News at Princeton

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Web Stories

'Teaching With Objects in the Museum'

Princeton University faculty members use objects in the Princeton University Art Museum as teaching tools to give students a deeper understanding of ancient cultures and people. In this video, students study ancient Maya artifacts in the museum and then reproduce Mesoamerican pottery techniques in the Wilson College Ceramics Studio on campus. Read more.

Video Closed Captions

Christina Halperin.

I'm a Latin American Studies
Cotsen Post Doctoral Fellow

here in the Society Fellows
at Princeton University.

Right now, I'm teaching a course
in the Department of

Art and Archaeology called
Mesoamerican Material Culture

that explores pre-Columbian
Mesoamerican cultures from the

perspective of archaeology.


My name is Bryan Just.

I'm the curator for ancient
American art

here at the art museum.

And we're working with Professor
Christina Halperin

today to allow her students and
their precepts to examine

firsthand original works of
ancient Maya ceramic, both

vessels and figurines.

worked in the museum, the

students being able to actually
look at some of these

pieces and touch them--

they can think about ways in
which people in the past may

have actually worked
with these objects

and experienced them.

So in looking at a ceramic
vessel that has a narrative

scene around the vessel itself,
they're able to get a

sense of actually how that story
was told and the way in

which someone may
have held it.

Some of the complete specimens
that are at the museum, you

can actually play them and hear
how certain resonances

and sounds were like
in the past.

Can you hear it?


one is a rattle.

is the blow piece.

This is the sound hole.

And these are for changing


PENG PENG: That's amazing

DANIELA COSIO: That's so cool.


And you're, of course, blowing
life into the figures.

You're animating them.

BRYAN JUST: As a complement to
the study today, the students

will be actually experimenting
with manufacturing works in

clay to understand the mold
making and modeling processes

and hopefully, to gain a deeper
appreciation for the

skill and expertise that went
into producing the works of

art we have here at
the art museum.

this wonderful aspect of

childhood of experimentation
and play that allows you to

learn, that allows you to think
about and move things in

ways that you wouldn't
have normally done.

We tend to work so rigidly
according to these rules and

these structures that we forget
that this form of

experimentation and
play allows us to

think in new ways.

And I think that that's what
some of this teaches us.

DANIELA COSIO: It was really
cool to be able to make


especially something that we've
been seeing in class and

in precept--

and to be able to make it with
our own hands and understand

the time and effort that went
into something like this--

or with the molds, the lack of
time and effort that went into

it-- and the types of people
that could have been making

things like this
in Mesoamerica.

SARAH MAGAGNA: I think this is
case for not just ceramics,

but for other visual arts.

But it really helps you to
understand so much better just

the circumstances of production
and the processes

when you have done
it yourself.

So I think it's really great
when we learn about the

materiality of the work
and how it's made.

Back To Top