Getting Personal with Museum Objects

Object Study Room in the YUAG

Since writing about the Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG) in an earlier post, I have gotten even closer with the museum in terms of interacting with the objects. As part of my course HSAR 110 Intro to Global Decorative Arts, I’ve once again become a weekly visitor to the YUAG, but this time getting to touch and handle the objects while deciphering their materials, origins, and conception.

In this course, we have two lectures a week where we learn about the cross-cultural transmission of objects and the different influences embodied in an object and then we have a section where we get to touch and think about how those objects are used in daily life as well as what purposes they serve. This two-pronged approach allows for deep understanding of how objects today relate to those created in the past and a deep appreciation for the labor that goes into every object. 

The most fun part of this course is getting access to all the different objects across time and touching items that are normally behind museum cases. 

Real gold thread on top of silk blanket
Real gold thread on top of silk!!

Crazy quilt with fabric from all over the world made in Ohio
Quilt with fabric from all over the world made in Ohio

Additionally, in order to get experience with actually crafting something so we can better appreciate the hard work of the artisans, I got to work with metal in raising a bowl. I felt bad for my neighbors who had to listen to me hammering the metal for a week, but I think I scheduled it to be at the least bothersome times of the day (hopefully). It was a very humbling experience and I learned a lot about the properties of metal as well as my physical limitations when it comes to this craft. 

Metal bowl - reference
Metal bowl - reference

Materials to raise metal
Metal bowl - my attempt

Result of my efforts in raising metal
Metal bowl (?) outcome

Overall, I am very appreciative to the History of Art department for creating such immersive courses that would be difficult to experience elsewhere. This course was definitely one of the most rewarding experiences and it even comes with a humanities credit!