Museum Paper

The Museum Paper will be based on a work of art that you actually saw in a museum.  Instead of using online resources to find a work to write about, you will visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC (or the Museum of Modern Art) where you will be able to browse the collection in person.    You will also be required to compose a more fully developed essay that situates the work you selected within its broader historical context.

Preparing Your Theme:[1]
Choose one of the following broad cultural themes, and begin preparing an introductory essay:

  • The Reformation and its impact on art
  • The Counter Reformation and its impact on art
  • The Enlightenment and its impact on art
  • The industrial revolution and its impact on art
  • The machine age and its impact on art

Your introductory essay should provide an overview of what you have learned about this broad cultural theme, with discussion of specific works studied in class.  The main focus of your essay, however, will be the work you choose to analyze from the museum.

Selecting Your Works:
Once you have chosen your theme and prepared an introductory essay, visit the museum to look for a representative work of art that exemplifies your theme.  Please remember:  you may not choose a work we already studied in class.

Completing the Essay:
For the final essay, complete your introductory paragraphs and write a detailed analysis of the work, explaining how it exemplifies the broad cultural theme you discuss in your introductory essay.  Your analysis should include the following information:

  • Identification:  identify the work properly, and include all relevant information about it (artist, title, medium, date, location.  NOTE:  titles of paintings and sculptures should be italicized , like book titles — you should know this by now!)
  • Subject matter:  your analysis should include a detailed description of the subject matter that demonstrates your mastery of this course outcome
  • Style:  your analysis should also include a detailed analysis of the stylistic characteristics of the work that make it typical of the period or movement it belongs to, based on what you have learned in class
  • Relate to broad cultural theme:  finally, your analysis should explain how the work relates to the broad cultural theme discussed in the introductory part of your essay.   This means that you need to be careful about selecting a truly representative work of art from the museum – otherwise, you may find it difficult to relate it to what you have written!

You should not need to conduct any outside research to complete the Museum Assignment.  You are being evaluated on what you have learned in this class, and how well you can apply what you have learned.  You may, however, need some background on the work, and the information provided by the museum should be sufficient for you to work with.

Click to download Pre-Writing Exercise and Tutor Verification form:


Museum Tutor Form

Evaluation Rubric
Screen shot 2016-01-12 at 12.09.39 PM

[1] Note:  although the Final Essay is not due until near the end of the semester, students should begin drafting their introductory essays as early as possible.

Click on the links to see sample student Museum Papers:

Sample 1

Sample 2