Interdisciplinary Curating, Faculty Collaborations, and the College Teaching Museum

John S. Weber

Dayton Director

Tang Museum at Skidmore College

 

 

Since it opened in 2000, the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College has created an extensive series of “interdisciplinary exhibitions” initiated and co-curated by faculty from disciplines such as anthropology, astrophysics, chemistry, and English. Although the Tang also specializes in contemporary art exhibitions, its collaborations with faculty curators have led to some of its most distinctive and rewarding exhibitions. This talk will present interdisciplinary shows such as A Very Liquid Heaven, Molecules That Matter, and Lives of the Hudson. Developed through close partnerships with faculty possessing little curatorial experience, these exhibitions lead the museum in new and productive directions, bringing together art works and objects of material culture in ways largely foreign to art museums as traditionally undertaken. They have also been some of the most popular shows in the Tang’s history, utilized by up to 20% of the college’s faculty in teaching, and drawing enthusiastic audiences from local schools and communities. This talk will examine the intellectual premises, look and feel of such interdisciplinary exhibitions, showing how they form a backdrop for faculty teaching on a college campus and charting how they are built logistically. By routinely pulling museum staff and college faculty beyond the boundaries of their separate disclipinary comfort zones, such interdisciplinary collaborations can offer college art museums a way to engage faculty and students to a degree seldom achieved through traditional art exhibitions.