INT—Group Project

Jun 20

Art, Trade, and Imperialism

Museum Exhibit, in the form of Powerpoint slides, due midnight on the evening of Sunday, Jun 20.

This assignment asks you to think critically as a modern, historically-informed, and visually aware museum curator. Museum exhibitions are often fundamental in understanding where and how a culture and a national identity emerge and change over time.

The purpose of this assignment is to have you to create your own miniature museum exhibit in which you both display your growing skills in visual literacy and analysis — and make an original argument about the objects you group has chosen to display and their relationship. The goal is for you to create an exhibit that employs skills and deploys content from all three of your C.G.S. courses: Humanities, Social Science, and Rhetoric.


After your visit to the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) and to historic sites in Salem, explore the PEM website. Pay special attention to the “American Art,” “Chinese Art,” and “Maritime Art & History” collections.

Explore by Category | Search Full Collection.

Your project should include FOUR objects or works of art – one drawn from each of the following categories:

  1. A portrait (oil or otherwise) of an individual from or affiliated with New England or with Asia: portraits.
  2. A piece of fine art imported from Asia to America before 1900: asian arts
  3. An item related to food or serving food such as a teapot: teapots (you may want to try other searches)
  4. A piece of furniture made in either Salem or Asia such as a chair, a table, or cabinet: chairs; tables.

In choosing four items, you should be formulating a narrative of some kind about the relationship—artistic, economic, political, or cultural—between China and America during the 18th or 19th centuries. Your eventual goal will be to create a museum exhibit that creates and depends upon a discourse or conversation you create between and among the four items. How will you organize the items? Chronologically? Thematically? Functionally?

A successful exhibit will include:

  • An informational description of the exhibition (title, curators, and theme)
  • A clear position (thesis/argument) regarding the theme of the exhibition (what and why is the show putting these four items “on display”?)
  • Information on the artists or makers of each item included. Make sure to record all identifying information (artist, date, medium).
  • A visual description/critical analysis of the display of objects.

Required Written Components:
One “wall panel” introducing the exhibit and four “Wall texts” analyzing the objects and their relationship. What will your visitors learn at the outset? How will your text entice the visitor to continue onto the rest of the exhibition? These texts should explain, describe, describe the relationship between the four items. Why did you select them (note those reasons in the wall texts)? Be concise! You will not have space to write about everything.

Story/Narrative: Your exhibition should tell a story—and you should aim to express that story not just in words but in the sequence of images encountered by viewers. What does the title convey about a position or perspective? How do the display, wall texts, supplementary materials and organization work together to tell that story? Who is the audience? What do different audiences learn by touring this exhibition?

Format: Your exhibition should consist of 5-10 slides, created using Powerpoint, Keynote, or Google Slides. Each slide can have text and/or images on it. Your four objects can appear more than once, allowing you to present an object in isolation as well as in juxtaposition to one of your other objects. Do not use fancy transitions!

The final project should be output to .pdf and turned in via the comments, below. In the body of your comment, list the people involved in your project, together with your exhibit title. File size must be ≤10MB, and the file name should end in .pdf—otherwise you may encounter difficulties attaching your project to a comment. If all else fails, email your project to Prof Henebry and he’ll submit it for you.

This prompt draws on both the language and ideas of an assignment created by Sasha Goldman, who has taught in Boston University’s Writing Program and holds a PhD from the University’s History of Art and Architecture program.

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