Exploring the Art Museum

Course Description

Museums have been a respected and trusted measurement of artistic accomplishment. In this course, the student will examine the museum’s role of collecting, documenting and protecting works of art. The student will investigate the traditional role of the art museum including its operation, collection practices and role in community outreach. The course further investigates the museum in transition in the 21st century addressing such issues as the protection and ownership of ancient and cultural heritage, new media and censorship. Students will discover how corporate sponsorship, auction houses and private collectors establish the value of art. The course will also provide basic guidelines for maximizing a visit to the art museum.

Course Learning Goals

After completing this course, you will be able to:

Course Competencies

In this course, you will develop the following competencies:


Competence Statement and Criteria


Can interpret works of art and relate them to one's experience.


Can use public or private institutions as resources for exploring arts and ideas.


Can use public or private institutions as resources for understanding a social issue.


Can analyze the integration of new technology into a specific field of human endeavor for at least two perspectives.

Course Resources

To buy your book, go to http://depaul-loop.bncollege.com.

Required Book:

Beall-Fofana, Barbara A. Understanding the Art Museum. Pearson, Prentice-Hall, 2007. ISBN # 978-0131950702

Required Reading/Viewing:

The following articles and videos are provided within the course module content.

Recommended Reading/Viewing (Not Required):

Course Grading Scale

A = 97 to 100

A- = 94 to 96

B+ = 88 to 90

B = 91 to 93

B- = 85 to 87

C+ = 82 to 84

C = 79 to 81

C- = 76 to 78

D+ = 73 to 75

D = 70 to 72

F = 69 or below


Please note: Grades lower than a C- do not earn credit or competence in the School forContinuing and Professional Studies.

Course Structure

This course consists of ten modules. The estimated time to complete each module is one week.


Short Title




Brief History

Beall-Fofana, pgs. 1-7


1.1 Museum Overview Grid

1.2 Discussion Questions


Preserving Our Culture

Beall-Fofana, pgs. 14-24

Beall-Fofana, pgs. 57-62

A Day In the Life of a Conservator (Video)

Conservation in an Art Museum (Video)

Conservation at Smithsonian’s Hirschhorn (Video)


2.1 Paper on Museum Values/Ethics

2.2 Position Summary

2.3 Discussion Question


Visiting the Art Museum

Beall-Fofana, pgs. 25-33

Beall-Fofana, pgs. 41-44

World of Art (Video)

Art City: Making It In Manhattan (Video)

3.1 Tour the MET & Write About Art

3.2 Discussion Question


Outside the Box

Beall-Fofana, pgs. 45-51

Is Web Browser Replacing the Art Gallery? (Video)

4.1 2-pg. Non-Traditional Museum Paper

4.2 2 pg. Outsider Art

4.3 Discussion Question



Rethinking Curating

Beall-Fofana, pgs. 57-62

Watch: Turning the Internet Into An Art Gallery

What Happens When Great Art Meets New Media? (Video)

New Media Art Preservation (Video)

5.1 Paper/Art Museum Audiences

5.2 Discussion Question


New Media

Act/React: Interactive Interactive Installation Art (Video)

Crown Fountain (Video)

Bill Viola: The Crossing (Video)

New MediaArt (e-reserve)

6.1 3 pg. Paper/New Media Response

6.2 List/Alternative Space

6.3 Discussion Question



Repatriating Art (Web Article)

Whose Culture Is It? Pgs. 71-88

7.1 Paper/Homage to NY

7.2 Research Global Art

7.3 Discussion Question


Value & Art

Beall-Fofana, pgs. 51-56

The Value of Art, pgs. 13-29

Will US Museums Succeed In Reinventing Themselves? (Web Article)

8.1 Paper/Corporate Collections

8.2 Christie’s and Sotheby’s

8.3 Discussion Question


Issues Facing Museums

Beall-Fofana, pgs. 20-24

World’s Five Biggest Unsolved Art Thefts (Video)

Damien Hirst Butterfly Fiasco (Web Article)

9.1 Prioritize Issues

9.2 Repatriation

9.3 Discussion Question


Art Matters

No Readings/Videos

10.1 Paper: Speak Your Mind

10.2 Final Project

10.3 Discussion Question

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Percentage distribution of Assessments

Category:Percent of Grade
Discussions (2 points each) 18%
Assignments (% varies by modules) 62%
Final Project (S) 20%
Total 100%

Grading Policies and Practices

To complete the course, you must complete each of the assignments as described in the course and submit them to your instructor by the assigned deadline.  In addition, you must participate in the course discussion forum by responding to all instructor requests and by interacting with fellow classmates as necessary.

Points are deducted for late work.

Assessment Criteria for Each Competence

You are expected to read all Assessments and additional information presented in a timely manner. This will allow for online discussions and group participation in further developing each of the topics presented in the modules.

All assessments should be completed and submitted to the assignments area in the course website after each discussion and group participation is held, generally by the end of each week for each new module.

Evaluation and critiques of each of the assessments will be made within one week of their submission, so that you will have an ongoing awareness of your progress in the course.

Assessment Criteria for Reading and Writing Assessments

General Assessment Criteria for All Writing Assignments

All writing assignments are expected to conform to basic college-level standards of mechanics and presentation.

Consider visiting the Writing Center to discuss your assignments for this course or any others. You may schedule appointments (30 or 50 minutes) on an as–needed or weekly basis, scheduling up to 3 hours worth of appointments per week. Online services include Feedback–by–Email and IM conferencing (with or without a webcam). All writing center services are free.

Writing Center tutors are specially selected and trained graduate and undergraduate students who can help you at almost any stage of your writing. They will not do your work for you, but they can help you focus and develop your ideas, review your drafts, and polish your writing. They can answer questions about grammar, mechanics, different kinds of writing styles, and documentation formats. They also can answer questions and provide feedback online, through IM/webcam chats and email.

Obviously, the tutors won’t necessarily be familiar with every class or subject, but they are able to provide valuable help from the perspective of an interested and careful reader as well as a serious and experienced student-writer.

Schedule your appointments with enough time to think about and use the feedback you’ll receive. To schedule a Face-to-Face, Written Feedback by Email, or Online Appointment, visit www.depaul.edu/writing.

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Discussion Forums

Discussion Forums are an important component of your online experience. This course contains discussion forums related to the topics you are studying each week. For requirements on your participation in the Discussion Forums, please see "Course Expectations" in the syllabus.

A Course Q & A discussion forum has also been established to manage necessary, ongoing social and administrative activities. This is where the management and administrative tasks of the course are conducted, and where you can ask 'process' questions and receive answers throughout the course. Please feel free to answer any question if you feel you know the answer; this sharing of information is valuable to other students.

Assessment Criteria for Online Discussion Participation
Online Discussion Instructions

You should contribute your responses to the particular assignment for that particular discussion heading which will be posted. Directions are provided with each assignment. They must be followed according to the due dates given. Principles of good practice for participating in online discussions should be adhered to when it comes to responding to the contributions of other people in the class. These "principles" will be provided in the Online Participation Guidelines section in this study guide.

Online Participation Guidelines

The following guidelines may encourage you to be active and critical in your participation, only together we will make this course a significant and pleasant learning experience:

Some difficulties at the beginning of an online course are quite normal; solving them is part of every distance learning experience.

Final Project

In addition to the weekly assessments, you are expected to complete a final project that is directly related to the competence or competences that you have identified for yourselves for this course.

Papers must be received by midnight at the end of the 10th week of class. Please note that all papers should have a bibliography and include appropriate visuals. The visuals cannot be counted as part of the initial body of the paper.

You must complete a final project for each of the competences for which you are registered.

A1A: The Museum Docent

Select an art museum like the Art Institute of Chicago. Assume that you are a volunteer docent who will be giving a tour to a group of adults most of whom have never visited an art museum before. Write an introduction to the museum preparing your guests for their experience including museum protocol. Then, select ten works from two different galleries or time periods (five each) and prepare a one minute presentation for each work of art.

The works may be all paintings or a mixture of paintings and sculpture. How would you introduce each of the works, the period in which they were painted and a few biographical statements about the artist? Prepare simulated notecards as if you were holding them in your hand and include the image as well as the information for each work. Finally, how would you engage your audience so that they were anxious to return?

A5: Curating An Exhibition

Assume that you have been given the opportunity at a small art museum to curate an exhibition. You have a limited budget, but it will still allow you to bring in works from other museums to enhance the scope of the exhibition. Select a museum site from the web (one not previously used in this class) and identify a period and theme for your exhibit. For example, you might select a theme that focused on women artists, or the Abstract Expressionist painters. The show can be painting, sculpture, photography, etc.

Now assuming the role of curator began to select works from the collection of your museum as well as from other museums. Identify the works by artist, media, size, title and period. If your skills allow, create a virtual museum indicating placement of each of the works. Otherwise, you can merely grab them from a website and paste them into the body of your work. Be sure to create an appropriate title and to include a short introduction to the exhibition Also, be sure to identify which museums you have borrowed works from.

H2B: The Museum As Interpreter

Although we have focused on the traditional art museum, there are museums that serve a specific purpose which is to inform us about a particular event, issue or people. Museums like the Vietnam Veterans Museum, the Holocaust Museum the National Museum of the American Indian and the Museum of African Art the last two which are in Washington, D. C. not only display work by an indigenous people, but provide us with an insight into who they are and how we perceive them. The Vietnam Veterans Museum and the Holocaust Museum serve to remind us about man’s inhumanity to man.

For your final project you are to explore two museums whose collections serve to focus on a person or an event. The Vietnam Museum is in Chicago, the Holocaust Museum in Skokie. Ethnic museums like the Ukranian Institute and the Polish National Museum proudly display not only the art, but the heritage of a people. If time allows, visit one or two of these museums and make note of what they wanted you to know about their heritage. Another excellent choice would be the Inuit, the museum of Outsider art in Chicago. After visiting at least two of these museums develop a paper (5-6 pages) which should include some of the highlights of your visit and any underlying message you took away from the museum. If possible photograph some of the works which helped you to understand the museum. Museums like the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and industry would not be good choices for this project. Document your personal reaction as well.

S3F: Exploring New Media at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Institute of Chicago Modern Wing

Your final project will require you to visit both the Art Institute of Chicago Modern Wing and the Museum of Contemporary Art. If you do not live in the metropolitan area you may select a museum that houses contemporary art in your area. If that is not possible, with the permission of the instructor, you may explore websites of museums that focus on contemporary art. For your information, contemporary generally refers to art that has been created since 1945.

As you visit the museum, be especially cognizant of any works that are especially cutting edge and that utilize new media . Document the work as best you can with a photo (remember flash in not allowed) and see if there is a placard with information about the installation. If you are able to get through, you might want to make a phone call to the curator of the modern collection and ask them about works in their collection that engage new media. You can also ask about archiving those works and what type of reaction they have received from visitors to the museum. Gather your information and put it into a 6-8 page paper. Include photos. You will not be judged on the quality of the photos.

Students are reminded that each competency has an attached assignment. If they are registered for more than one competency, they must complete BOTH appropriate assessments.

Assessment Criteria for your Final Paper or Project

It is important that your final paper:

Demonstrate the knowledge you have acquired as a result of this course and your ability to:


College and University Policies

This course includes and adheres to the college and university policies described in the links below:

Academic Integrity Policy (UGRAD)

Academic Integrity Policy (GRAD)

Incomplete Policy

Course Withdrawal Timelines and Grade/Fee Consequences

Accommodations Based on the Impact of a Disability

Protection of Human Research Participants

APA citation format (GRAD)

Additional Course Resources

University Center for Writing-based Learning

SNL Writing Guide

Dean of Students Office

Changes to Syllabus

This syllabus is subject to change as necessary. If a change occurs, it will be clearly communicated to students.


This course was designed and produced by Dr. Phyllis J. Kozlowski and staff at SCPS of the School for Continuing and Professional Studies of DePaul University.

©2010 School for Continuing and Professional Studies, DePaul University. Revised 2013. All Rights Reserved by SCPS during contractual interval with the author.