From the classroom to the museum, the University of Houston and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston are joining forces to provide students with extraordinary museum work experience coupled with a Tier One graduate education in art history. Digital Humanities and Object-Based Learning in the Museum and University Context is an innovative long-term partnership between the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) and the University of Houston. The collaboration, initially aided by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, now promises to create an internationally recognized environment for the study of Latin American and Latino art and culture.
“The University has taken great strides to partner with the arts community in Houston,” said Paula Myrick Short, UH senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “Through this partnership, we can offer students a wealth of resources to further their ties to the community and Latino heritage.”
“The partnership formalizes the long-standing collaboration between UH and the MFAH and highlights the roles of the MFAH and ICAA as leaders in Latin American art history and scholarship,” said Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “The Museum holds one of the most comprehensive collections of modern and contemporary Latin American art anywhere in the world, and we are pleased to provide these exceptional resources to students at the University of Houston.”
The MFAH and UH participated in a ceremonial signing of a Memorandum of Understanding that includes the art history program at the UH Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts, the Department of Hispanic Studies in the UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, UH Library Special Collections at the MD Anderson Library and the ICAA. Students may pursue the master of arts in art history or apply for a new and innovative interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Hispanic studies. The latter program incorporates significant art historical studies in a bilingual Spanish/English environment.
“Providing students access to the unparalleled artistic and scholarly resources of the MFAH is powerful,” said Andrew Davis, dean of the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts. “It will increase our leverage to recruit the very best students at the highest levels nationally. This will have far-reaching ramifications for our programs in art history, Hispanic studies and many others, and I applaud our exceptional faculty in those programs for bringing this agreement to fruition.”
Students will have the opportunity to participate in year-long, paid internships with the ICAA. This has been a continuous feature of the UH graduate program in art history since 2009, when the University placed its first intern in the MFAH’s prestigious research center for Latin American and Latino art. With the signing of the memorandum, UH students will now benefit from access to previously restricted resources from the Latin American and Latino art collections and digital archival holdings of the MFAH. Moreover, UH faculty and MFAH staff will use their ongoing innovations in object-based learning for continued collaboration in the burgeoning area. The hope is that this partnership will serve as a model for other museums and research universities across the country.
Students can also participate in annual graduate and undergraduate seminars on object-based learning focused on the document and research activities of the ICAA, as well as the Latin American and Latino art collections at the MFAH team-taught by UH faculty and MFAH staff. The project also will include workshops, a biannual colloquium and ad-hoc scholarly collaboration on the intersection of archives, object-based learning and the digital humanities.
“This partnership consolidates and amplifies the offerings of the ICAA, its internationally recognized Documents Project platform and its broad network of researchers and research institutions from all over the Americas and the Caribbean,” said Mari Carmen Ramírez, MFAH curator and ICAA director. “We are continuing to build on what these unique, incredible resources offer in the study of Latin American and Latino art, in tandem with my colleague Caroline Goeser, chair of the department of learning and interpretation at the Museum, and the exceptional faculty at UH.”
Operating as the headquarters of the Inter-University Program for Latino Research for the next five years, UH is already fostering collaborations between faculty in Latino/a research. Hispanics make up 31 percent of the student population at UH, which is a reflection of the greater Houston region. These new initiatives support the institution’s commitment to education and preserving a vibrant cultural heritage.