Object Lessons

August 18, 2020 - November 22, 2020

Colorful sculpture made of plastic and various materials on panel

Each year, the Ackland teaches thousands of university students, in hundreds of classes, across dozens of disciplines. The artwork they study spans geographic, temporal, and material designations and their learning objectives vary. Yet nearly all of these encounters begin with the same question: “what do you see?”

It is a simple, yet surprisingly challenging question for many. It does not ask “what do you know,” or even “what do you think this is about?” It demands that students — and all of us — slow down and actually look at what’s before us, suspending judgment and assessing what is there.

From there, the process twists and turns. This fall, medical students connect their discussion about the artwork to readings about racial inequities in healthcare. Comparative literature students consider how representations of humans and landscapes reflect ideas about environmental justice, from natural resource allocation to the spread of disease. Students in American Studies examine the decisions artists make when using materials from the outside world: a scrap of cloth, a tree branch, a googly eye. First year students learn about magic and religion in ancient Greece and Rome by exploring the belief systems of people through the objects they kept and carried.

This vast scope of artwork, grouped in themes for students and the public to explore, is usually on view in Ackland Upstairs, on the Museum’s second floor. Each installation highlights how university museums can function as prisms, focusing and refracting the intellectual life of their communities through original works of art. This special presentation on the Ackland’s first floor affords students — and all of us — more space to consider how art shapes and reflects how we see the world around us. We hope it offers a way into, and perhaps also a way out of, our present moment.

Exhibition Dates

Object Lessons will include two rotations of art work this semester:

August 18 – October 4

October 7 – November 22

Digital Exhibition Materials

For simple 360-degree video views of the exhibition, click here.