Associate Professor of Art History; Director, Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities
Watson Gordon Professor of Fine Art, University of Edinburgh
Independent Scholar and Honorary Fellow, University of Edinburgh
The purpose of this grant was to involve international experts in a course developed collaboratively by the Department of Art History and the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA). “Special Topics in Nineteenth-Century Art” (ARTH 379/479) was based on a special CMA exhibition titled Paul Gauguin, Paris, 1889. The course was co-taught by Anne Helmreich, Associate Professor of Art History, and Heather Lemonedes, Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings, CMA and the curator of the Gauguin exhibit.
Through videoconferencing funded by the WLE grant, students in the course engaged directly with two scholars whose work they had just read: Belinda Thomson, a major advisor to the Gauguin exhibition, and Richard Thomson, a leading authority on late nineteenth-century French art. By asking questions of one another, the students and scholars created a dynamic learning environment.
Richard Thomson had lectured at CWRU several years before, and the videoconference provided an opportunity to renew the art history department’s relationship with him. In his presentation, he revisited an older article he had written and revised his argument in light of recent findings.
Students cited the scholars’ works not only in their research papers (as might be expected) but also in their essay exams. They easily recalled the material from the videoconferences and used it to develop critical arguments and analyses. Through their dialogue with their two instructors and the international experts, students also came to understand the collaborative nature of scholarship.
For their part, the instructors acquired skills that will help them use the technology effectively in future courses. When conversations continued past the planned time, they worked with third-party videoconferencing contractors to extend the sessions. They learned to manage the time difference between Cleveland and Edinburgh and to display images while maintaining visual contact with the guest speakers.