Art history course uses QR codes to bring campus history to life

Posted by Centre News in Academics, Art History, Campus, News 02 Jan 2014

Centre’s campus is overflowing with state historic sites, beautiful architecture and impressive sculpture, and thanks to the work of Assistant Professor of Art History James Bloom’s latest class, learning about Centre’s rich traditions and history just got a little easier.

QR codes and Spragen MemorialBloom’s students worked together to research different areas of campus and compile the information on websites made accessible through QR codes. QR (Quick Response) codes resemble bar codes and can be scanned with smartphones to take users directly to specific websites.

Tony Huffman ’14 researched residence hall Cooper Ganfield House and the Old Quad onto which the building faces.

“My favorite part of the project was going to the library archives and learning more about how Centre’s campus was transformed under the presidency of Thomas Spragens,” Huffman says. “I really got to see what vision the man had for our campus and how he wanted the architecture on our campus to elevate Centre’s reputation.”

For Huffman, while completing the research on campus structures was eye-opening for him personally, he also thinks this class project goes beyond the individual students who participated to affect the wider campus community.

“Too many times, those who walk our beautiful campus are unaware of what the structures around them are trying to say,” he explains. “The chief aim of this project is to engage students, faculty, staff and visitors and show them how Centre is expressing her authority through the buildings, monuments and other spaces on campus.”

Indeed, Huffman explains that the buildings and structures around campus embody more than just history or tradition.

“I hope people gain a better understanding that buildings and styles are not neutral,” he says. “Style communicates values, ideas and meanings. Everything has meaning and, believe it or not, the chosen architectural styles on our campus have rather controversial issues wrapped up in them.”

Sandy Zhang ’14 researched one of campus’ most beloved features: the Old Centre Swing.

“My favorite part of the project was uncovering the history of the swing,” she says. “I always thought that the swing had been a part of Centre’s campus for a very long time, but it’s actually a very young tradition begun by a student.”

While it was difficult to obtain information on the Centre Swing, Zhang found the process incredibly rewarding, especially in regards to her future plans.

“I hope one day to work in the public education department at an art museum,” she explains. “I specifically want to work in public programming.”

Like Huffman, Zhang hopes that the benefits of the project extend beyond her own career plans.
“I hope people gain a greater appreciation for the art and architecture on campus,” she says, “and choose to venture out on their own to discover more about other objects and buildings at Centre.”

Dr. Bloom was thrilled with the outcome of the project.

“What makes Centre so great is that, when you confront students here with a challenge, they take the idea to places you yourself might never have imagined,” he says. “Caroline Anderegg, who researched the Lincoln Statue, not only contacted the sculptor, Ed Hamilton, but also met with him in his Louisville studio.”

For Bloom, the project’s benefits extend far beyond the classroom and the campus.

“I hope my students recognize that the analytical skills they brought to bear on the Centre campus can be turned to any visual environment,” he explains. “I think people become better citizens when they attune themselves to the various layers of meaning embedded in the monuments and spaces that define the routines of their daily lives.

“For visitors to campus,” he continues, “I hope they come away with a richer picture of the Centre campus and its traditions, and with a profound appreciation for the creativity, intelligence and initiative of Centre students.”

QR Codes and corresponding informational websites can be found in the following places around campus:

Lincoln Statue – Caroline Anderegg ’15
Cooper Ganfield House – Tony Huffman ’14
Stuart Hall – Jennifer Kim ’15
Old Carnegie – Jacob Moody ’15
The Sinking Spring – Kathleen Penna ’14
Norton Center for the Arts – Vanessa Song ’14
Old Centre – Meredith Yount ’14
Jones Visual Arts Center (JVAC) – Griffin Ward ’14
The Old Centre Swing – Sandy Zhang ’14

Learn more about art history at Centre.

By Mariel Smith

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