About this short course

for K-12 teachers

Andy Warhol, Coca-Cola [3], 1962, casein on canvas, 176.2 x 137.2 cm (Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts)

Andy Warhol, Coca-Cola [3], 1962, casein on canvas, 176.2 x 137.2 cm (Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts)

Images as primary sources

Helping students to understand how to read an image critically, as a nuanced primary source, couldn’t be more important in the visually rich era we now live in. Works of art have specific points of view; they aren’t merely illustrations of historical events. They are also powerful symbols that can mean different things at different times. Artists are in conversation with the time and place they live or lived in, and so works of art reveal a great deal about our history. There are increasing threats to works of art—to our common cultural heritage—due to war, poverty, development, and climate change. We won’t protect what we don’t understand and value, and this guide is here to help.

Teaching tools

This course provides you with tools designed to make you feel more confident bringing images into your classroom. Over the years, art historians and museum educators have developed pedagogical approaches to support successful teaching with images (VTS, Project Zero, Art + History). We encourage you to explore these resources. Essentially what all they all have in common are these three activities:

  1. Ask students to take the time to look closely and describe what they see
  2. Encourage students to make inferences and ask questions based on what they see
  3. Layer in contextual information (historical context, artist’s biography, the interests of the patron, etc.) to enhance student understanding

Overview

In Unit 1 you’ll find resources explaining the basic tools art historians and museum educators use to describe images

In Unit 2 you’ll find videos that model the process of looking, describing, and layering in historical context

In Unit 3, you’ll find opportunities to go deeper—to explore the ways that art (and the institutions of art, like museums) communicate ideas that were important to them, and to us, issues about power, discrimination, transcendence, and resistance