9/14/20 - 12/31/20

Elizabeth Gallerani
Curator of Mellon Academic Programs

Object Lab is a hybrid gallery-classroom that visualizes the Williams liberal arts curriculum through the museum collection. Faculty work with WCMA staff to select art that connects with course concepts. These works of art are then installed in the gallery, grouped by course. Through museum visits combined with close-looking assignments, students engage deeply with the objects throughout the semester.

In fall 2020, students are designing chemistry experiments, curating virtual exhibitions with works from the collection, creating sculptures with found objects, and drawing cross sections of three-dimensional objects. All five of the participating courses are incorporating in-person visits to Object Lab. We make high resolution photographs and installation photography available for learning in remote formats.

Although the museum is open only to Williams faculty, staff, and students for class use this fall, we welcome all museum visitors to virtually experience the diverse array of objects and to engage with the interdisciplinary ideas brought forth in this active, experimental space.

Object Lab: Fall 2020 Classes

Art History 246: Do You See What I See?! Museum Culture
Professor Holly Edwards

This course asks a challenging question: what role do museums play in the education of individuals and the formation of communities? Looking at WCMA and other institutions, students consider how museum collections are assembled and how those collections are deployed to serve morphing agendas. Students look carefully at the seven works of art in Object Lab and compose an introductory wall text that provides an overview and thematically links the works. For the final project, each student curates their own virtual exhibition drawn from the WCMA collection.

Art History 272: Art of the Noble Path: Buddhist Material Culture Across Asia
Professor Murad Mumtaz

Buddhism has spread throughout Asia and beyond since its emergence in India in the 5th century BCE, providing a shared philosophical and cosmological framework for diverse global cultures. Looking at a range of media and cultures in Object Lab, students study the attributes of the Buddha, including the long earlobes, the urna (circular dot on the forehead), and the ushnisha (oval at the top of the head). The course also considers the influence of Zen philosophy and Daoism on Chinese landscape painting such as this painting by Li Yao.

Art Studio 115: Sculpture: Poetry with Objects
Professor Amy Podmore

Sculpture employs the body and communicates via the physical world in powerful ways. Through the process of alteration, transformation, and manipulation, sculpture reveals the narrative capacity of form and materials. In this course, students create sculptures with found objects in response to art they study in Object Lab and think about the complex associations that each assembled work contains. Another class project involves deconstructing and reconstructing objects, as seen with the sculpture by artist Courtney Smith. 

Chemistry 364: Instrumental Methods of Analysis
Professors Christopher Goh & Amnon Ortoll-Bloch

This course surveys different laboratory methods of chemical analysis and explores which instruments to use and how to quantify the results. Students turn to works of art gathered in Object Lab to design experiments and apply methodologies with an emphasis on assessing how different pigments change over time. Students examine the organic pigments that artist Ed Ruscha used, including bolognese sauce, blackcurrant pie filling, and raw egg in comparison to the cinnabar, indigo, and gaogoli (created using urine from cows fed with mango leaves) used by an artist in Mewar, India.

Mathematics 151: Multivariable Calculus
Professor Ralph Morrison

This course extends calculus to several variables, learning how to describe something in three dimensions, calculate rates of change in different directions, and find surface areas and volumes. Students apply three-dimensional thinking and analysis to the works in Object Lab. For example, they calculate the volume of the Troilos stamnos to determine how much wine it could have held, and draw different cross sections of the vessel looking at the images on each slice. They interpret the print by Inka Essenhigh through the lens of vector fields and consider whether the thicker lines might represent greater force.