Humanities Labs: An Introduction
Colby Magazine explores the Center for the Arts and Humanities’ commitment to the humanities.
Humanities Lab Videos
Humanities Labs Captured in Videos
These innovative courses promote experiential learning by incorporating observation, hands-on experimentation, and skill-building perspectives more commonly associated with the natural sciences. Courses across the humanistic disciplines can turn the Colby Museum of Art, Special Collections in Miller Library, or off-campus locations across Maine into laboratories. Humanities labs add new dimensions to the intrinsic value in studying the humanities.
A hands-on, collaborative workshop in which students become curators and create a museum exhibition at Common Street Arts, in downtown Waterville. Students learn through studio visits, artist interviews, readings, presentations, and writing assignments. They jointly select the artwork, produce a press release, write labels and a catalogue, and then install the exhibition before hosting a grand opening. To view the exhibit website they created, visit web.colby.edu/somewhere
Students trace the historical evolution of Italian food culture since classical times and examine the extraordinary significance of food for Italian national identity through historical, cross-cultural, and theoretical perspectives, drawing from history, anthropology, sociology, art, and literature. During the weekly lab they prepare classic Italian recipes. Perfetto!
Through geographical and architectural fieldwork, students construct an online archive of Waterville’s built environment using architectural sketches, photographs, interviews, and archival research. They analyze and interpret the town’s material and spatial character, track and explain changes across time, and publish their interpretations online using innovative digital mapping technologies.
Through hands-on experience with archival and primary-source materials in Special Collections, students gain confidence as scholars and participate in writing the College’s history. Supported by professional archivists and the course instructor, students develop independent research projects on Colby’s rich past, exploring everything from why Colby’s mascot is the mule to early-19th-century students’ commitment to antislavery.
Philosophy students turn the museum of art into their lab space. Looking through a philosophical prism, students perform original research on artworks in the museum and share their results with the community in a public forum, thereby developing their oral communication skills as well.
After an in-depth study of well-known German fairy tales, Colby students partner with fourth graders in a local school to reimagine these stories. By doing so they gain fresh perspectives on the tales, acquire a greater understanding of the learning process, and perform meaningful community service.
In addition to studying Latin language, syntax, and literature, students learn how to design a captivating website to display the fruits of their research to a wider audience as well as how to hook an audience and keep it engaged. Students gain practical skills to go along with the intellectual exercises that help them develop as thinkers. To see the Ovid website students created, click here.
A Chinese literature course studies a great Chinese novel in conjunction with a special exhibition of Chinese art in the Colby Museum of Art. Students also learn to make a podcast to share what they learned with museum visitors.
Students read Shakespearean plays together, learn about their Renaissance contexts, and explore how and why Shakespeare informs American history and identity in pervasive ways. Working with materials in Colby’s Special Collections as well as primary-source databases and secondary texts, students install and introduce to the public their own library exhibition, Shakespeare in 19th-Century America.
In a course that combines elements of an education course with art history, students do practical, hands-on work. They learn about museum studies, gallery teaching techniques, the museum collection, practical techniques for art education, how to design lessons, and more.
After studying ethnographic field methods and basic filmmaking, students take field trips to document and record the musical cultures of Maine’s ethnic and racial communities, including Penobscot, Lebanese, Somali, Russian, and French-Canadian (the group under study rotates on a yearly basis). Students present their final research project in the form of a documentary film.
Looking at art and sex through the lens of censorship, this course engages in an exploration of the circuitous journey that constitutes research. Taking advantage of a museum exhibit specially designed for this course, students turn to their professor as a research mentor and guide.
This humanities lab and civic engagement course explores how photography has been used to document, enable, or control the movement of people across geographical and cultural borders. It focuses on how photographers have put a face on immigration, making visible its associations with transition, displacement, hardship, and opportunity. Engaging with current scholarship, students work closely with photographs in Special Collections at Miller Library. They also study materials in local archives and the family photographs of Maine immigrant communities.