Museum Assignment. The de Young Museum in San Francisco (Research Paper Sample)
Find a museum or gallery in your region that features Indigenous visual culture. Here are some examples:
- The de Young Museum (San Francisco, CA)
- The Oakland Museum of California, Gallery of California History (Oakland, CA)
- The Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History (Santa Cruz, CA)
- The San Diego Museum of Man (San Diego, CA)
- The Rockwell Museum of American Art (Corning, NY)
- The Museum of the American Indian (Washington, DC & New York, NY)
- The Field Museum (Chicago, IL)
Visit the museum or gallery (if this is not possible, please contact your TA or me for alternative instructions).
While you are viewing the relevant exhibition(s), consider the following:
- How is the work of Indigenous artists portrayed, installed, labeled, categorized?
- How are Indigenous peoples portrayed, labeled, categorized?
- How are historical narratives told, and who tells them?
- What might be missing from the narrative in the exhibitions at the museum or gallery?
- Do notions of nationality and nation-building manifest in work at the museum? If so, how?
For your paper (due Monday, July 2nd at 9:00am PST), choose one of the following prompts:
1. Choose two artworks that explore land or landscape (at least one must be by an Indigenous artist). These pieces could explore the artist’s connection to land, a particular ideological orientation to the land imaged, or perhaps an approach to land that renders it sublime. Using formal and contextual analysis, as well as bibliographical references, compare and contrast the pieces: How does land or landscape figure in each piece? How might each artist’s positionality (their nation, economic status, gender, and so forth) influence how land figures in their work? Make sure you discuss what the artworks have in common, as well as what differentiates them.
2. Choose one artwork that explores nationality or nation-building (by an Indigenous or non-Indigenous artist). Using formal and contextual analysis, explain the signifiers in the artwork. What ideologies or epistemologies might inform the way in which nationality or nation-building figures in his/her/their work?
3. Choose one exhibition at the museum or gallery that either features Indigenous artists, or represents Indigenous peoples. As you view the exhibition, consider what you might change or add. In your paper, describe what about the exhibition you would change, and why. For instance, would you change the labels? Would you paint the walls a different color to compliment the work? Would you add a particular artwork that would add depth to the exhibition? Would you remove the exhibition entirely? Explain why the changes you suggest are important. Use at least one artwork to illustrate your argument, employing formal and contextual analyses.
- Situate the artists within a clear context — address where they are from and which nation(s) of which they are/were members. Make sure you properly identify all examples of works of art (by stating artist’s name, title, and date).
- Make sure you have a thesis statement in your first paragraph. See here (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. for guidance on writing a strong thesis statement.
- Be specific: try to define, clarify, explain, and defend all of your statements.
- Use at least two bibliographical references — your paper will be stronger. Check the writing resources mini-module for suggestions. Feel free to cite readings from this course.
- Avoid plagiarism (do not copy the text, sentences, or arguments of another published source without appropriate reference).
- All reference information should be contained in the footnotes (please use Chicago style).
- The essay should be approximately 1-2 pages, typed, and double-spaced.
- Use 10 or 12 point type in Times, Arial, Helvetica or Garamond font.
- Use 1.25-inch or smaller margins on the left and right, 1-inch margins on the top and bottom.
- If you include images, please place them at the end of your essay.
The de Young Museum in San Francisco is one of the unique fine art museums located at the Golden Gate Park and it's the home to more than 30,000 pieces of art from around the world. Visitors have the chance to view the pieces of pre-Columbian American art up to the 20th-century arts.
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