Since the Mead Art Museum hosted its first class visit in 2007, Amherst’s art collection has been put to use in various ways—as sources of inspiration for students creating prose, poetry, art and music; as source materials for classes studying history and architecture; and much more.
Last spring, students in Professor Jen Manion’s course “People’s History of Revolutionary America” were some of the first to use the Mead’s new study room located in art storage.
Manion’s class looked at prints, paintings, sculptures and objects that together provided a glimpse into the daily life of 19th century America, which the course readings and discussions focused on.
The works addressed 19th century ideas of urban life and work, the African-American experience and the economics of slavery, among other topics.
After spending time looking closely at the works and objects on view in the room, the class discussed the architectural elements, clothing, methods of transportation and other ideas depicted in the paintings and prints.
They also discussed two small 19th century objects, which would have been commonly used in some households at the time: an ornate sugar urn owned by Paul Revere and a nutmeg grater. Sugar was considered a precious commodity during the 19th century, and nutmeg was used for everyday flavoring (pepper hadn’t yet come into use).
The Mead hosted more than 150 class visits during the 2016-17 academic year, most of which were held in the museum’s study room on the ground floor. This additional study room will allow the museum to accommodate even more class visits this year, and host two classes at once if needed.
The room itself is constructed with two modular glass walls that connect to the ceiling, and two slated walls with shelves that allow framed works to be easily hung and moved around.
The building materials were chosen carefully; the walls and shelving required minimal construction and created very little dust, so as not to affect the nearby artworks.
Faculty interested in hosting a class visit utilizing the Mead collection are encouraged to contact Dr. Cecelia (“Keffie”) Feldman, Acting Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Academic Programs at the Mead.