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Panel to Discuss ‘Objects of Inquiry’ at UW April 10

April 5, 2017

A panel discussion will explore questions museum objects can generate in research and teaching when approached from different scholarly points of view Monday, April 10, at the University of Wyoming.

Jim Harris, an art historian from Oxford University’s Ashmolean Museum, will moderate a panel, titled “Objects of Inquiry: Ways of Seeing, Ways of Knowing in the Humanities,” at 5 p.m. at the UW Art Museum. Panelists are Nicholas Crane, assistant professor, UW Department of Geography; John Dorst, professor, UW’s American Studies Program; Erin Forbes, assistant professor, UW Department of English; and Janice Harris, professor emeritus, UW Department of English.

The Wyoming Institute for Humanities Research (WIHR) at UW sponsors the discussion, which is free and open to the public.

When people look at objects on display in a museum or archive, they view them through the lens of the curator’s interpretation, embedded in a museum narrative that takes form through interpretive labels and wall text, and the way artworks are juxtaposed, says Isadora Helfgott, an associate professor in the UW Department of History and a member of WIHR’s Executive Committee.

“Museum objects, however, can tell different stories depending on the questions we ask of them, just like the texts, data and archival materials that often form the basis of academic research,” Helfgott says.

Jim Harris and the panelists will use objects from the collections of the UW Art Museum and the American Heritage Center to consider the questions museum objects can create in research and teaching.

The event is intended to be an open-format discussion among panelists and the audience in which art museum objects provide the launching point for a consideration of humanities methods and modes of inquiry.

Jim Harris is the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Teaching Curator at the Ashmolean Museum. He specializes in sculpture of the 14th-16th centuries, and has taught on late-medieval and Renaissance art, and the physical histories of sculpture.

At Oxford, he has worked with colleagues in the English, modern languages, experimental psychology, theology and history departments. He has been a visiting lecturer at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Gallery, the Courtauld Institute of Art and the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.

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