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Meet the New Faculty: Laura Tillery, Art History


Next up in our series of chats with new tenure track faculty is Laura Tillery, assistant professor of art history. See what she has to say about her use of object-based learning and the advantages of having the Wellin Museum as a resource.

Why did you start teaching?

My first time teaching was in a museum setting. It was very exciting to see public audiences come alive when we were all talking about what we saw in an object. So, it was just a natural transition into the classroom as I started teaching art history.

What made you interested in art history?

I always knew I wanted to study the humanities as an undergraduate. I took an art history class on a complete whim, and I loved it. I loved sitting in a dark room with a professor shouting “Slide!” to the back of the room, where a poor graduate student had to physically change the 35-millimeter slide. I found it very entertaining. But more importantly, I loved how I could be taken back in time and travel by proxy. I got to learn about a whole world in a classroom. The more art history classes I took, the more I realized how much of the visual historical worlds we can turn to in order to better understand who we are today.

Object-based learning is exciting because you have this opportunity to connect with students in a very immediate way. We’re all looking at the same thing, we can all talk about what we see, and we get to share this collective experience.

Can you describe your use of object-based learning in your classes?

My interest in object-based learning stems from my past training in museum education. One of the things I love about Hamilton is that I try to take my classes to the Wellin Museum and the Burke special collections as often as possible. Object-based learning is exciting because you have this opportunity to connect with students in a very immediate way. We’re all looking at the same thing, we can all talk about what we see, and we get to share this collective experience. This past semester, I had a really great experience at the Wellin looking at prints. The students got to see the physical qualities of wood-cut lines that completely get lost when we’re looking at digital reproductions via PowerPoints and the lecture realm.

What classes are you teaching next semester, and why are you excited about them?

I’m teaching two classes. One is called Intersections and Global Arts. It is an introductory class that teaches students how to look at objects. The bulk of the classes will use the Wellin collections and the Baroque special collections. We will also attend the upcoming show at the Wellin on Yashua Klos. I think it will be very exciting for students to be able to talk to an artist. It’ll also be special for me because I study dead artists or artists that we don’t even know their names, so it’s always exciting for me to talk to real visual artists.

The other class I’m teaching is called Visual Culture of the Medieval Worlds. I love teaching medieval art because it’s weird. It’s gory. It’s bloody. I also think there’s a lot of misconceptions and myths about medieval art. So, I suppose one of my hopes and goals this semester is to share with students how exciting medieval art is and also in turn see their excitement unfold throughout the semester.

What is your favorite spot on campus?

I am partial to the Molly Root House, which houses the Department of Art History. It was originally the summer home of the Root family from 1915. So, I’m very lucky to have an office that was formerly a bedroom. I have a non-functional fireplace, a really big closet, and a large covered porch, which was a really nice place to meet with students without masks when the weather was nice.

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