EXHIBITIONS: FROM WORLD'S FAIRS TO GLOBAL BIENNIALS
This course surveys the Western origins of museums, world's fairs, and biennials in the 19th century and traces the increasingly global development of exhibitions of visual and material culture up through the present day. Our focus in this long and varied history will be on those shows that have sought, not without controversy, to shape viewers' knowledge of the past, while also structuring their sense of self and relationship to others in national, international, universal, and/or global terms. We'll critically assess the motivations behind these exhibitions and the changing "world picture" each presented in relation to modernizing and globalizing tendencies of the past two centuries. We'll also take a close look not only at what these shows presented, but also how and for what purpose(s) our chosen exhibitions were organized. Whose worldview, ideology, and/or political interests did they serve? How in each case did the very arrangement of objects and the physical context of their presentation seek to articulate those interests? What sort of public did they envision and attempt to create? We'll also address how and to what extent the achievements and shortcomings of earlier exhibitions have informed the character of subsequent shows down to today. Throughout the course, we'll measure our understanding of this history against local examples of Pittsburgh's rich and extensive museum culture. Written assignments will involve students in exploring these and other local installations as we assess what role museums can and should continue to play in fostering understanding of ourselves and others now and into the future.