History Field Trip: Metropolitan Museum of Art

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May 16, 2019 by mrcaseyhistory

Student Tour Guide Presentations

Project Assignments

Whether or not you are able to join us on our trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on June 11th, every student will still be able to get a taste of the museum through these projects, and hopefully it will inspire you to visit in the future, perhaps with other friends who did not go, to see these amazing pieces of history for yourselves.

For this assignment, you must research one of the following pieces and write a two-page-minimum about it, being sure to thoroughly answer the questions below. But it’s not an essay. What I actually want you to do is write a script you would read as a tour guide taking visitors to see the piece, with an expertise on the piece you are discussing and an effort to show them interesting things about the work of art. It does not need to be overly formal, but it should be well-prepared and detailed.  In the space below, I have provided a variety of links to video and text resources for each, so the research is pretty much done for you. Also, don’t skip the name of the piece as well! Clicking on the name of the piece will take you to the catalog page for the piece on the Met website, which has some of the most important basic information. Watch or read everything there, and base your tour guide script on that.

Every student, whether or not they are going on the trip, will be assigned a particular work of art. You will be able to find your assignment in the Met Exhibit Project Assignments. Students who go on the trip will be presenting at the museum in front of the actual work of art. Students who are not going on the trip will take turns presenting in class accompanied by images on the smart board.

For your tour guide script, you will need to cover each of the following questions, although it does not need to be in this order. Take these questions as a guide rather than a fixed rule. You can go beyond this as well.

Subject Explanation: What is being depicted or represented in this piece? Simply put; what are we looking at? What is interesting or unique about this piece?

Historical Context: When and where was this made? What purpose did it serve? What time period is this from, and what was going on in general at that time? What is the larger cultural world within which this piece was created, and how does that help us gain a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the piece? How was it connected to the history of the time? What role did it play in its original context?

Artistic Analysis: What should we note about how the piece was created? What significant features does it have? Is there anything noteworthy about the history of the piece itself? What is interesting or special about the way it was made? You can mention any other important information here.


Depending on the piece, you may find you want to spend more time on one category than another, depending on what is most relevant, but be sure to touch on all three. Also, for some of the pieces, I gave specific notes below, so make sure to consider those as well.

Writing Format

You should have a brief introduction and conclusion for your tour, but the three main body paragraphs should address the three categories above. I should be able to read each paragraph of your text and see each category addressed separately.


Museum Exhibits

Lamassu (1 & 2)

Region: Ancient Near East

Met Video

Other Met Video on Reliefs

Met Essay Assyrian Sculpture Court

Wikipedia Lamassu



Babylonian Lion

Region: Ancient Near East

Met Video

Met Essay Babylon

Khan Academy Ishtar Gate

Definitely make sure to situate this piece within the broader context of the Ishtar Gate from which it came.


Woman with Basket

Region: Ancient Egypt

Met Video

Met Essay Egypt in the Middle Kingdom

Don’t forget to talk about how it reflects society!





Magical Necklace

Region: Ancient Egypt

Met Video

Met Essay Egypt in the Middle Kingdom

Be sure to talk about the possible use as well as the surprise on the back!



Kouros Sculpture

Region: Ancient Greece

Met Video

Met Essay Greek Art in the Archaic Period

Met Essay Art of Classical Greece

Be sure to highlight the connections both to the past in Ancient Egypt and to the future in Classical Greece.




Athenian Vases

Region: Ancient Greece

Met Video

Met Essay Athenian Vase Painting

Met Essay Art of Classical Greece

This piece is an example to focus on but I would like you to talk about the pottery in general as well, explaining the technique (red-figure vs black-figure), and discussing some of the themes. There will be plenty of other examples around in the same gallery.


Roman Villa Bedroom

Region: Late Republican Rome

Met Video

Met Essay Boscoreale

While this room is not from Pompeii, connections can be made. Among other things, I would like to hear about the type of people who would have lived in a villa like this.



Orthodox Icons

Region: Byzantine Empire

Met Video

Met Essay Icons and Iconoclasm in Byzantium

In addition to the video, be sure to check out the essay above. While it need not be the primary focus, I would like to hear some mention of the controversy within the Orthodox Church around the debated issue of icons and idolatry.



Shiva Lord of the Dance

Region: Post-Classical India

Met Video

Met Essay Hinduism and Hindu Art

I would like you to focus primarily on this piece, but you can certainly make observations about some of the surrounding pieces as well to draw general connections. Hopefully there will be some coins to point out. If not, you can still mention it.



Chinese Buddhist Sculpture

Region: Post-Classical China

Met Video

Additional Met Video

Met Essay Chinese Buddhist Sculpture

Met Essay Buddhism and Buddhist Art

I would like you to focus on this particular sculpture while also making some general observations about the other sculptures in the room. If possible, I’d like you to mention some ways in Chinese buddhist sculpture differs from non-Chinese Buddhist sculpture, as we will be looking briefly at other examples along the way.


Chinese Blue and White Porcelain

Region: Ming China

Good example piece but there will be many others around in this gallery, so you can speak specifically and generally.

Wikipedia: Blue and White Pottery

Point out how it has been imitated by Persian and European artists

We will not immediately go to see these imitative pieces, but you can mention that you will point them out later when we are nearby. Make note of which rooms they are in so we can see them briefly when we are close.


Persian Miniature Painting

Region: Post-Classical Persia/Central Asia

Met Video

Story of Layla and Majnun

Wikipedia on Story of Layla and Majnun

While the focus should not be primarily on the story being depicted, it would be nice to hear a bit about the story to help us see how this image fits.



Replica Moroccan Court

Region: In the style of Post-Classical Morocco

Met Video (so cool)

Video on Whole Exhibit

Video on Arabic Calligraphy in General

I would like you to point out some of the unique features and explain how it was constructed and how it differs from what the real thing would be like.



Islamic Mihrab

Region: Post-Classical Iran

Non-Met Video on the Mihrab

Video on Whole Exhibit

Video on Arabic Calligraphy in General

Be sure to identify examples of calligraphy, arabesque, and geometric designs as we discussed in class. Also, make sure you are able to explain what at least some of the calligraphy says.



Benin Bronze Plaque

Region: Early Modern Africa

BBC video

Video clip on history of Benin Bronzes

Video on debate over African Art

You can see how the art and the culture cannot be disconnected from the history

Met Essay Benin Chronology



Jade Olmec Face

Region: Ancient Mesoamerica

Met Video

Met Essay Ancient American Jade

Be sure to connect with the Olmecs in general and point out interesting features.






Crown of the Andes

Region: Colonial Spanish South America

Met Video

Met Essay Art of the Spanish Americas

Wikipedia on Crown of the Andes

The Met also has a video on Pre-Columbian Gold which points out that the gold objects created by the Spanish would have been made from the melted down remains of Pre-Columbian native gold art. I think it would be cool to bring that up in a room surrounded by many such pieces.


Throne of Njouteu

Region: Cameroon Grassfields

Met Video

Met Article on the Throne of Njouteu

Connect to the wider history of the region and the period. Draw attention to the detailed work that was done, and its importance.





Buddha of Medicine

Region: China

Met Video

Met Essay: Yuan Dynasty

Khan Academy Video

For those not going on the trip, be sure to emphasize the sheer size of the piece.


Ethiopian Prayer Book The Organ of Mary

Region: Ethiopia

Met Video

There is a lot of helpful information in the text on the main link to the item in the collection.





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