AMS 391 • Cultural Representations of the Past
9:00 AM-12:00 PM
This is an interdisciplinary graduate seminar for students who wish to learn theoretical and practical skills used extensively by the National Park Service, museums, and exhibit design firms. The class will employ a case study approach, focusing on an actual outdoor museum managed by Texas Parks and Wildlife. Three-hour seminars will be held weekly. Once a month the class will travel to the site in a university van. The class will read theoretical material about the selection and presentation of culture and history to the public. We will examine the role of the museum in society, issues of memory and place, issues of gender, class, and ethnicity in representations of the past, and the identification of landscape as museum. We will specifically discuss the presentation of the past at several major American museums, and the kind of cultural critiques being made of those institutions. At the conclusion of the semester, one or two students will be selected to receive The Fellowship in Interpreting the Texas Past (each carries a stipend of $3,500). Students may elect to take a second graduate seminar in the spring Oral Narrative as History, again referencing the case study site. Two $3,500 fellowships, or one $7,000 fellowship will also be awarded at the conclusion of the spring semester.
Each student will summarize and evaluate certain assigned readings (10%). Each student will prepare a site evaluation and a series of recommendations for better interpreting the past at the site. The site evaluations should be of professional quality and contain a detailed review of the site, identifying major strengths and weaknesses, and a series of general recommendations for improved interpretation (40%). Each student will prepare a brief interpretive proposal idea statement, outlining the direction of his or her major class project. Each student will then create an in-depth project proposal for an interpretive script based on research on a specific site related topic (50%). The proposals should be developed in the format of a grant proposal, with an abstract, background, project description, project rationale, qualifications of personnel, and a budget. The project proposed may be an exhibit script, video script, Web design, docent tour, waysides, brochures, or other formats. The projects should be of maximum use to the site. Copies of the site evaluations, interpretive proposal idea statement, and project proposal will be deposited at the site. Each student should submit three copies of all material. Each student is also expected to contribute archival source materials about the site to the class during the semester.