When Stanford University’s spring quarter moved online, I had to revise my annual collections-based curation course from physical exhibition to virtual—in this case, of models of famous Mesoamerican artifacts. We were in the best position ever for this change, in large part because we had been working with CESTA since winter planning a digital map to supplement our physical exhibit. But it was no simple “pivot” moving student curation online. It demanded a wholesale redesign of course content and project goals. Despite my best intentions, a modest exhibit became an ambitious digital publication. Modeling Mesoamerica is an exciting project demonstrating the critical potential of our most underappreciated collections and the vitality of online publication. But it also required more than anticipated from everybody involved. This project illuminates larger issues of resources, mission, and digital learning curves that face museums as we increasingly “go digital” with formal and informal learning.
Christina J. Hodge is Academic Curator and Collections Manager of the Stanford University Archaeology Collections (SUAC) of the Stanford Archaeology Center. She is an interdisciplinary museum anthropologist and historical archaeologist working in critical museum and heritage studies. Modeling Mesoamerica is a collaborative project featuring artifacts from SUAC’s permanent collection. Artifact digitization was undertaken by the Stanford Libraries Digital Production Group, especially Tony Calavano and Dinah Handel. Curatorial content was developed by SUAC staff, who are Sara Godin, Christina J. Hodge, Suzy Huizinga, and Veronica Jacobs-Edmondson; and students, including student research assistant Medora Rorick and the student curators of the spring 2020 course Museum Cultures: Material Representation in the Past and Present. Digital production support was provided by the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis, especially GP Lebourdais and our student assistant for digital production, Mireille Vargas (with support from the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education).
Dr. Hodge's seminar presentation supplements Modeling Mesoamerica: Origins and Originality in a Teaching Exhibit, the newest virtual exhibition from the Stanford University Archaeology Collections. Discover famous artifacts from the Maya and Aztec world through 3D physical and digital reproductions, learn about the personal motivations of 20th-century model makers, and see the original ancient monuments and elite goods that Stanford’s models recreate. Modeling Mesoamerica was curated by Stanford students in Hodge’s spring 2020 course Museum Cultures. Digital production was assisted by student Mireille Vargas, sponsored by the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA) and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.