Welcome to Learning from Things

run away and join our circus...

posted on 19 Oct 2012 12:36 by Elena Pinto Simon


Curatorial Fellow Matt Wittmann led BGC guests, faculty , students and staff in a wonderful “day at the circus” on Monday, October 15th, as part of our Scholars Day and Symposium on The Circus and the City Exhibition, now up in the BGC Main Gallery.

In the morning session, Matt led an extended tour and talk about the history of the circus in New York City with a group of invited scholars. This lively session took us through the whole process of this major exhibition – from early planning stages to its final form as installed.


After lunch, the group joined a larger audience that included students , visitors and other faculty, for a symposium on the history of the American circus.


This material culture-driven exhibition approaches the circus from multiple perspectives, centering on the role of circus in the City of New York, from its earliest manifestations in the late 1790’s through to the heyday of the circus in the ‘50s and the contemporary circus. It runs until February 3rd.

If you are in town, stop by and join our circus for an afternoon!

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Tags: circus cityofnewyork materialculture mattwittmann scholarsday symposium

talking to Prof. Amy Ogata...

posted on 18 Oct 2012 18:57 by Elena Pinto Simon


EPS: Hello, Prof. Ogata. Welcome to the behind the scenes at the BGC BLOG. I know you are finishing up a book project. Can you tell us a little about that?

AO: Certainly. The book, Designing the Creative Child: Playthings and Places in Midcentury America, concerns the discourse of childhood creativity and the material goods and spaces created for children during the Baby Boom years and into the mid 1970s. I look at toys, playgrounds and amusements like the playhouse, as well as the design of children’s rooms, new schools and changing educational values, museums for children, and the growth of art education programs and arts materials. My aim is to historicize the idea of creativity, rather than accept it as some kind of “natural” fact, and to draw attention to the ways that objects and spaces are agents activating this discourse. I see this as an historical question bound up with period concerns around individualism, conformity and politics of the Cold War, but I can’t help but see echoes in the use and commodification of the notion of creativity today. The manuscript is finished and is in the production stage at the University of Minnesota Press and should be out in March or April.

EPS: You are very immersed right now in the Swedish Toys Project – an upcoming exhibition for our Main Gallery. Tell us about that project, and some of the new areas you’ve been exploring because of it.

AO: This exhibition was the idea of Susan Weber and my role in it is an extension of my interest in the history of childhood, but it is quite a different from what I have done before. The exhibition will explore toys made of wood in Sweden between the late 17th century and the present. Sweden was never the largest producer of toys, nor did it claim the finest quality of goods. But this allows us to frame questions around a material that was readily available in a country covered with forests and which was largely unindustrialized until the late 19th century. So we are interested in Swedish traditions of woodworking, in the production of both individuals (including the work of children themselves) and factories like Gemla and eventually BRIO. We are also looking at themes such as toy types, including winter toys, educational toys, war toys, along with the horse, which encompasses the famous painted Dalecarlian horses that were once peasant toys and became in the course of the 20th century a symbol of Sweden itself.

EPS: You just finished a very successful cycle as the Chair of Academic Programs at the BGC. What did you most enjoy about being Chair?

AO: I very much enjoyed knowing more about the institution and how its parts all work together. I also liked meeting so many prospective students at open houses and getting to know them during the application process, and then welcoming them here as degree candidates. And I’ve come to appreciate even more how unique the BGC is in its rich course offerings, exhibitions, and academic programs.

EPS: You have a leave upcoming in the spring. What are your plans for when you are away?

AO: I’m going to work on some articles and begin the next book, which is only in the earliest stages of planning but will concern metal and the cultural metaphor of the metallic in Second Empire France. This is a deliberate departure from the history of childhood in 20th century America, but slightly closer to my earlier interest in Belgian architecture and design. I usually teach a survey lecture on European design in the 19th century and have long thought that the mid-19th century was an area that could stand far more investigation. I suppose it looks like I hop around aimlessly, but each study is connected to questions of how goods and the built environment are integral to our understanding of modernity.

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Tags: 20thcenturyamerica academicprograms amyogata creativity exhibitions historicize secondempirefrance swedishtoys

a working committee...

posted on 12 Oct 2012 12:42 by Elena Pinto Simon


Once a month the full faculty meets to review all student petitions, hear faculty reports, and make decisions on most matters related to Academic Programs. These important sessions are not known for their brevity!

But they are a sign of how many things work at the BGC: a committee of the whole, reviewing all student issues, from QP proposals, and Dissertation topics to course schedules and curriculum changes to discussions about upcoming special events and projects.

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Tags: committee curriculum dissertation faculty gcm projects qp specialevents

on the road again...

posted on 11 Oct 2012 12:55 by Elena Pinto Simon

October faculty activities:

Ivan Gaskell is chairing the colloquium, "Aura, Authenticity, and Artistic Reproduction" at the 70th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Aesthetics, St. Louis, Missouri (Oct. 24-27).

Nicola Sharratt has two papers in October: "Viviendo y Muriendo en el Medi de le Efervensencia Politica: excavaciones en una aldea Tiwanaku terminal (950-1150 D.C.) en el Valle de Moquegua, Peru"
XIX Congreso Nacional de Arqueologia Chilena Arica, Chile October 8th-12th


"Poder en la muerte, poder en la vida? Enterramientos de mujeres y la transformacion socio-politico del estado Tiwanaku" Mesa Redonda: Mujeres y Poder en los Andes Prehispanicos
Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru Lima, Peru October 13th

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Tags: ivangaskell nicolasharratt

...the time has come...

posted on 02 Oct 2012 19:53 by Elena Pinto Simon

…the walrus said, .to speak of many things….

And on October 2nd, the topic for a workshop was MA Qualifying Papers.

Prof. Jeffrey Collins led a discussion for the second year students about all things QP – ranging from purpose and scale to helpful hints and research tips.


Papers from this year’s class will be due in the Academic Programs office on April 1 by 5pm.
And our (now) annual Qualifying Paper Symposium will be on May 3rd. This celebratory event, with invited guests and families of the students present, allows each graduating MA candidate a 10-minute slot to present
the findings of their qualifying papers, along with a question and answer session.
This afternoon-long event is followed by a reception in the Penthouse on the 6th floor.

Last year's event was a wonderful success, and a great opportunity for students to show and discuss their final projects.

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Tags: graduates qp symposium