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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 17, 2006 | Vol. 35 No. 30
KSAS Introduces Museums and Society Program

Interdisciplinary offering is designed for undergrads, will use local institutions

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

For a university that promotes "Knowledge for the World," it is perhaps only fitting for Johns Hopkins to offer a course of study in institutions that practice the very same philosophy.

The Krieger School of Arts and Sciences this summer will introduce its new Museums and Society Program, an interdisciplinary course of study for Homewood undergraduates. The new program will offer its first course in July — Art in London, to be held in that city — and plans are for the curriculum to become a minor.

The development of a minor in Museums and Society was one of the recommendations of the Homewood Arts Task Force, which submitted its final report in May 2005.

Specifically, Museums and Society will promote the study of institutions that collect, preserve and interpret material culture for both scholarly ends and to instruct the general public. In addition to curricular and scholarly activities within the university, the program aims to promote meaningful connections with local and regional museums.

Faculty in such disciplines as anthropology, classics, history, history of art, history of science and Near Eastern studies will contribute to the program's development.

Elizabeth Rodini, a senior lecturer in the Krieger School's History of Art Department who will serve as associate director of the new program, said that a driving force in the creation of the program was the strong and growing interest in museums, among both students and an interdisciplinary group of faculty.

Rodini, who came to Johns Hopkins two years ago to assume the role of university liaison to the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum, said that the new program will offer significant opportunities to establish closer ties to the Baltimore/Washington area's many cultural institutions.

"Right now, there is a widespread interest in museums and related institutions and the role they play in interpreting cultures," Rodini said. "One of our goals with this program is certainly to build relationships with the city's cultural institutions and give students more access to these places. Next to New York, the Baltimore/Washington area is perhaps the most vibrant area of the country for museums."

Rodini said that while many universities offer graduate-level training in museums, the Johns Hopkins program is unique in that it will be offered to undergraduates and is not intended as a pre-professional program.

The program's courses, Rodini said, will allow students to think critically about museums, examining their forms, functions, philosophies and practices in both historical and contemporary contexts. Many classes will offer visits to local institutions, including the Baltimore Museum of Art, Walters Art Museum, Maryland Science Center and Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History and Culture. Not limited to the study of traditional museums, the program will also explore the roles of historic sites and monuments.

Rodini said that one goal of the program is to produce educated museumgoers — citizens who can visit museums with a critical eye and participate with intelligence and insight in the debates surrounding them.

A sampling of courses planned for the fall includes Africa and the Museum, Art Collection and the Rise of the Museum, and Introduction to Material Culture, a course offered through the History of Science Department that will result in a student-curated exhibition at Homewood House.


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