2/19/21 - 5/14/21

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, students engage deeply with the objects throughout the semester. 

In spring 2021, students are researching connections with Maya culture, analyzing relationships between monuments and collective memory, and assessing how different pigments react to mixing or fading. Themes across the courses include monumentality, reproducibility, materiality, and the power of an icon. All three 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 spring, 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.

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Object Lab: Spring 2021 Classes

Anthropology 219: The Art and Archaeology of Maya Civilization
Professor Antonia Foias

This course examines the Maya civilization between 1000 BCE and 1600 CE from the combined perspectives of archaeology and art history. The Maya sculptures here relate to the hieroglyphic writing system, rituals, and even architecture. For example, hieroglyphs on the gadrooned bowl identify the original owner: “This drinking cup contains fresh new cocoa and is owned by Spine-Hand the Blood-Scatterer, the twenty-year old kin [possibly son] of the forty-year-old Lord of Naman.” Each limestone sculpture is a tenon that originally projected from the exterior of a palace or temple.

Art History 402: Monuments and the Art of Memorial
Professor Elizabeth McGowan

Calls for the removal of monuments that elevate individuals implicated in colonialism and racism have led to a surge in alternative monument-making, and brought commemorative images back into public consciousness. This course considers a range of ancient Mediterranean as well as European and U.S. historical monuments across the modern era, and charts their reception, influence, and even destruction in later periods. Students examine how works, such as the archival views by Eugène Atget, Pieter Hugo, and Giovanni Battista Piranesi, preserve memory or how the two Memory Renderings by Vik Muniz relate to collective memory and photography as an act of memorial.

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Chemistry 117: Roses are Red, Violets are Blue: The Origins, Perception, and Impact of Color
Professor Lee Park

This course examines color, from physical and chemical origins to measurement and description from a scientific perspective. Students discuss how pigments have been used in works of art at different times, and the characteristics that make certain pigments suitable for particular applications. They explore color mixing, fading, and perception of color, for example, how juxtaposed colors and intensities in the prints by Richard Anuszkiewicz and Jonathan Borofsky affect how they perceive the appearance of purple.

Browse the objects:

See the class in action: