 298-319.
Discussant: ______________
Thursday, Oct. 24
Building Shared Imaginaries/ Effacing Otherness, contd
Esslinger. “Performing Identity: The Museal Framing of Nazi Ideology,” 320-339.
Discussant: _______________
---------------------------------------------------------------------Week 10
Tuesday, Oct. 29
Observing Subjects/Disciplining Practices
Foucault. “Texts/Contexts,” 371-379
Discussant: _______________________
Thursday, Oct. 31
No class today because of field trip which is in lieu of a class
---------------------------------------------------------------------Week 11
Tuesday, November 5
Observing Subjects/Disciplining Practices
Paul Q. Hirst. “Power/Knowledge.. .” 380-399.
Discussant: _______________________
Thursday, November 7
Observing Subjects/Disciplining Practices, contd.
Tony Bennett. “The Exhibitionary Complex. 413-441
Discussant: _______________________
---------------------------------------------------------------------Week 12
Tues. November 12
Observing Subjects/Disciplining Practices, contd.
Timothy Mitchell. “Orientalism and the Exhibitionary Order. 442-460
Discussant: __________________
Thu. November 14
Inclusions and Exclusions
Berelowitz. “The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles: An Account of
Collaboration between Artists, Trustees and an Architect,” 718-734.
Discussants: ______________________
-----------------------------------------------------------------------Week 13
Tues. November 19
Collecting as an obsession
Bruce Chatwin, UTZ
Thursday. November 21
Collecting recipes
Berelowitz, “A Contrast in European and U.S. Approaches to the Jewish Culinary
Heritage: Claudia Roden’s and Joan Nathan’s Jewish Cookbooks,” Journal of Modern
Jewish Studies ,Vol. 10, No 2, July 2011, 155-183.
--------------------------------------------------------------------Week 14
Tuesday, Noveber 26
Movie: The Rape of Europa (117) minutes
Thursday, November 28
------------------------------------------------------------------------Week 15
Tuesday, December 3
Thu. December 5
--------------------------------------------------------------------Week 16
Tuesday, December 10