Tangible Things: Observing, Collecting, Sorting

The objective of this course is to use object-centered historical and interdisciplinary research to advance the conception of a future exhibition drawn from the many collections at Harvard University. Buried in storage within Harvard’s museums are relics of “international experiences”—moments of wonder, envy, conflict, and appropriation—that extend over more than three centuries. They expose the intellectual assumptions and the political and economic forces that have shaped American encounters with the world. Treating divisions among the arts, the humanities, and the sciences as permeable, the seminar will investigate how collecting and categorizing tangible things have progressively shaped social, intellectual, and cultural boundaries in American society. The seminar will be conducted in parallel with a seminar at Harvard University convened by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. The two seminars will confer electronically, and (funding permitting) will hold two joint residential weekend workshops, one in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and one in New York City. 3 credits.