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Ancient Art in the Flesh: Discovering ancient art at the RISD Museum

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Course DatesWeeksMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRN
June 15, 2015 - June 19, 20151M-F 12:15-3:05POpenKathryn Howley10659

Course Description

This course will introduce students to the art of Egypt, Greece and Rome in the context of the museum. Students will learn about ancient art, and how to apply this knowledge to museum collections; they will devise and present talks on ancient objects in the RISD galleries, and also have the opportunity to design their own exhibition.

Students will receive an introduction to the artistic traditions of three of the major civilizations of the ancient world: Egypt, Greece and Rome. The excellent collections of the RISD Museum offer a wonderful opportunity to study this art at first hand, and we will spend significant time in the galleries. We will discuss the different ways in which we can respond to and interpret these objects now that they are in a museum rather than their original context: should we see them as art or artifacts? How can we uncover their cultural context and communicate this to visitors? The course will also provide an introduction to some important curatorial skills; we will discuss what makes a good gallery talk and work on developing public speaking skills, allowing students to prepare and present to the class their own talks on objects in RISD's galleries. The principles of exhibition design will also be covered, and for their final projects students will devise their own mini-exhibition. This course will serve as an excellent foundation for further study in ancient art, and is also a great introduction to curatorial work for those interested in art or museum careers.

By the end of this course, students will be able to explain the significant features and development of the artistic traditions of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. They will be aware of the main debates surrounding the display and interpretation of ancient art in museums, and will be able to incorporate these debates into their own exhibition design. Students will be able to research ancient objects independently, and confidently present this research in the form of a gallery talk.

This course has no prerequisites. However, a prior interest in art and/or museums would be useful.