Mellon Foundation grant initiates collaboration

The Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology at Brown University and the RISD Museum at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) have each received grants totaling $500,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for “Assemblages,” a four-year collaborative initiative focusing on the new and evolving field of object-based teaching and research.

The Mellon Foundation grant makes possible the first major academic partnership between the two museums, led by Robert Preucel, Director of the Haffenreffer Museum, and John W. Smith, Director of the RISD Museum. The grant supports Faculty Teaching Fellows, Postgraduate Photography
Fellows, innovative courses, teaching workshops, and annual academic seminars during the years 2014 to 2017.

“The goals of our project are to explore how objects and digital media can be used to interrogate the
boundaries of academic fields in the humanities and social sciences,” says Preucel.

Smith adds, “We are interested in developing new ways in which faculty and students can foster
deeper relationships with art objects, artifacts, and digital representations.”

Between 2014 and 2017, “Assemblages” will:

• Create a group of Teaching Fellows, drawn from both institutions, that uses both collections (both
objects and their digital forms) in their teaching pedagogy. About 100 students are expected to
benefit from these innovative courses over the term of the project.

• Establish annual teaching workshops led by museum staff to introduce fellows and interested
faculty to best practices related to object-based teaching. Fellows will also lead a workshop
reporting on the outcomes their pedagogical experiences at the end of their appointment.

• Create an annual seminar engaging the fellows, undergraduate and graduate students from Brown
and RISD, and nationally recognized scholars on significant problems or questions related to
object-based teaching and the digital interfaces of art, anthropology, and society.

• Communicate the teaching and research outcomes of the project to the public, scholars, and
museum professionals through online material and collaborative publications and projects.

The call for proposals for RISD Teaching Fellows will be issued in early fall, 2014.


Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Assemblages, Haffenreffer Museum, Research, RISD Museum

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