‘Teaching With Objects in the Museum’

‘Teaching With Objects in the Museum’



CHRISTINA HALPERIN: I’m
Christina Halperin. I’m a Latin American Studies
Cotsen Post Doctoral Fellow here in the Society Fellows
at Princeton University. Right now, I’m teaching a course
in the Department of Art and Archaeology called
Mesoamerican Material Culture that explores pre-Columbian
Mesoamerican cultures from the perspective of archaeology.
BRYAN JUST: Hi.
My name is Bryan Just.
I’m the curator for ancient
American art here at the art museum.
And we’re working with Professor
Christina Halperin today to allow her students and
their precepts to examine firsthand original works of
ancient Maya ceramic, both vessels and figurines.
CHRISTINA HALPERIN: When we
worked in the museum, the students being able to actually
look at some of these pieces and touch them–
they can think about ways in
which people in the past may have actually worked
with these objects and experienced them.
So in looking at a ceramic
vessel that has a narrative scene around the vessel itself,
they’re able to get a sense of actually how that story
was told and the way in which someone may
have held it. Some of the complete specimens
that are at the museum, you can actually play them and hear
how certain resonances and sounds were like
in the past. Can you hear it?
DANIELA COSIO: Yeah.
CHRISTINA HALPERIN: That
one is a rattle. BRYAN JUST: So this
is the blow piece. This is the sound hole.
And these are for changing
tone.
[OCARINA PLAYING]
PENG PENG: That’s amazing
DANIELA COSIO: That’s so cool.
CHRISTINA HALPERIN: Good job.
And you’re, of course, blowing
life into the figures. You’re animating them.
BRYAN JUST: As a compliment to
the study today, the students will be actually experimenting
with manufacturing works in clay to understand the mold
making and modeling processes and hopefully, to gain a deeper
appreciation for the skill and expertise that went
into producing the works of art we have here at
the art museum. CHRISTINA HALPERIN: There’s
this wonderful aspect of childhood of experimentation
and play that allows you to learn, that allows you to think
about and move things in ways that you wouldn’t
have normally done. We tend to work so rigidly
according to these rules and these structures that we forget
that this form of experimentation and
play allows us to think in new ways.
And I think that that’s what
some of this teaches us. DANIELA COSIO: It was really
cool to be able to make something–
especially something that we’ve
been seeing in class and in precept–
and to be able to make it with
our own hands and understand the time and effort that went
into something like this– or with the molds, the lack of
time and effort that went into it– and the types of people
that could have been making things like this
in Mesoamerica. SARAH MAGAGNA: I think this is
case for not just ceramics, but for other visual arts.
But it really helps you to
understand so much better just the circumstances of production
and the processes when you have done
it yourself. So I think it’s really great
when we learn about the materiality of the work
and how it’s made.

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