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DCAL workshops are branching out! For this session, sponsored by the Institute for Writing and Rhetoric, a participants gathered at the Hood museum, for some first-hand experience with the “Learning to Look” methodology.
For the first part of the session, curators Lesley Wellman and Kathy Hart, who facilitated the session, asked us to step into the role of students. They guided us through an exploration of the Hood’s Assyrian Relief’s, which highlighted these processes:

  • begin with careful observation and inventorying of the object under study
  • work collaboratively as a group, gathering and extending both observations and questions
  • decode the object as a visual communication

After this exercise, the group discussed the value of this method, and of including objects from the Hood’s collection, in teaching across the curriculum. For me, the main take-aways were these two:

  • Studying – and observing – almost any object at the Hood will quickly lead students to realize that answers to many of the questions raised need to come from a variety of disciplines. Our Assyrian Relief example cannot be understood without expertise from archeology, cultural anthropology, forensic anthropology, history, art history, biology, climatology, geography, environmental studies, linguistics, religion – to name the most obvious contributing fields. Even seemingly simple questions about these objects require cross-disciplinary efforts – and students will recognize this quite naturally.
  • Using these materials in teaching can generally enhance students’ skills at critical analysis. Our students are often tempted to immediately jump to interpretation and conclusion. By encouraging a period of careful looking, of taking stock, of slowing down, we can encourage the development of a more “critical” stance towards primary materials.

Detail from a Assyrian Relief panel at the Hood museum

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info-fetishist

yeah, it's long -- I didn't have time to make it shorter

Feral Librarian

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