Museum Trips

The Center has sponsored a number of trips to museums around the country, taking groups of graduate students to visit museums with important collections of Asian art to provide opportunities to meet with museum curators and other staff, and to understand their vital roles. As much of the research in the field of art must be conducted outside the classroom and library with actual works of art, it is important for young scholars to acquaint themselves with holdings of museums in America and around the world, and to be able to develop collaborative relations with them.

Museum Trip, Boston

The trip, led by Prof. Ping Foong, took nine graduate students to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard University, Cambridge for three days in September 2007. This offered a rare opportunity to spend two days seeing major works of Chinese and Korean painting at Boston Museum of Fine Arts from the 10th-14th century (Five Dynasties, Northern Song, Southern Song, and Yuan, and also Koryo period) and the special exhibition of paintings from the collection of Wang-go Weng. Each student prepared detailed notes on 2-3 works and were assigned to lead discussion on those pieces.


The third day was spent at the Sackler Museum viewing 12 works from Southern Song to Qing. It was made possible with support by the China and Japan Committees of the Center for East Asian Studies.

There was also a gathering at Prof. Eugene Wang’s home for all of the Harvard graduate students in East Asian art history and also area professors from Boston University and Wellesley College to meet the group. All were impressed by the size of our student body, and our ability to bring everyone on a field trip like this one. It was an intense and very productive experience for all involved.

Ping Foong
Assistant Professor
Department of Art History

Museum Trip 2005: St. Louis and Kansas City

After the success of the first museum trip organized and sponsored by the Center for the Art of East Asia in 2004, a group of graduate students and visiting scholars headed out again in June 2005. This four-day trip to the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City was organized and accompanied by Katherine Tsiang (Associate Director CAEA). In both museums, we could not only explore the objects on display in the Asian collections, but were also allowed into storage to examine objects more intimately. This experience once again proved the importance of a first-hand encounter in the study of art objects, such as bronzes, paintings, stone carvings, and sculpture, as a necessary addition to the work taking place in the academic environment. We are very grateful to the curators and staff in both museums, especially Dr. Steven Owyoung and Dr. Yang Xiaoneng, for their time and willingness to let us see important works from the collections and discuss them with us. During our last afternoon in Kansas we visited the campus of Kansas University at Lawrence, where we had the chance to see an exhibition on travel in East Asia at the Spencer Museum of Art and met with fellow graduate students in East Asian Art. This year’s museum trip gave many of us the opportunity to see for the first time important collections in the US and added to the sense of community among the students – we thank the Center for sponsoring the trip, and especially Katherine Tsiang and Wei-Cheng Lin for the organization.

Museum Trip 2004: Toledo, Cleveland, Detroit

The Center for the Art of East Asia in the Department of Art History organized and sponsored a trip for graduate students to travel to museums in the Midwest to see their collections of Asian Art for three days from June 15-17, 2004 . Accompanied by Katherine Tsiang, Assoc. Director, the group rented a van and drove to the Toledo Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Detroit Institute of Arts. We spent an entire day in the Cleveland Museum to see as much as we could of their extensive collections. This was the first time for many of the participating students to visit these museums and to meet with their curators. In addition to seeing the displays in the galleries, we were fortunate to be able to examine other works of art in storage at all three institutions, including important paintings, bronze vessels, and sculptures. We are very grateful to the curatorial staff at these museums, as in each case the spaces and our time for viewing were limited. Intensive visual examination and handling of actual works of art offered unique opportunities for appreciation for their material qualities – such as scale, details of brushwork, and condition – and consideration of BMFAquestions of attribution, dating, and uncertain provenance. This offered a variety of different perspectives and approaches that are not readily available in classroom and library situations. We have compiled our digital images to make them available to fellow travelers and other members of the program. Some comments from the students and a selection of pictures are included below.

Thanks go to the support of the Workshop on Visual and Material Perspectives on East Asia for rental of the van. The trip was a rewarding experience in many ways, and the camaraderie was enjoyed by all. We plan to make this a regular part of the activities of the center and look forward to future trips to other museums.

Student Comments

“A museum trip like this is very helpful…real paintings and objects, provide information that can not be obtained from looking at reproductions…the experience of “viewing,” is an important aspect in our studies. The exchanges and arguments we had in the museums in front of exhibits was very refreshing for me.”

“What enjoyment it was to see real objects with real experts and good friends! Thank you!”

“[Visiting museums with] not only East Asian objects but also a variety of South and 003Southeast Asian collections was very helpful for me in that I was able to locate my knowledge within a larger context….It’s always nice to go see real objects. Talking about objects with many other colleagues while seeing them together was invaluable…It was good training to keep a critical eye.”

“This trip provided not only an off-campus venue for learning and viewing art objects but an opportunity to have fun spending time together in discussing and just being around art.”

By , September 9, 2009 11:42 am

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