Many countries have university art museums, but not in the same numbers or mold as in America. In fact, arguably, university art museums are a peculiarly American phenomenon. This class will be an introduction to, and an inventory of, university art museums in Virginia. Classes will alternate between discussions of key readings on the subject and field trips to local institutions. Starting with Virginia Commonwealth’s own Anderson Gallery, followed by the University of Virginia Art Museum, the Muscarelle at the College of William & Mary,
the Lila and Joel Harnett Museum at the University of Richmond, and the Maier Museum at Randolph College, Lynchburg (to name just a few). Students will write comparative papers on any aspect that might interest them. For example, museum architecture, collection development, the challenges and benefits involved in serving a variety of communities, private vs. public, museum ethics, funding, and different administrative approaches. The final objective is to produce an illustrated catalogue and/or website, a kind of directory and resource site, profiling each museum and highlighting the different strengths of each institution, with students writing the descriptive entries and accompanying essays. 



All readings must be completed before each week’s class. The textbook will be available for purchase in the university bookstore and new or used copies may be found online. All other readings can be found on the Blackboard website, or our website. The list of readings may be adjusted during the semester and all additions or alterations to the syllabus will be discussed in seminar.



There will be no exam for this class your grade will be based upon 5 interrelated elements.


1.     Every second week (or so) we will be discussing one or two readings, which you will be expected to summarize and post on Blackboard before 5:00 pm the following Friday. The summary should be very short: 1 page long, DOUBLE SPACED, with ENDNOTES in Chicago Style. If you are not sure about what Chicago Style is please consult with the librarians. Altogether the summaries will constitute 20% of your grade.


2.     The second element is that you will be paired with another student and together you will write 2 300 word museum profiles. I would like you to provide me with a hard copy in class, and also upload a copy onto Blackboard by 5pm the day they are due. I will hand them back with my comments and then we will take part of a class to workshop the entries, and then you will rework them, and resubmit them. Hard copies due in class, and also uploaded onto Blackboard by 5:00 pm, then you will post them on our website with the authors listed at the bottom. Hopefully these will be updated and changed throughout the course of the semester, as we become more informed, but is important we get the basics established early. In total these assignments are worth 20%.


3.     The third will be an 8-12 DOUBLE SPACED page, illustrated research paper, in Chicago Style (again, if you are not sure what that is please consult with the librarians) on any aspect of the subject of university art museums in Virginia and elsewhere. All images should have complete captions, and no spaces between paragraphs please. There is a list on our website and I encourage you to choose now, and add your name to the subject that interests you most. The papers should also include a concise bibliography of 5-10 entries – not more. I want you to have actually read everything that is on your bibliography. The first complete draft is due March 9. Again, I would like a hard copy in class and another copy uploaded on Blackboard before 5:00 pm it is worth 10%. I will return it with comments on March 30, and then the final version is due April 1, and again, I would like a hard copy in class and another copy uploaded onto the website before 5:00 pm it is worth 10%. This seems early, and it is. We need to have the work completed long before the end of term so that we can all examine and edit them together to make sure all of them are fit for public consumption. Plus, the more we learn about UAMs, the more likely that our ideas about certain institutions will change and grow, and so the entries and/or papers will need to be updated.


4.     The fourth component will be your contributions to the website. There will always be tasks that need to be completed. I will update the to do list regularly. Throughout the course of the class, I will expect you to complete at least 15 different tasks, and make, at the very least, 20 comments. Ideally these comments will be mostly editorial. I want to see you try and shape the project together, to learn how to give constructive & critical commentary to one another, to debate and discuss particular aspects and approaches. Google keeps track of everything, so I can check your participation that way, but I would like to request that you to keep a running tab/list of your own contributions, which you can hand into me at the end of term. That will also be worth 20%.


5.     The fifth component, also worth 20%, is your participation in class & discussion, and overall contribution to the project. I will be rewarding students who take initiative, who ask questions, especially seemingly simple or even silly questions, because they are usually the most important. And take risks. No risk, no glory. I especially like students who play devil’s advocate, who try to consider issues and problems from a variety of perspectives. If the website is going to be awesome, we need to ask ourselves the difficult questions early on, and often, so all the problems are ironed out, long before we make it public.



I expect you to attend all classes and field trips, and complete all readings & summaries by the date indicated on the syllabus below. You will be responsible for what we say in class – including the substance of lectures and discussions as well as instructions and assignments we set or change in class. To make it easier to keep up when you are absent or late, I suggest you develop a network of classmates that can share information. You must write a paper on a subject we will discuss and decide upon near the beginning of the semester. All assignments must be completed to receive a grade in the course.


I expect you to organize your transportation among yourselves. Most of the museums are at most, an hour and a half a way. In any case, I will put a ride board up on the website, so you can arrange to drive together to save on gas.


*Bring along pens, pencils, and notepads, & cameras to all fields trips. I want us, not only to take notes but to take lots and lots of pictures as well, to document the sites and collections as thoroughly as possible. I will also set up a page for images. When you upload them, make sure to give them proper captions: including your name, when & where you took the photograph.


Special Instructional Needs: 


All efforts will be made to accommodate the needs of students who have disabilities. Students who have diagnosed special needs (such as testing arrangements, classroom configurations, etc.) should provide the instructor with documentation before or during the first week of class so that the necessary accommodations can be made promptly.



Companion to Museum Studies, ed. Sharon Macdonald. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2010.


1.     January 9                        Introduction

2.     January 26                       Field trip to Anderson Art Gallery

3.     February 2                       *500 word museum profiles/due


Reading & summary:

John Collidge, “The University Art Museum in America,” Art Journal 26, 1 (1966).


4.     February 9                        NO CLASS (College Art Association conference)

5.     February 16                      Field Trip to Muscarelle Museum, The College of

 William & Mary, Williamsburg Arrive at 2:00-3:45 

6.     February 23                      Workshop revised museum profile in teams.


Reading & summary:  

Bonnie Pittman, “Excellence and Equity: Education and the Public Dimension of Museums,” A Report from the American Association of Museums (1992).


7.     March 2                               Field Trip TBA

8.     March 9                               First POLISHED version of paper due and uploaded onto Blackboard.


Jeffrey Abt, “The Origins of the Public Museum,” in A Companion to Museum Studies. Ed. Sharon Macdonald. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006.


9.     March 16                             SPRING BREAK (no class)

10.    March 23                            Field Trip Lila and Joel Harnett Museum, University of Richmond

11.    March 30                            Field Trip Maier Museum, Lynchberg


 * Please submit & upload summary of Jeffrey Abt’s, “The Origins of the Public Museum article, in your textbook by April 1 before 5pm.

12.  April 6                                  Field Trip Longwood Center For the Visual Arts, Longwood
13.  April 13                                Prepare Raymond Geuss “Museums” for discussion,
text available  
                                                    on the website.

BY April 15 5pm: Summaries of Raymond Geuss Museums due

14.  April 20                           Field Trip University of Virginia Museum

April 23 Summary of Victor J. Danilov, “A Campus Museum,” “A Historical Overview,” University and College Museums, Galleries and Related Facilities: A Descriptive Directory. Greenwood Press, 1996. Up on Blackboard by 5 pm.


15.  April 27                           Last Class

I would like to use this class to take care of any unfinished business, and also assess the class and get your take on how it can be improved.

* please hand in tab/list of contributions.  


16.  May 10                             FINAL DEADLINE for edits and any

                                                   other changes.

17.  May 15                             And…we’re on air.

18.  DATE TBA                      Awards Ceremony


Oscars for best entry, paper, etc. to be determined by popular yet secret vote. Open discussion for how the course/website might be improved and changed next time around.




Summarize & upload the following readings before April 27.

Erwin Panofsky,“The History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline,” Meaning in the Visual Arts. New York: The Overlook Press, 1974; Donald Preziosi, “Art History & Museology: Rendering the Visible Legible,” in A Companion to Museum Studies; Rafael Sámano Roo, “A New Setting for the Contemporary: A University Museum in Mexico City,” in The Global Art World. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2009


Tristram Besterman, “Museum Ethics,” in A Companion to Museum Studies; Victor J. Danilov, “A Campus Museum,” “A Historical Overview,” University and College Museums, Galleries and Related Facilities: A Descriptive Directory. Greenwood Press, 1996.


Readings & summaries:


John H. Falk and Lynn D. Dierking, and Marianna Adams. “Living in a Learning Society: Museums and Free-choice learning,” in A Companion to Museum Studies; Benjamin Ives Gilman, “Aims and Principles of the Construction and management of Museums of Fine Art,” in Museum Studies: An Anthology of Contexts. Ed. Bettina Messias Carbonell. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.