NB. For pdf versions of the course outlines and
bibliographies please go to the GLAADH Resources section and
then choose Initiatives Course Materials or
Initiatives Bibliographies and scroll down the index.
The project officially began in June 2002, although it
recuperated a number of previously uncodified elements of practice in teaching
during the 2001-2 academic year. The initiative leader has been on sabbatical
leave during 2002-3, which has slowed progress, but a great deal of work has
been done sinec May 2003.
Who were the staff and students involved?
Dr Richard Williams, lecturer (Contemporary Art) and students from 2nd
to 4th years on all courses taught by Richard Williams (BA History of Art,
History of Art Joint Honours, MA Fine Art)
What was the problem which was being addressed?
There were two specific problems: (1) Broadly, the narrow way
modernism has been taught in both art and architectural history. There is a
tendency to present it as a highly determined position, rulebound, puritanical
and moral. The project sought to broaden the range of references to modernism,
to complicate it as a philosophical position, and to challenge the dominance of
certain narrow, western European or North American interpretations of the term.
(2) The under-representation of Latin American material in art history teaching
in the UK. The use of Latin American material, specifically that of
architectural modernism in Brazil and México and Brazil was a way of
addressing problem (1).
What resources were in place already or contributed
to the development? There were two important resources: (1) The School
of Art, Culture and Environment already had an excellent collection of
architectural journals, and (to a lesser extent) books on the subject. Some
book ordering was necessary, but much could be done with existing materials,
especially as what was aimed for was a revision of existing courses rather that
new courses outright. (2) Unusually for a British department Art History at
Edinburgh has a long and very distinguished tradition of teaching in
non-western areas. The project had the full support of existing staff as a
means of entrenching this tradition.
Were any new resources acquired? (1) Some
new books in the field of Latin American art, costs included within existing
budgets. (2) A CD-ROM of 50 images of architecture and public sculpture,
available to students on the School. (3) Approximately 200 slides of the same,
added to the School collections.
What did you do? (1) From October 2001:
incorporated Latin American material into existing courses. (2) June 2002:
developed rationale for new courses, reported at GLAADH meeting (3) March 2003
drafted new courses (4) May 2003, research visit to Mexico City to photograph
key examples of architectural modernism and their contexts; also extensive
photography of three pre-columbian sites (Tletalolco, Teotihuacan, Xochicalco)
(5) June 2003 produce CD-ROM of 50 photographs for distribution to departments
with an interest in Latin American art.
How did you do it? (1) New material
incorporated straightforwardly into existing courses. Relatively open format of
the courses meant that re-validation was not necessary. New material often
introduced in an informal way - eg. in seminars, to illustrate a point.
Students made some use of Brasília slides in conjunction with RW once
they realised the usefulness of the material. (2) Researched Brasília
and proposed Mexican material in relation to questions of modernism. (3)
Drafted new courses (4) Research visit of approx. 10 days to Mexico DF. Mostly
done alone, though a colleague at UNAM supplied practical information and
organised visit to Xochicalco. (5) CD-Rom produced by main university library,
after consultation about format with staff in History of Art.
Why did you do it that way? The initiative
was envisaged as part of a larger process of development, with the ultimate aim
of identifying Edinburgh as a department with a specialism in Latin American
art. It was not envisaged therefore as a complete project in its own right, but
a step in a process. All the work was incremental, building on existing
resources and teaching practices, rather than building entirely new ones. No
radical changes were envisaged; the emphasis was on what could be reasonably
achieved by one person working within existing frameworks.
What constraints or support did you find?
The project did not seek much support from either the department or the
university, but received very useful informal advice from the departmental
slide librarian, from staff with an interest in digitisation, from the
departmental photographer, and from the department of special collections at
the university main library. All material work (making slides, copying them
onto CVD, making course materials) was done in-house using existing resources
There were two main constraints on the project. (1) The
project coincided with the project's leader's sabbatical year, funded by the
Leverhulme Trust, during which he was writing a book. Time management proved
surprisingly difficult: although in theory time was more flexible than normal,
the pressures of research made it hard to commit enough time early enough in
the project. But the main problem here was the fact that new course material
could not be effectively tried out during the time of the initiative. (2)
Continuing uncertainty over the overall framework of the curriculum. The
project coincided with a period of major structural change in the university,
in which departments were amalgamated into schools, faculties into colleges,
and terms abolished in favour of semesters. This made some of the project's
original proposals unrealistic - such as the aim of creating a stand-alone
course about modernism in Latin America. However, the fluidity of the
curriculum made wider change in the medium term much more likely: the project
leader will be actively working to introduce material developed on the
initiative into a wide range of curriculum developments from 2004-5.
How much time was expended? 2 weeks Mexico
DF and preparation. 2 weeks curriculum design.
What preparations did you need to make? The
main preparation concerned the research visit to Mexico. Aside from travel
arrangements, a list of principal sites was drawn up, and an itinerary. No
great problems were encountered.
How is it going/how did it go? - Still in
What's the source of your evaluation? (1)
Teaching remains to be properly assessed, but the prehistory of the project, in
October 2001, suggests a positive outcome. (2) The 35mm images produced are of
excellent quality. At least 100 will be added to the department's slide
collection during July.
What difference has it made? (1) It has
codified an important area of teaching that had previously only been covered in
an informal way. (2) It has introduced material into the curriculum that was
previously considered marginal. (3) More generally, it has complicated the idea
of modernism for students.
Has it had an appropriate impact on
learning? Experience is still limited, but the prehistory of the
project (October 2001) suggests that the material gathered is memorable and
instructive, and will have a major impact on the way architectural modernism,
and modernism in general, are understood.
What were the problems you encountered, and how did
you fix them?(1) Coinciding with a sabbatical period, it has not been
easy to tie in the initiative with direct teaching experience, although
informally it has had an impact. (2) The university underwent a major
What would you have done differently? I
would, ideally, not have had the work coincide with a sabbatical. Otherwise, no
Was it worth it? Yes, absolutely.
Is it continuing? Yes. Curriculum
developments under the forthcoming semesterised system will make increased use
of the material. The real legacy of the project will be curriculum development
from 2004-5 onwards, particularly in conjunction with Architecture, with whom
we now belong in the School of Art, Culture and Environment.
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