lessons in looking

"Lessons in Looking" is an interactive feature that demonstrates how visual evidence illuminates key issues, developments, and events in U.S. history and also offers model instructional methods for analyzing archival visual materials. The collaborative work of an art/visual culture scholar and a historian, each "Lesson in Looking" includes: 1) brief essays on the historical background and visual culture of the topic; 2) an in-depth, multi-part exercise that investigates ways visual media shaped and were shaped by the actions and ideas of people in the past, and also offers approaches that enhance critical inquiry and historical understanding; and 3) suggestions for further reading and online exploration.

White into Black: Seeing Race, Slavery, and Anti-Slavery in Antebellum America
Sarah L. Burns, Indiana University
Joshua Brown, The Graduate Center, CUNY

This exploration of popular images of slavery and abolition provides close readings of a range of mid-nineteenth century visual works, including statues, political cartoons, reform illustrations, paintings, and photographic portraits. Examining these diverse sources reveals the complicated ways that images influenced popular understanding about race and equality in the antebellum period, and how visual media were used in the struggle to end slavery.

"For a Noble Man, a Prince": Images and Identity in Colonial America
Phyllis Hunter, University of North Carolina
Paul Staiti, Mount Holyoke College

Images and objects from paintings to wallpaper and almanac prints to furniture served to shape their owners identities in British America before the revolution. This activity assists in deciphering the messages in visual images that convey social status and economic power in the late colonial period.