I consider my classes as collections of close encounters between students and works of art. Most often these encounters are digital, facilitated by a projector or an iPad. But I strive to foster face-to-face meetings when possible. I first experienced the exhilaration of holding a medieval book in an undergraduate class, and I aim to create similar opportunities for my students. Visits to local collections, both guided and independent, enable students to develop personal connections with historical objects and works of art.
These object encounters are only one part of the art history equation. My courses also emphasize the development of students’ writing and communication skills alongside their direct engagement with art objects. In learning to write and talk about works of art, students translate the visual and the material into the verbal. Students learn not just through listening, but through writing, speaking, and teaching one another. My classes give students opportunities to share their work through online projects, presentations in classrooms and galleries, and radio broadcasts.
The study of art history is a study of visual and material cultures. The high level of sensory engagement with objects it requires instills a deeper understanding of visual and material contexts. Yet the methods of art history are primarily verbal and textual. I aim to foster in my students attention to the visual and the verbal alike; their learning occurs in their process of translating between the two.