Katie DeFonzo, Class of 2018
Mid-spring semester, first year students in Professor Nina Rowe’s Medieval Art History class braved the cold and rainy weather to hop on the A train and visit the Cloisters Museum in northern Manhattan. This trip to the Cloisters, which houses reliquaries, sculptures, paintings, and other works of art from the Late Middle Ages, brought to life the distant time period about which students had been reading in their textbook and in various scholarly articles throughout the semester. According to Pat Goggins, “The trip to the Cloisters was enriching in how it highlighted aspects of medieval art that aren’t readily apparent through a slide show. The interaction of light with the building and the artwork helped me to gain a more complete perspective on the art we studied.”
While at the Cloisters, students spent time deciding which work in the museum they wanted to write about in a formal analysis due at the beginning of April. Students were asked to consider how the display of objects from the Middle Ages in a museum affects one’s understanding of those objects. Although the four possible works were made a focus of the museum visit, students explored the entire museum and I especially enjoyed seeing several medieval tapestries and the collection of illuminated manuscripts in the lower level gallery, which Cornell Overfield described as “enough to sate any blackletter calligraphy fetish.” Explanations offered by Professor Doolittle, who also visited the museum, related the design of the museum to monasteries of the Middle Ages and helped students to better understand the importance of religion in the lives of medieval Europeans.
Visits to museums such as the Cloisters are certainly a reminder of one of the many benefits of being a student in New York City: being able to see in person some of the world’s most famous works of art and historical artifacts.