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The Curatorial Art

Visitors to the Hood Museum of Art feel the impact of Dartmouth students immediately through A Space for Dialogue, one of the first exhibitions they encounter. Featuring items from the permanent collection chosen by the museum's student interns, A Space for Dialogue gives undergraduates a rare opportunity to curate by selecting two to five objects that convey a provocative or innovative unifying theme.

"My topic evolved out of my interest in architecture," says Jessica Hodin '07, whose exhibition, Frames of Influence: Behavior and Anonymity in Urban Life, ran through Jan. 28. It included Confessional, a photograph by Elliott Erwitt, and Community of the Moment, an etching by Robert Birmelin, among others. "I feel that architecture and the built environment are so much a part of our behavior and that the spaces we inhabit have a larger impact on our lives than we notice. Through my installation, I have sought to have people relate to architecture in the same way that I do, and these artists' works interested me because they highlight how we experience spaces."

The first A Space for Dialogue was installed in fall 2001, and yearly funding since 2002 from the Class of 1948 has enabled the program to thrive.

Students work closely with Hood Museum staff to develop interpretive strategies for the objects they have chosen. As a result of their collaborations, the public gains access to objects and ideas that would not otherwise appear in the museum, while the students gain perspective on what it takes to be a curator.

Hood Museum interns are supported by a variety of named sponsored programs, including: the Class of 1954 Intern, the Kathryn and Caroline Conroy Intern, the Homma Family Intern, the Levinson Student Intern, and the Mellon Intern.

"I think this initiative has strengthened our internship program," says Katherine Hart, associate director and the Barbara C. and Harvey P. Hood 1918 Curator of Academic Programming. "In the more than five years since it began, A Space for Dialogue has become a valuable part of the museum experience."

Curator of European Art T. Bart Thurber adds, "For me, it has had a profound effect on the ways that I view the museum's collection. Given the students' diverse backgrounds, I find that their installations bring immediacy to the lived experience of the distant or recent past, offering viewers a snapshot of their perspectives regarding history and contemporary ideas. As a result, whenever there is an opportunity to acquire new objects for the museum, I now consider their appropriateness for a potential Space for Dialogue installation."

Hodin confesses that, while it's a valuable experience, it's also hard work. She had to secure reproduction rights, make decisions about matting and framing, and conduct research to support her theories. "I was amazed by the paperwork and detail that go into the final product," she says. "Each step taught me about a different area of museum work, continually reinforcing that there are innumerable elements that make up the curatorial process. I had no idea how much work was involved, but it was worth it because I'm proud of the result."


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Last Updated: 5/30/08