Chasing the Red Deer into the American Sublime
Education and the Art Museum, Part II
When people ask me what I've been doing lately, I say chasing the (red) deer into the American sublime. This sounds impressively poetic rather than sourly pedantic; I've found people are far more impressed by writers who sound (if not act) like poets rather than art know-it-alls. Although I've learned a lot about art by writing this column for two years, I've learned even more about art museum websites.
Last month I discovered a mother load of free educational materials available online from U.S. art museum. I can tell from your responses that I struck a chord. This month in surveying the United Kingdom I once again hit pay dirt.
Chasing the Red Deer
I wasn't fixing to hunt red deers in Scotland but at the end of this month's toils, I found a cool interactive site for the Royal Museum of Scotland which taught me about these amazing creatures from 10,000 years ago (one of whom, as the online video says, could feed a family of four for two weeks) It seems a perfect trope for what I've been experiencing these past two years.
For example, I have previewed this years biggest art blockbuster, Picasso/Matisse, searched through hundreds of William Turner's works, and discovered Alfred the Lion at the British Museum, who teaches children how to search online through that great collection. What keeps this job a pleasure is learning something which hardly anyone has heard about and getting the word to my readers.
The American Sublime
A lot of my readers are lifelong learners who should know, for example, that the Tate Britain has a big show about The American Sublime -- i.e. 19th century landscape painting in North America. "The sublime" is one of the most important but most misunderstood ideas that we inherited from the 18th century. The sublime is what we today mean by the awesome, something grander and nobler than all of us put together; the American sublime was the immense landscape of the continent which poets, and later painters, tried to capture for the millions who lived in the cities of the eastern seaboard and in Europe. This interactive exhibit and downloadable teachers guide taught me a lot about this great period in American art.
The Tate Modern website has already put up its Picasso/Matisse preview. Before the hoopla and ballyhoo over this immensely important exhibit start, this little gem actually allows you to learn something by comparing several works each by these giants and is accompanied by timeline and a fine insightful text. So when people start buzzing start about this exhibit -- and they will -- you will be all supplied with acute observations.
Who knows when you will be asked at a party or in a gallery to explain what the big deal is about Turner? Somebody is bound to have heard something about all of Turner being online somewhere. Yes its true, the Tate Britain has actually digitalized its entire collection of Turner's oils, watercolors, and sketches -- all 25,000 pieces. This awesome achievement deserves a Webbie award and much more media attention than it has gotten so far. It will take me a while to sort it all out, but you can visit right now. Less daunting because it contains only a few paintings, but still sublime, is the new Turner exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art. It's a good introduction to the greatest painter England ever produced.
Interactive Online Exhibits
I noticed so many intriguing interactive exhibits that I've included them as well. These are not strictly speaking educational materials (defined as curriculum guides/lesson plans written for teachers and students) but that definition now seems an unduly restrictive way of looking at education.
The British Museum had a great idea recently. Having established Compass for adults (see January's article) they decided to offer a kids version. So the staff selected around 800 objects from the Museum's collection with texts specifically written for and vetted by children. This material is keyed to national educational standards. I think it's worth a visit. You could capture the attention of even young children with it, and as a bonus have them learn how to do a search through the collections on their own. I should have been so lucky when I was a kid!
I've been trying to identify more specifically what particular material you can download at each site. This month you will find annotations to my list making it more clear and purposeful. (Of course it would be great if readers write in with additions.) Keep checking the list from time to time.
Education and the Art Museum, Part I
American art museum websites with educational content
This article is copyrighted 2002. Please do not republish any portion of this article without written permission.
Joseph Phelan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Online exhibit review: Inuit Art: The World Around Me, by John Malyon
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January, 2000/Poll: Who is Producing the Most Interesting Art Today? (Part II)
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November, 1999/The Louvre Museum
Web site review: The Louvre
Web site review: North Carolina Museum of Art
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Web site review: The Butler Institute of American Art
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Web site review: National Museum of Wildlife Art
Online exhibit review: PBS: American Visions
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Online exhibit review: Michael Lucero: Sculpture 1976-1995
May, 1999/Women in the Arts
Web site review: National Museum of Women in the Arts
Online exhibit review: Jenny Holzer: Please Change Beliefs
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Web site review: Fine Arts Museums Of San Francisco
Online exhibit review: Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe online
March, 1999/Vincent van Gogh
Web site review: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
Web site review: The Vincent van Gogh Information Gallery
February, 1999/Great Art
Web site review: The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Online exhibit review: John Singleton Copley: Watson and the Shark