Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Questions to Ask While You're Here

These questions are designed to help your students examine and learn from the items on display in the exhibition. The final few questions are designed to help them think about the exhibition as a whole.

Exhibition Items: Looking Closely

Choose one or two exhibit items that interest you. Then answer the following questions:

  • Why did the item catch your eye?

  • Did you know anything about this item before you saw it here? If so, what?

  • Describe the piece (using the suggestions to get started):

    • Photography/Art:   color, lines, shapes, texture, perspective, repetition, scale, media, subject matter, size

    • Manuscripts:   medium, writing style/readability, quality, author notes

    • Books:   age, size, binding style, page design, additional material, ads, illustrations, ornate styles, quality of materials

  • What are your initial thoughts about the item? Do you think there is a particularly interesting story behind its creation? Can you imagine one?

  • How would you describe this item to a friend who has not seen it before?

  • What motivated the creation of this item? What was the artist or author trying to "say?" Was he or she successful?

  • Does the item remind you of anything?

  • What would you change about this item?

  • How does this item relate to your area of study?

  • Is it connected to any other item in the exhibit? How?

  • Who was the item's original audience? How can you tell? How did the item appear to them? Was it meaningful to them? If not immediately, then when?

  • What other questions do you have after seeing this item?

Museum Design: Stepping Back

Take a quick walk through the entire exhibition. Scan it like you would scan the front page of a newspaper. Look for main ideas, "headlines," the most important features. Pay attention to the things that the museum curators have emphasized with lighting, large text, and prominent placement.

  • Describe the layout of the exhibition. Why do you think it was designed this way?

  • Read the labels for the items that interest you the most. What do the labels generally tell you about each piece? How much of these descriptions is factual? How much is opinion?

  • Who do you think wrote the descriptions?

  • What do the labels not tell you that you would like to know?

  • What are the central ideas that the exhibition curators mean to convey?

  • Is the exhibition successful? Explain your answer.



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