21 March 2003
The October Gallery, Bloomsbury, London
In January 2002, departments of art,
architecture and design history across the U.K. submitted bids for GLAADH
funding to initiate or continue projects aimed at diversifying the curriculum.
Following up the Workshop last June (2002), the 10 successful Initiatives met
with the GLAADH team again in March 2003 to share insights, discuss progress
and review strategies. Five areas of common practice were identified for
discussion and the Initiatives presentations were grouped accordingly:
After a warm welcome from Professor Catherine King of the
Open University, the workshop kicked off with presentations by Thomas Dowson
University) and Rose Cooper (Sheffield Hallam University). For more detailed
information about each of the projects please go to their individual
Expanding Resources -
Both Dowson and Cooper have introduced new
courses and modules to their curriculum that draw extensively on museum
resources. Dowson has developed a level 3 course focused on the
socio-politics of African art with recourse to the objects and
letters within Manchester Museum's collections and archives. Meanwhile, Cooper
is half-way through the pilot-run of a new module,
'Transculturation', which draws heavily on collections held by
the Sheffield Museums and Galleries Trust. Working with curators of archaeology
and visual culture, students have access to objects on display and in storage,
presently focusing on materials donated by a Sheffield woman gathered as a
missionary in the Arctic circle in the early 20th century. Students are
encouraged to review different methodological approaches, from anthropology to
design history, to raise their awareness of the complexities entailed in the
interpretation of objects. Other collections are also being explored in
anticipation of an increase in student numbers, and the museum's forthcoming
The productive institutional and departmental
engagement of rich local resources provoked discussion around the
pragmatics of collaboration, and the establishment of good working
relationships. This "minefield of tact and diplomacy", as King put it, is often
powered in the short-term by individuals, but as Fynes (De Montfort University)
observed, is based in the long-term on the mutual clarification of agenda and
Both Dowson and Cooper foregrounded the need for
built-in flexibility, given that calendars as well as agendas
on both sides of a collaboration are subject to change. While universities can
benefit from working with museums, Dowson also stressed the need for museums to
recognise the benefit and importance of engaging tertiary and higher education.
Possible platforms for long-term university/museum collaborations might be such
annual festivals and exhibitions and events programmes as the national 'Black
The question of assessment also came up
particularly in modules that encourage students to work in teams. While Cooper
is combining journal keeping with seminar presentations and research reports,
Dowson is considering the possibility of group assessment by presentation of a
temporary exhibition at the museum. Professor Craig Clunas (University of
Sussex) pointed out that even if the exhibition is disastrous, students gain
from the experience of presenting their work to a critical audience. Another
suggestion made in response to this idea was that individual students could
curate a temporary exhibition on paper, thus side-stepping serious practical
issues of funding and time-scale.
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Following the retirement of a colleague specialising
in Chinese and Japanese art and design, Mike Harrison and Jonathan Day (University of Central England) have sought to address
difficulties in replacing teaching expertise by developing
their own skills and research. Having used GLAADH funding for staff
development and to build up resources they have been able to create
joint-delivered, highly popular Chinese and Japanese modules, thereby retaining
the diversity of the curriculum and circumventing the problem posed by the loss
of a specialist.
Sharing the principle that the curriculum can be expanded
(or cultural diversity maintained) without recourse to specialists, Paul
Polytechnic University) has adopted a strategy that was recommended by
Evelyn Welch at the GLAADH Workshop, November 2001 to insert or
"shoe-horn" non-western topics into existing modules. At level
1, where the expertise - or lack of - was felt to be less of a question, the
reconfiguration of an introductory module on 20th century sculpture as 'Objects
In Space' has been the most successful. GLAADH funds contributed towards basic
books. A level 2 module which runs through a variety of visual theoretical
approaches now includes ethnological texts, and an assignment that compares
possible approaches to 'Western' and 'non-Western' objects. For Shakeshaft,
modular changes at level 3 have been impeded by a lack of expertise.
All the projects clearly engage questions around the
histories, politics, practices, and policies of collection and display. To what
extent should course titles reflect thematic concerns, and/or
in some way point to the specificity of materials engaged?(For example Susan
Pui San Lok reflected on the use of the term, 'Transculturation' rather than
'Inuit Material Culture' as a course title and what the implications of this
might be.) At the workshop Clunas posed a question about the advantages and
disadvantages of geographically and historically delimited subjects (citing his
& Society in China 1400-1700') and theoretical, concept-based
alternatives. He went on to suggest the strategic advantages of shifting away
from the 'expert's parameters', usually determined by geography and period, to
broader course titles which can be seen to offer up flexibility in terms of
content and staffing. While the apparent lack of expertise in teaching at
higher levels was recognised as an issue, it was agreed that the importance
of 'legitimising' areas of interest at earlier stages cannot
be overstated. In the long-term, APU is looking to appoint somebody with
non-Western interests; however, needs remain for equally long-term funds
towards resources and staff-development, at APU and elsewhere.
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Shona Kallestrup (University of
Aberdeen) reported that the introduction of new courses on Central and
Eastern European Art and Design at the Universities of Aberdeen and Glasgow
rested on the development of a web-based image resource
developed by the two institutions together with St. Andrews. The latter
university already offered a course on Central and Eastern European Art, but
this too has been enriched by the new resource. The resource has made material
available that cannot be found anywhere else and provides enough visual
and textual information on which to found a course. The course is
still presented through lectures and seminars, which draw on the image
resource, but students are able to refer to the resource online and interact
with it in a number of ways.
A different kind of collaboration has been explored by
Stephanie Pratt (University of Plymouth) for a new module, 'Collecting and
Exhibiting Cultures'. Working with a visual arts tutor to devise ways of
engaging and assessing a diverse constituency of art history and
practice-based students, some of whom have been resistant to material,
Pratt was open to suggestions to combat this problem. She is also exploring
possibilities for further collaborations with six other staff members, as well
as ways of developing the department's relationship with the Royal Albert
Both presentations highlighted strategies for inter-
and intra-departmental collaboration, as ways of overcoming shortages
in staff and resources. The pooling of data online might, as King suggested,
prove particularly "transposable", while Emma Gieben-Gamal (Open University)
highlighted issues relating to the availability of long-term technical
provision for a web resource and issues of web-hosting between institutions.
Although Cooper (whose students submit their journal entries online) did not
find webCT to be in any way time-saving, and Dowson asserted the need for
student / tutor contact, the Aberdeen case demonstrated persuasively the
success with which a web resource can meet specific needs.
Staff and students circumvent the question of technical support by seeking
relevant training, gaining valuable transferable skills in the process.
Richard Williams (University of Edinburgh) raised the
question of the 'Fine Art / Art History conflict' where, in
Pratt's case, practice-based students sometimes experience difficulties with
critical and historical frameworks, yet are keen to engage with contemporary
theory. Observing the tendency for students in combined groups to separate
along disciplinary lines, Pratt wondered if the solution might be to devise two
different types of course work for different constituencies. Simon Ofield
(Middlesex University) suggested that Pratt could "flip the course" in order to
engage students from the outset by beginning with their interest in theoretical
concepts, not to privilege theory over history but to offer, as Clunas put it,
a "historiography backwards".
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Fran Lloyd (Kingston University)
emphasised the advantages of team-implemented changes to existing modules from
level 1 to MA. GLAADH funds, supplemented by additional funding from the
University, has afforded staff time to develop materials and resources that
mutually reinforce, rather than duplicate each other. Lloyd suggested that a
team-taught approach has facilitated a flexible and pragmatic
embedding of cultural diversity within the curriculum that does not depend on
individual expertise and is capable of adapting to student needs. A more
thorough consideration of resources has also structured module
changes. One module in particular, 'Exploring Contexts', is notable for its
heavy structuring around visits to both local and London-based resources,
ranging from inIVA (institute of international visual arts) to the Kingston's
Bentall Shopping Centre. The department is currently looking to feed such new
research into a web resource for staff and students.
For Richard Fynes (De Montfort University), GLAADH has validated the pursuit
of research interests which have directly affected the reconfiguration of
modules. Broad conceptual and thematic frameworks such as 'cultural identities'
and 'contemporary crafts' have allowed, for example, the integration of studies
of representations of Gandhi, 'home' as a site of identity, and South Asian
jewellery. Like staff at Kingston, Fynes has also re-engaged with local
resources - building up an excellent relationship with the museum
Belgrave Hall, visiting local Asian jewellery shops and incorporating material
he has developed for other modules into his art history teaching. He has also
encouraged members of
PRASADA to feed their research into art history
teaching and a number of PRASADA members are now taking sessions
within the revised modules. In addition to this, Fynes is also developing a new
image resource encompassing Belgrave Hall objects and PRASADA archive material.
Having looked into existing De Montfort based image projects, he has found new
software outlay to be unnecessary, advocating a measured approach as beneficial
to the process of gathering and refining materials and agenda.
Both Clunas and King remarked upon the shift
away from delivering 'straight' historical material and information,
towards thematic frameworks which have historical material at
their core, as well as better management of staff research and student
interests. A further issue raised though barely pursued in the discussion was
the question of the student constituencies for whom such 'globalised'
or 'culturally diverse' materials are devised. For Fynes, the ethnic
make-up of students should not be a factor in determining course content. Why
should 'Asian / foreign / other' subjects be aimed at 'Asian / foreign / other'
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New Research - New
The move from the BFI to Birkbeck of the latter's MA
teaching in film and television three years ago has triggered a reappraisal of
its heavy Western bias. Mike Allen (Birkbeck College, University of London) outlined
the repositioning of an established course on 'Women and Film'
to 'Perspectives in World Cinema'. The effect of sidelining the "pulling power
of certain teaching figures" in terms of attracting students is yet to be
gauged, although the reconfiguration of the course in its first run has already
generated very good feedback. Additionally, a proposed MA in World Cinema in
collaboration with SOAS is in development, and the potential for streamlining
courses and resources between Birkbeck's Department of History of Art and Film,
and its School of Further Education, is being explored.
Film is also being investigated by Richard Williams (University of Edinburgh) as a resource for a new module on
modernism and architecture, currently in the planning stage. Williams'
objective is to integrate Latin American material into the teaching of
ostensibly Western material. Rather than segregating the former as a
specialist area, the course will be structured around a series of case studies
that consider Latin American contributions to and contestations of the Western
modernist canon, challenging, for example, notions of the 'rational' and
'reactionary'. The course will be supported by a good journal collection and
new books. As with most of the projects, this rests of the development
of new research resources. A research visit to Mexico City has
generated a large body of slides, and another research trip will provide more
images which will eventually be digitised. The possibility of translating
non-English language resources is also being followed up.
While specialist expertise at higher levels of teaching is
necessary and desired, the desirability of specific courses being
identified with single 'authors' was briefly debated. Addressing
Williams' and others' concern not to fence off subject areas, Clunas observed
that the strategic embedding of culturally diverse material "digs in deeper",
making changes that are then difficult to undo; in Lloyds' words, such changes
effect a significant "paradigm shift". Dowson, however, warned
against "integration" becoming a means of "assimilation". When might such
strategies of diversification lead not to greater visibility but invisibility?
When might invisibility become, in fact, a desirable objective?
The Workshop came to a close with ideas and debates around the
futures of the GLAADH Initiatives in full flow. The GLAADH team would like to
thank all the participants for a stimulating and thought-provoking day of
discussion, and very much look forward to reconvening for the forthcoming
GLAADH conference on Friday September 19th, 2003 at Goodenough
College, Mecklenburgh Square, London WC1N 2AB.
Globalising Art, Architecture and Design
Debating approaches to changing the curriculum in the UK
Recent QAA and RAE reports noted that art history teaching
and research in the UK focuses mainly on western art traditions and visual
culture. Since its inception in 2001 the GLAADH project has been seeking to
address this imbalance. It is now providing resources and information through a
website, as well as supporting new initiatives at Universities across the UK.
The GLAADH Conference will bring together subject specialists with lecturers to
share information and discuss best practice in the field.
The conference will address issues surrounding the
prevailing canon, curricula content and use of resources as well as the
implications of changes that are already underway. The discussion will take the
form of plenary debates chaired by leading scholars, followed by concurrent
sessions where representatives from the 10 GLAADH Initiatives will discuss
methodology, theory and practice.
The Conference will be free of charge to all representatives
of the 47 Universities that offer Art, Design and Architecture History degrees.
GLAADH will also cover travel, subsistence and accommodation for the night of
Thurs 18 September for one member of each department.
To read the updated Initiatives' Progress Reports in full,
please go to Initiatives Case Study page.
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