Museums have increasingly turned to online platforms to make their collections accessible to audiences far and wide. Among the most popular tools used by galleries and museums is Google Art & Culture, which showcases works from around the world.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) is just one many institutions featured on Google Art & Culture with nearly 6,500 viewable works. During the fall semester, University of Houston-Downtown students had the opportunity to work alongside MFAH curators and help organize works that are now featured on the Google site in the exhibition, “Artistic Genius: Depictions of Animals in the Collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.”
Students in instructor Rebecka Black’s Art History Survey course (Art 1302) selected 15 MFAH works to be featured on the Google site, organized and positioned slides for online viewing, and composed text that accompanied the images.
“They conducted the research on these pieces and helped organize the content,” Black said. “Students also worked with two curators at MFAH and toured the museum with them. They learned what curators do and how to develop effective written content about works of art.”
Black’s students contributed labels and assisted in adding works in the following collections “Prints and Drawing,” “African, Gold,” “Native American,” and “Pre-Colombian.”
The project was made possible through the support and additional guidance of MFAH staff members, including Chelsea Shannon, gallery interpretation specialist.
Black, a UHD alumna, is currently completing her doctoral dissertation at the University of Arizona. It addresses how to engage students enrolled in art survey courses in meaningful projects. This semester’s collaboration with MFAH provided significant insight on this topic.
“I wanted to engage our students to the museum experience,” she said. “I wanted to move the class away from straight lecture and provide them with a project that would challenge and motivate them.”
Black knows a thing about the fine arts at UHD having learned from professors, such as Mark Cervenka and Dr. Susan Baker (both of whom she also worked for at the O’Kane Gallery); and Dr. Azar Rejaie, associate professor of art history and chair of UHD’s Department of Arts and Communications. Black is pleased to be back at UHD helping students appreciate art and understand the behind-the-scenes processes of museums and galleries.
“One of the reasons I wanted to be back on campus is because of the student population,” she said. “I enjoyed my time here as a student, and now I am proud to teach here. The diversity of the student body and the enthusiasm of my class has made returning to UHD a rewarding experience.”