Curators Corner – Students as Art Historians (LS-FI-509)

This learning scenario is created in collaboration of two teachers from Finland – Juha-Pekka Lehtonen and Sari Halavaara. Its purpose is to familiarize students with the periods of European art history. The scenario relates to the national curriculum history course unit 4 “Development of the European world view” and also lightly crosses the “Visual images and cultures” course.

Distance learning gives new perspectives

The whole history course had to move to distance learning because of the outbreak of COVID-19. Nevertheless, we decided to stick to the initial program. We were supposed to study art movements and recap all that we have learned during the course.

We implemented this learning scenario with our students in a virtual classroom, held on Google Meet. During the first lesson, students were divided into groups of three, each representing a particular period of Art History (Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Realism, Art Nouveau). The teachers set up an individual meeting room for each group, then the groups were introduced with the following study questions and needed to search for answers:

  • What were the typical features and characteristics of the art direction?
  • What kind of subjects did the artists describe?
  • What factors in society influenced art?
  • What phenomena or thoughts of the time have influenced the art trend?
  • How were people portrayed in art?
  • How did the style differ from the art of the previous/next era?
  • Who commissioned the art?
  • Who were the sponsors and patrons?
  • Where was the art placed?
  • What are the examples of visual art, architecture, music, fashion?

Multimedia and content creation

The second lesson also began with a common online meeting. The teacher introduced students to ThingLink application, which was used to create interactive images (exhibitions). The app allowed groups to work together and create content simultaneously. By using ThingLink, students were able to add rich multimedia content to their exhibitions, like short texts, recordings, images, videos, links to the web pages and even music.

Students worked collaboratively in teams that gathered in separate online meeting rooms. The teachers visited these meetings, commented on the ongoing work, gave advice and support. It was very useful to have two teachers coordinating the students as the activities were held online and involved 33 students. Both of them were visiting as many as ten simultaneous remote meetings during one lesson.

In the last lesson, students presented their multimedia exhibitions to the whole class. The evaluation was done by their peers, who reviewed each presentation, focusing on the content and overall structure of the work.

Creative curating

Students worked as curators of the art museum, who made decisions about what artworks and how will be collected and presented. They creatively assembled the content for the exhibition.

The presentations of the art periods turned out as impressive and very informative multimedia works. Students were motivated to work on their topics. They had to solve various problems both technically and in terms of content. Europeana was an essential tool to find necessary information and content.

Closing thoughts

In curating their own multimedia “exhibition”, students not only learned about Art History but also developed valuable skills such as information management, media literacy, collaboration and communication skills. All these skills will be needed in their future working life.

Our advice for other teachers implementing this learning scenario is to provide students with some Europeana resources in advance so that the teams can start work without delay.

An example of students work

Socialist realism:

Would you like to know more about this learning scenario? You can download it below:

Public Domain Mark 1.0: the featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana and has been provided by the Nationalmuseum, Sweden.

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