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Special Topics in the History of Photography is a Course

Special Topics in the History of Photography

Jan 27 - May 9, 2020

Spots remaining: 5

$1,080 Enroll

Full course description

(Image credit: Esther Bubley)

Photography, Modernity, and the Museum: Mining The Phillips Collection

This course takes advantage of the partnership with The Phillips Collection for a behind-the-scenes and hands-on study of special topics in the history of photography within the institutional framework of America’s first museum of modern art. Since its invention in the 19th century, photography was employed to frame the modern experience, providing artists and audiences with a new vision tied to the technological advances of the modern age. We will consider the medium within larger art historical discourses both in relation to the other arts and on its own terms, exploring photographic images within the critical/historical construction of modernism and museological practices. Focusing on the role of photography as a modernist medium in international movements of the 20th century, the course will situate that history within critical bookends of photographic practices in the 19th and 21st centuries. Photographs in the Phillips’s collection will serve as primary sources for exploring these issues.

The class is being undertaken in conjunction with preparations for the celebration of The Phillips Collection’s 100th anniversary in 2021, providing an opportunity to mine the museum’s archives and explore its history of collecting and exhibiting photographs. Students will pursue archival and collection research that can be incorporated into ongoing activities, such as contributing to collection records, exhibition wall labels, and publications. Members of the Phillips’s staff, including curators and conservators, will be tapped as resources as we explore multiple facets of photography’s place in museum discourse today. The hybrid nature of this class—part historical study, part curatorial practice—offers unique opportunities for original research and practical applications for that research.

  • Date & Time: January 27 - May 8, 2019: Fridays, 1:00pm - 3:30pm
  • Meeting Location: The Phillips Collection, Center Studio, 1600 21st Street, NW. Washington, DC 20009
  • Offered By: Department of Art History and Archaeology, University of Maryland College Park
  • Instructor: Prof. Wendy Grossman
Workshops do not post to the UMD transcript and do not count towards a student's academic record. Neither grade nor credit is earned. Students do not receive a University ID card and will not have access to University facilities such as recreation, transportation, and campus events. Workshop students may access UMD Libraries as “Visitors”; see

 November 1, 2019 to January 17, 2020
Non-member Fee: $1,080.00
Members of The Phillips Collection Fee: $360.00
*Members of The Phillips Collection should contact Victoria Hagar at to receive the promo code required to receive the discounted rate.