6/21/24 - 12/22/24

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.

During fall 2024, students are choreographing and performing dances, considering how art can convey symptoms associated with chronic illness, analyzing depictions of the Trojan War, and writing weekly journal responses.

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.

Object Lab: Fall 2024 Courses

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

Students study architecture as concept, space, and practice, thinking critically about its influence on human experience. Here and throughout the museum, students describe an object’s visual elements such as size, scale, and materials; learn about its original context; and consider how the visual elements relate to that context. Comparing the granary door from Mali and the fragmented apsara from a South Asian temple, students explore connections between gender and architecture.The door lock depicts an ancestral pair that was believed to have the attributes of both genders, while the apsara represents a female celestial being associated with clouds and water in Hindu and Buddhist beliefs.

Click here to look at the course’s StoryMap, online multimedia stories with interactive elements that encourage viewers to explore art in more detail.

Art History 213: The Human Figure in the Ancient Mediterranean
Professor Liz McGowan

The human body remained the principal subject for artists, patrons, critics, and the public in the ancient Mediterranean for thousands of years. Students use these works and the ceramics on view for Classics 101 to consider how conceptions of gender, class, ethnicity, and the body were conveyed in public and private art. The fragmented Hellenistic or Roman head reflects both the perfection and the humanity of the bodies of the gods. The Egyptian funerary stela records the life of Shepmin, an important priest of the god Min, and demonstrates how word and image can not only give voice to the dead, but also provide a surrogate body where the soul can return to earth.

Click here to look at the course’s StoryMap, online multimedia stories with interactive elements that encourage viewers to explore art in more detail.

Art History 222: Photography in/of the Middle East
Professor Holly Edwards

Students compare and contrast renderings of places in the so-called “Middle East” and think critically about what they see in the images. For example, they can view these two depictions of Egypt: Frith’s 1857 photograph, which showcases a famous monument, incorporates a person for scale, and reflects British colonialism; and Callahan’s 1978 photograph, which shows the expanse of desert and his interest in color and dye-transfer processes. Appreciating such differences in the visual archive, students are well equipped to research a place of their choice, identify patterns of representation, and then curate a virtual exhibition for their final projects.

Classics 101: Greek Literature: Performance, Conflict, Desire
Professor Sarah Olsen

This course explores how performance context shaped ancient Greek literature. In Object Lab, students study how representations of the Trojan War, in ancient and later art, constitute an act of performance in their own right. These works invite viewers to visualize specific moments from the myths (the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, on the oinochoe; the judgment of Paris, in the Ghisi print). Students also consider depictions of modern dancers (Duncan and Graham) who were inspired by Greek myth, and examine the interplay between dance and the visual arts in both the ancient and modern worlds.

Dance 210: LET’S MAKE A DANCE: Dance Making and Re-Making
Professor Erica Dankmeyer

Students practice dance-making in a structured, intimate setting using any genre or style of dance. They simultaneously learn the practice of giving and receiving feedback, using Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process (CRP). In Object Lab, students learn how to make a visual connection to a work of art by dancing in the space with the art. They use these photographs of the body in motion, as well as the Morgan photograph on view for Classics 101, as inspiration and as a point of departure for their own choreography and dance performances.

Click here to look at the course’s StoryMap, online multimedia stories with interactive elements that encourage viewers to explore art in more detail.

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

This class 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, responding to the art in weekly “art jottings” and writing field notes related to their experience engaging with the art. 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 Burtynsky and Zheng photographs with contemporary Asian urbanism.

Psychology 313: Opioids and the Opioid Crisis: The Neuroscience Behind an Epidemic
Professor Shivon Robinson

Opioid misuse, including addiction, has emerged as a major health epidemic in the United States. Students learn the neurobiology of opioids as well as genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors. They also discuss chronic pain and pain management more broadly using the two works here. Hirst frequently criticizes pharmaceuticals and drug companies in his art, and Baer often depicts bottles of alcohol in her otherwise abstract works. Autobiographical explorations of chronic illness by Lazard and Frazier, on view for Sociology 252, help students consider how individuals can effectively convey pain to others, including to medical professionals.

Sociology 252: Im/mobilities
Professor Phi Su

Drawing on sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, geography, and migration studies, students in this class discuss the causes and consequences of the freedom to move or to stay still. While reading Grace Cho’s memoir Tastes Like War, the class navigates themes of illness, disability, displacement, food, and nourishment in this selection of art for Object Lab as well as the Siskind and Fernandez photographs on view for Environmental Studies 450. Watching Lazard’s film, students reflect on giving care, in/visible illness and disability, their assumptions about whose hands and whose pills are in the film, and how it feels to passively watch a weekly medication regimen unfold over ten minutes.