Buildings That Teach is an ongoing series that looks at the buildings on campus and explores how the space around us plays a role in the teaching and learning process at Williams.
The Rose Study Gallery is a teaching classroom located inside of the Williams College Museum of Art. Once a public part of the museum, it was converted from a gallery to a classroom in 2004 to accommodate the growing number of classes that requested access to the museum’s collection of over 13,000 objects.
Now a fully dedicated object-study classroom, the Rose Study Gallery is equipped with a digital projector, PC desktop computer, VHS/DVD/CD player, and a complex lighting system of halogen and halide bulbs. Professors who use the Rose Study Gallery often begin with a discussion and then incorporate close looking at original works of art. Frequently in this setting, art works are unframed, presenting little barrier between the art and the viewer.
The audio and visual equipment in the Rose Study Gallery, coupled with angled shelves and a specialized wall-hanging mechanism, allow for a wide variety of works from the museum’s collection to be displayed and lit for the best possible viewing. Elizabeth Gallerani, the museum’s coordinator of Mellon Academic Programs, works with faculty from all departments on campus to schedule the space. “I think the appeal of Rose is the ability to look up close at the artwork,” she says. “I love when students linger after their class is over, looking with a magnifying glass at a Rembrandt etching or Kara Walker watercolor, or asking just one more question. I’m so impressed with the rich, diverse perspectives that are explored in Rose.”
In the Rose Study Gallery, professors from mathematics and neuroscience are as likely as art professors to be teaching with works of art. During the 2011-12 academic year, 59 courses had sessions in the Rose Study Gallery and more than 2,300 works were moved in and out of the space. “One of the best parts of my job,” says Gallerani, “is seeing and examining a work of art from so many different perspectives.”
Sara Dubow, assistant professor of history, brought two of her history classes to the Rose during the 2010-11 academic year—The History of Sexuality in America (History 378) and The 1980s (History 362.) “I have learned an enormous amount about art, history, and teaching from planning these classes with [Gallerani],” she says. “She creates a classroom atmosphere where her expertise is always available, but the focus of the class is on student perspectives and responses. What I was originally surprised by, but am now getting accustomed to, is how students will refer to the images and objects we saw in the gallery for the rest of the semester. The art makes an enormous impression on them, and not infrequently, they develop research papers that grow out of discussions we had in the Rose Study Gallery.”
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has been supporting the integration of the museum’s collection with the college’s curriculum since 1989.