Connecting Artworks to Archives

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Denise Oleksijczuk, School of Contemporary Arts

Project team: Storm Rose Eva Greenwood, research assistant

Timeframe: February 2019 to July 2020

Funding: $5976

Courses addressed:

  • CA 314 – Readings in the History of Art and Culture: Art and Archives of British Columbia
  • CA 414 – Advanced Topic in the History of Art and Culture: Archive Fever
  • CA 167 – Visual Art and Culture I

Description: This research project responds to the need for undergraduate students to conduct primary research in local archives on artworks or objects related to the culture of British Columbia and First Nations communities during the nineteenth-century. Because there are very real time limitations in a semester-long course, undergraduate students are rarely encouraged to conduct archival research. Yet, archival research would allow students to play a more active role in their learning. My proposed project will yield an organized, user-friendly website to the city’s key repository’s of art, artefacts, books, prints, letters, photographs, and online image databases. The website will function as a preliminary point of entry for the students’ work in local collections and archives, which will hopefully enable them to produce new, rigorous texts on these objects that will increase knowledge about how they helped shape the communities in which we live.

Questions addressed:

  • Will students find the website objects and resources interesting to explore and investigate?
  • Do colleagues think the website objects and resources are important and likely to foster student learning?
  • Is the website easy to navigate and use?
  • What are the barriers to having students use local archives for research?
  • How do students use the archives?
  • What is the impact of engagement with the actual objects and with primary sources found in local archives on student learning?

Knowledge sharing: Student curatorial projects (curated exhibition) will be posted on the website for Art, Performance and Cinema Studies at SFU’s School for Contemporary Arts (SCA). The public exhibition at the Bennett library vitrines at the end of term will be advertised widely throughout the SCA and the university. In addition, the course website will be part of my teaching and research profile at the SCA.

The SCA supports experiential learning and the performance of creativity in all forms. Research students at the SCA have a lower profile than the artists because their final projects are usually term papers. By incorporating a curatorial component to this course, the scholars at the school get to experiment with formal issues and communicating their ideas to a broad audience through text panels and online commentaries. If this project is successful, it will lead to more opportunities for experiential learning and curating at the SCA.