Kirakosian says that by studying paintings, drawings, and sculptures, students can better understand how concepts of justice and truth were established in medieval Europe, and compare those historical concepts to their own. Learning with museum objects helped students explore theoretical concepts beyond their historical definition.
Despite significant support from museum staff, she initially found it difficult to narrow her object list from the extensive database in order to meet course objectives. Ultimately, the process improved the course: “I found that it was a good exercise for me to determine why the object is important and then guide my students in their own discovery of its relevance for the course.”
Takeaways and best practices
Afford multiple moments for discovery.
On each page of the course site, Kirakosian included an image of an object suited to the topic to familiarize students with primary sources in the digital sphere. For their written assignments, they drew from real life experience with the material—in class, in Houghton Library, the museums, and beyond. Students also revisited their personal definition of justice, authored at the start of the semester, in the final class discussion.
Utilize an existing collection.
Each semester, instructors can take advantage of mini exhibits curated by others. Kirakosian extended the impact of her installation by holding a session for students of a colleague’s law and literature course.
Introduce a new layer of skills.
In future courses, Kirakosian hopes to collaborate with students to develop museum exhibits, empowering them to experience the curative process.
These course-related displays get students into the museums and create a special link to the space, broadening their perspective on the subject matter: “They experience the complexity of a given topic and understand that they are part of a research discussion.”