Tuesday, 13 May 2014

THESIS REFLECTION # 2

BY: KATHRYN METHOT

Kathryn Methot

My name is Kathryn Methot and I entered the Master of Museum Studies program in September 2013. While studying Art History at the University of Toronto, I spent many happy afternoons in museums. Looking and learning about the fascinating objects in Toronto collections influenced my decision to continue with a Master of Museum Studies at the Faculty of Information. The thesis option has given me freedom to follow my own academic interest in museums and will provide me with a foundation for a future doctoral dissertation. 

 While completing my undergraduate degree I became interested in print and drawing collections. I found that print collections helped me to understand the development of popular trends and archetypes in painting and sculpture. Especially while studying sixteenth century Netherlandish painting, I was able to find the origin of many Dutch proverbs in engravings and woodcut prints. Print was particularly powerful in a pre-photographic era as written and illustrated ideas could be reproduced many times and disseminated across Europe. For artists, images that could previously only be seen locally could now be printed, sent, and seen by other artists in different countries. In the field of art history, this area has been a fruitful source for understanding how the same trends emerged in different countries. This history is now preserved in museums and printed images can be used to contextualize visual arts and culture from many periods.

Gardiner Museum Artworks
A display at the Gardiner Museum presents the influence of book illustrations on ceramic art and design.

As a thesis focus, this subject is very exciting for me. Few art historians have discussed this subject and even fewer museums have launched exhibitions which present the influence of print on the history of art. Museum professionals who have a passion for print are enthusiastic about what they do and the importance of paper collections. My theoretical research will be supported by practical information from interviews with museum professionals. I am beginning to make connections with several individuals working with print collections and will hopefully be able to conduct interviews with them this summer. In June, I will be travelling to New York City to meet with print and drawing curators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Neue Galerie. Later this fall I will be meeting with the rare books curator at the National Gallery in Washington.

An issue that I will be critically examining is the neglect of print collections. I believe the 'unoriginality' of print has placed them at a disadvantage in art museums. However, museum exhibitions which treat print as a legitimate form of artwork and value them for their ability to contextualize culture have been very successful. While this topic is in its early stages of development, I am thrilled to be supervised by two fantastic members of the iSchool's faculty, Dr. Alan Stanbridge and Dr. Irina Mihalache. I am looking forward to sharing my summer research and travel stories on Musings!

7 comments:

  1. Thank you, Kathryn, for sharing your topic and also your great enthusiasm and passion with all of us. And what a great topic - as you are so right to claim that there is an entire history of representation vis-a-vis prints in cultural institutions which has failed to explore the almost archival values of prints. Excited to hear more!

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  2. Super exciting topic! I'm really excited to hear about your travels to those institutions and meetings with various practitioners. I was wondering what types of questions you want to ask the practitioners? I was also curious about how you are approaching the issue of using the print collections as contextual information versus as the main object of discussion? What is your goal - for instance, is it to raise awareness of print collections as an important genre of collections for exhibitions?

    I realize that these may be things you plan to post about later, so feel free to leave things mysterious and I will await the unveiling!

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    1. Thank you for your feedback, Nicole! I'm interested in connecting with practitioners who work with paper collections to find out what they think the value and purpose of their collection is. Some collections are more active in museums and serve different purposes in different institutions. I would like to collect a variety of perspectives. I believe prints can be used as contextual information and as an object of discussion. However, I believe it is problematic that they are focused on as individual works of art (not representing the fact that many images were printed hundreds or thousands of times, in many cases) and their value within a broader history of art and culture is ignored. And yes, I would like to raise awareness of print collections as an important genre for exhibition because of the contextual value they can represent within a broader history of art!

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  3. This is a very thought-provoking topic and I'm interested to learn more about your take on the "unoriginality" of print collections.

    As a non-thesis student, I'm curious to know: how has your MMSt coursework thus far informed your thesis topic? Have you been able to make headway/conduct research on your thesis through assignments for other courses?

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    1. While I do not know what Kathryn thinks, I have found my course assignments to be very helpful. Before I was certain in my topic, my assignments allowed me to explore different avenues, seeing what I did and did not want to look at. After I became more certain, I was able to tailor my assignments so they looked at some portion of my thesis topic (for some, not all, of the courses). This allowed me to get foundational literature read, which helped me write the proposal, but then again I was taking two courses on policy, one in cultural policy through MMSt and one in the poli sci department. I also found the Research Methods course very helpful because it forced us to write a SSHRC and Thesis proposal.

      I am interested to see what Kathryn and Nicole respond to the question!

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    2. I agree with Robin - most of the MMSt courses allowed me to explore my general area of interest and then narrow it down, realizing what I did and did not want to study.

      More specifically, several courses have contributed strongly to my thesis development. INF1240: Research Methods by Dr. David Phillips was an absolutely amazing course. While this may be surprising, the course, which is required for the thesis option, forces you to write down your research interests and questions in both a concise SSHRC application as well as a convincing thesis proposal, which are both tasks you need to complete in reality for the thesis option. As well, INF1002: Representation, Objectification, Classification, Meaning-Making with Dr. Keilty is an excellent seminar on the theory of belonging. This topic relates to almost everything and enabled me to explore a new and exciting route for my thesis topic. And, Dr. Chris Castle’s course MSL2370: Museums & Critical Issues was great because it allowed me to develop a strong research paper on a topic of my choice, which I then developed into two conference presentations - great academic experience!

      Furthermore, through my collaborative program, I took SDS1000, which introduced me to the most current conversations and issues within queer theory with an esteemed critical theorist, Dr. Mari Ruti, and a small graduate seminar with students from across disciplines.

      So very helpful!!


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    3. Awesome - great to hear both of your perspectives. Thanks!

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