These innovative courses promote experiential learning in the arts and humanities. They include hands-on observation, 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. Labs add new dimensions to the intrinsic value in studying the humanities.

Check out the following short videos about individual labs to get a sense of what they can be.

Art 293: Asian Museum Workshop: Chinese Artists in Maine

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

Italian 397: Italian Food in Practice: A Hands-on Cultural History

Students trace the historical evolution of Italian food culture since classical times, and examine the extraordinary significance of food for Italian national identity through various historical, cross-cultural, and theoretical perspectives, drawing from history, anthropology, sociology, art, and literature. During the weekly lab they prepare classic Italian recipes. Perfetto!

American Studies 222: Mapping Waterville

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.

Music 222: Maine’s Musical Soundscapes

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.

GM237: The German Fairy Tale in Popular Culture (in English)

After an in-depth study of well-known German fairy tales, Colby students partner with (adorable) fourth graders in a local school to re-imagine these stories, and by doing so gain fresh perspectives on the tales, acquire a greater understanding of the learning process, and perform meaningful community service.

HI241: History of Colby College

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-nineteenth-century students’ commitment to antislavery.

PL234: Philosophy and Art

Students in a philosophy course 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, too.

LT251: Ovid and the Censored Voice

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. How do you hook and keep your audience engaged? They gain practical skills to go along with the intellectual exercises developing them as thinkers. Too see the Ovid website they created, click here.

EA231: The Chinese Novel: Vignettes of Life in Imperial China

A Chinese literature course studies a great Chinese novel in conjunction with a special exhibit of Chinese art in the Colby Museum of Art. Students also learn to make a podcast to share what they have learned with museum visitors.

AR211: Student Docent Program

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, etc.

EN413J: Shakespeare Texts and Contents: Renaissance London and 19th Century America

Students read Shakespeare 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 reading, students install and introduce to the public their own library exhibition, “Shakespeare in 19th-century America.”

AR497: Sex in Art

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.