Course assignments combine traditional academic writing and research skills with tasks specific to the field of public history. Brief descriptions are provided below, but more detail will be discussed in class well before assignment due dates.
Assignment #1: “What Should Museums Do?” (due Week #5, Feb. 19; 5-6 double-spaced pages)
One of the recurring themes of this course is the role museums play within their communities. Several of the readings in the first four weeks explore this issue, and consider how institutions have dealt with questions of mission, outreach, accountability, and cultural representation. This includes not only WHAT ideas are represented in museums but also WHO controls how such information is selected and displayed. Please prepare a 5-6 page double-spaced paper that compares and contrasts at least three of the authors assigned during the first four weeks of class (Jan. 22 through Feb. 12) who address these concerns.
Assignment #2: Exhibition Review (due Week #9, March 19; 5-6 double-spaced pages)
Imagine that you are an exhibition critic for your local newspaper, writing for an educated but non-specialist audience. You have been asked to review a museum exhibition (this can either be an online or “three-dimensional” exhibition–your choice, but proposed exhibits should be approved by the course instructors). In a 5-6 page double-spaced paper, you should provide some context for the exhibition (who designed the exhibition, which institution houses it, and what motivated its creation), as well as outline what visitors might expect. To achieve this you need to both describe AND critique these exhibitions and their rationale. This is not a research paper; you do not need to do any additional research beyond the readings assigned for class (and visiting the exhibition, of course!), but you can (and should) provide concrete examples from the exhibition to illustrate your points by incorporating label copy or website references. Remember, details are your friend here. Pay attention to how exhibition designers use color and lighting, which texts they emphasize and why, and how ideas, objects, and images are organized.
Assignment #3: Exhibition Script Research (due Week #13, April 16).
The ultimate product of this course will be a draft script for “Marching from Washington to Atlantic City and Beyond: Civil Rights Activists in New Jersey.” This project will require several pieces including background research on the Civil Rights Movement more generally, research on activities specific to New Jersey, transcribed oral histories by local activists, and associated curriculum materials for local school teachers. Students will select which element of the task they will explore by mid-semester, and the third assignment will be a draft of their progress to date. Written materials will be accompanied by brief in-class presentations).
Final Assignment: Final Exhibition Script (due Week #15, May 5 by 10:00am)
Final drafts of all materials for “Marching from Washington to Atlantic City and Beyond” due in class this week. This is a revised version of Paper #3, and should include: an updated research synopsis; both the images and primary source quotations you have selected along with the annotations explaining their selection; and two draft labels (50-75 words) that are YOUR interpretation of the main elements of your sub-fields significance. You need to provide sufficient background information to familiarize visitors with your subject, as well as provoke, challenge, and engage their ideas and interests (p.s. while we used a four-letter word in the assignment instructions, it’s not actually encouraged in your final papers!).