• Teaching the Museum in Literature and Composition Classes

    As someone who teaches writing and rhetoric, I am interested in talking about how we can create partnerships between museums and literature and composition classrooms in higher-ed. I’ve had some wonderful success teaching the museum or museum exhibits as texts in first-year composition. As rhetorical constructs with a purpose, intended audience, historical and social context, etc., that often integrate multiple modes (written, oral, visual, electronic) and media (video, interactive digital displays, podcasts, sculpture) museum exhibits offer particularly exciting opportunities for defamiliarizing and examining rhetorical concepts and the communication affordances of ¬†different modes and media. As public spaces in which learning takes place outside of the classroom, museums potentially offer extraordinary service-learning opportunities that might engage students in the production and curation of culture and knowledge.

    Now, I’m not talking about getting undergraduates involved in mounting an exhibit at the High. Instead, I’m thinking about how curators from the High might work with a class, or two, or three at someplace like Georgia Tech to mount an exhibit in a public space on campus that relates the subject matter of the course and provides students with an opportunity to hone communication strategies while engaging in public discourse. At Georgia Tech, one of my colleagues,¬†Doris Bremm is currently working with the Ferst Center gallery on an exhibition of student work. Are there other similar projects out there? Are there any potential sources of funding to help encourage and finance this sort of collaboration? Is this even something museum professionals might find interesting? Finally, how is this sort of work related to the work or work-ethic of the Digital Humanities? If anyone else would like to talk about and maybe even answer some of these questions, we could organize a session around them.



  1. The beginning comp classes at UAB include a paper assignment on “analysis of visual text” or really image analysis. The focus is on communicating with design and visuals. Visual literacy is a new focus on our campus and probably at other universities. Collaborating with museums to take these lessons and skills beyond the classroom makes sense.

    I was contemplating a session proposal about library/museum/course instructor collaboration, but I think this idea covers what I had in mind.

  2. Roger and Amanda, including a multi-disciplinary perspective is an excellent idea. In fact, one thing we might consider is how a project like this could involve trans-disciplinary collaboration. Imagine a learning community or a set of linked courses organized around a project like this.

  3. Another thing I thought of (possibly b/c I’m in a talk right now with Jon Voss) is how teaching and learning would be impacted by linked-open data. This could be an interesting conversation that could link up with the museum discussion and intersect with GTech’s recent decision about FERPA.

    Or it could be another session.

  4. I agree with Amanda. This is a great idea, but I wonder how a engineering class, or a astronomy class, or any of the non-humanities courses or applied-sciences classes would work with museums.

  5. It also occurs to me that we could broaden the scope of this session to talk about ways in which any number of university classes could work more closely with museums.

  6. Interesting, Robin. I know of several writing and literature courses that rely on (or at least visit) rare books libraries and archives, which in some ways are museums of texts, but it hadn’t occurred to me to incorporate more tradition museums of objects. At the very least, museums could offer writing students something to write about in the grand tradition of ekphrasis.

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