9/10/21 - 12/12/21

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 and digital projects, students engage deeply with the objects throughout the semester. 

In fall 2021, students are choreographing dance and percussion responses to art, analyzing material properties, connecting with global case studies of environmental ethnography, and discussing Mexican and Chicano muralism. 

We welcome all museum visitors to experience the diverse array of objects and to engage with the interdisciplinary ideas brought forth in this active, experimental space.

Explore the exhibition virtually:

Use your mouse to navigate the exhibition. Click on dots to see closeups and videos about technique. Click the frame icon in the lower right corner to view full-screen.


Browse the installation:

Object Lab: Fall 2021 Classes

Art History 106: An Invitation to World Architecture
Professor Michelle Apotsos

This introductory course considers what architecture means as concept, space, and practice, and how it affects the ways that humans experience the world. Students look at the objects through lenses such as gender, race/ethnicity, community, and the transcendent, considering how architecture can symbolize different beliefs and value systems. They relate the Neo-Assyrian brick and Guardian Spirit reliefs upstairs to how heritage, education, and imperialism intersect. The lock on the Dogon granary door includes a primordial male and female, which only work as guardian figures if they are a pair and thus stand as an expression of culture-based gender values.


Art History 210: Intro to Latin American and Latinx Art: Contradictions & Continuities, Postcolonial to the Present
Professor Mari Rodríguez Binnie

Students develop a critical understanding of the breadth and richness of the visual arts in Latin American and U.S. Latinx art, tracing artistic development from the late 19th century to the present day. They delve into the artists’ relationships to race, class, and gender, their affiliations with political and revolutionary ideals, and their critical stance regarding Western art history. Here, students connect the Asco photographs with class discussions about Mexican and Chicano muralism, and the Perez print with utopian aspirations for the International Style and architectural modernism in Latin America. 


Art History 264: American Art and Architecture, 1600 to Present
Professor Michael Lewis 

This course focuses on the social, ideological, and economic forces that shaped architecture, painting, and sculpture in the United States. Themes include Puritan attitudes toward art and making art in a commercial society. Students use Object Lab for close-looking assignments, such as writing a formal analysis of one of these works with a partner. They explore tension between the ideal and the real using trompe l’oeil or “deceives the eye” examples like the Peto still-life painting.


Chemistry 336: Materials Chemistry
Professor Amnon Ortoll-Bloch

Materials science focuses on the relationships between the structure, processing, and performance of materials. Students consider the inherent material properties of these selected objects. They pay close attention to factors contributing to transformations over time such as the patina seen on the pair of bronze greaves, and learn about different methods of conservation. Thinking about combinations of pigments and binders that will last longer, they examine the flaking malachite on the Mughal portrait and Robinson’s use of her own homemade binding agent in combination with acrylic paint and other materials. 

See the class in action:


Dance 201: African Dance and Percussion
Professors Sandra Burton & Tendai Muparutsa

Focusing on embodied learning, this course introduces the foundations of selected dance and music genres from the African continent and the African Diaspora, such as Kpanlogo from Ghana and Bira from Zimbabwe. Students use these objects to examine the cultural origins and contexts of different dance and music practices, and to think critically about decontextualization. They explore the relationship between form and performance, such as how the antelope form of the Karikpo mask resonates with the acrobatic movements of the dance. The class meets regularly in the gallery for movement and music exercises.


Environmental Studies 450: Senior Seminar: Environmental Ethnography
Professor Brittany Meché

This seminar for senior Environmental Studies majors explores what the embodied, place-based, and detailed approach of ethnographic study brings to understandings of the environment. Students use the artworks as evidence for a selection of global case studies, honing their observation and critical thinking skills and extrapolating key ideas. View of Williams helps them understand the early agrarian economy and changing landscape of the Berkshires as they embark on their own local ethnographic projects. Students connect the Zheng photographs with contemporary Asian urbanism, and the Penn photo with early ethnophotography and reflections of indigeneity in Papua New Guinea.