The Crossroads London Museums: Making Meaning, Making Art Summer 2020 course, co-led by Whitman professors Krista Gulbransen and Maria Lux, is designed to introduce students to museum studies, exhibition creation, and art-making through first-hand exploration of the rich, far-reaching, and complicated museum collections of the dynamic and historic city of London. The course is a hybrid of seminar and studio formats, combined with museum and gallery site visits and guest lectures from artists and museum professionals. The course consists of two components: a 3-week intensive summer course in London (with a brief trip to Oxford), and a 4-week course held on Whitman’s campus in the fall that allows students to mount an exhibition. Students will read about, discuss, and write about exhibition practices, the history of museum collections, and artists who make work within them. Students will also make drawings, photographs, models, and other types of visual creative production in response to individual objects and exhibitions they visit in London. The culminating exhibition mirrors the professional experiences of art scholars and critics, museum staff and gallerists, and practicing artists through the collective production of the exhibition on campus.

The London portion of the course focuses on developing ways of engaging with museum spaces different than a tourist might, and on gathering knowledge, experiences, and information. Students use the lenses of verbal critique and artistic production to process what they are learning. Site visits offer opportunities for “behind-the-scenes” tours and lectures/meetings with museum professionals and artists not typically afforded to museum visitors. The Walla Walla-based portion of the class offers the opportunity to apply the knowledge gained during the London trip in order to design and stage an art exhibition, and to utilize the methodologies of idea generation and visual artistic research as a way to create art.

Program Dates*:

May 27 Depart Seattle
May 28 Arrive in London
May 29 Orientation to living in London
May 30 - June 7 Encyclopedic/Antiquities Museums & Art Galleries
June 8 - 12 Natural History & Science Museums
June 13 - 14 Field trip to Oxford (with a stop in Tring)
June 15 - 19 History Museums & “Retreat” for Fall Exhibition Planning
June 20 London portion of the program concludes
September 4 - 25 Weekly Friday meetings on Whitman’s campus
TBD Exhibition opening / reception

*dates are tentative

Who is this course suited for:

This course is ideal for a wide range of students interested in art history, studio art, history, biology, politics, anthropology, archaeology and in experiencing museums in a diverse way. Some experience with either Art History or Studio Art is required, but non art-history and non-art majors are encouraged to apply!

Course Title: This course is cross-listed in Art History Visual Culture Studies and Art Studio, titled ARTH 211A/ ARTS 201A (3 credits, London portion) and ARTH 211B/ARTS 201B (1 credit, Whitman campus portion). Please note that all students must enroll in both the summer and fall portions of the course.
Credits: Three (3) credits for London portion, 1 credit for Whitman campus portion
Counts as:

Major/Minor Credit:
Art History & Visual Culture Studies

Distribution Credit:
Cultural Pluralism
Fine Arts

Global Studies Concentration:
Off-Campus Education requirement

Prerequisite: At least one Art course or one Art History & Visual Culture Studies course, or by consent of the instructors.

Course Description:

In this course, students will approach museums and collecting institutions from two overlapping disciplines: art history & visual culture studies, and studio art. The course reveals the many (perhaps underrecognized) ways in which artists and scholars work with museums and collections. In addition to displaying work in museums, artists intervene in museum collections to make art installations, create work that references or critiques museum spaces and display conventions, and serve as artists-in-residence at museums. Similarly, academics in the fields of art history, architectural history, and visual culture studies explore the Enlightenment and colonial history of the museum institution, examine the politics of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation through the analysis of collections and their methods of display, curate shows, write exhibition catalogues and essays, assess repatriation claims and the authenticity of objects, critique the aesthetics of exhibition design, and determine ethical practices for art conservation. By studying both the institutions themselves, and examples of artists and scholars who work around and within them, students will gain an understanding of the important role of museums to exhibit culture, produce knowledge, and inspire artistic production.

Field trip sites will likely include:

  • British Museum
  • Soane's Museum
  • Victoria & Albert Museum
  • Royal Academy of the Arts
  • National Gallery
  • Tate Modern
  • Whitechapel Gallery
  • Natural History Museum
  • Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy
  • Wellcome Collection
  • Horniman Museum
  • Marianne North Gallery at Kew Gardens
  • Natural History Museum at Tring
  • Pitt Rivers Museum
  • Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology
  • Tower of London
  • National Maritime Museum
  • Geffrye Museum of the Home
  • Churchill War Rooms

The Summer course utilizes a hybrid of seminar and studio formats combined with museum and gallery site visits and guest lectures from artists and museum professionals. The Fall course at Whitman seeks to mirror the professional experiences of art scholars and critics, museum staff and gallerists, and practicing artists through the collective production of an exhibition on campus.

Learning Outcomes:

  • To approach the material, cultural, and political aspects of museums and their collections through both scholarly and artistic practices.
  • To examine how 18th and 19th-century institutions, ideologies, and forms of display continue to influence modern and contemporary museum practices.
  • To describe the ways in which museums and artists produce, structure, and disseminate knowledge.
  • To undertake research practices that are oral, written, and visual.
  • To gain exposure and experience with professional practices for both artists and museum professionals (directors, curators, registrars and collections managers, conservators, museum educators and docents, and exhibition designers) working with museums and other cultural institutions.
  • To gain an understanding of what research looks like for a visual artist, and how artmaking itself can be a form of research.
  • To form opinions about important topics of debate in the museum world, including the repatriation of stolen objects, ethical conservation and cultural stewardship, the expanding role of artists as curators, and uses of digital technologies in gallery spaces.

Assessment of Student Learning:

While in London, students will complete shorter, more agile visual explorations and writing assignments that help them engage with each space, including creating images, video, sketches, and models; keeping a sketchbook/journal; delivering a presentation on a museum of their choice; writing short analytical and reflective essays; and participating in group discussions and reflections based on museum visits and course readings. At the end of the summer course, students will write a proposal for the fall exhibition. During the on-campus portion of the course, students will apply to different positions (thus modeling professional experiences in the classroom) and work collectively during weekly meetings to mount the exhibition.

Pre-course Orientation:

To prepare students for the course, Professors Gulbransen and Lux will hold 3-4 mandatory pre-departure meetings. In addition to discussing travel logistics and tips for living in London, these meetings will involve lectures and class discussions of seminal readings on various types of display as well as current topics of debate in the museum world. Students will also learn about artists whose practice is rooted in museum collections.

Dr. Krista Gulbransen is a professor of Art History and Visual Culture Studies at Whitman College. She conducts much of her own research at museums in the London area, particularly the Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Museum, and the Ashmolean Museum (in Oxford). Her most recent project engages with many of the Crossroads course themes (particularly the colonial origins of museum collections), as it explores the Victorian-era display of plaster cast replicas of Indian monuments at the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria & Albert Museum).

Maria Lux is a professor of art at Whitman College. Her practice focuses on animals and their relationship to knowledge production, which has fostered an ongoing engagement with museum spaces--in particular, natural history museums, teaching collections, and science museums. She regularly visits and studies these types of museum spaces across the U.S. and overseas (including in London), as well as makes artwork that engages with these spaces.


Students will live in an IES residence hall in double occupancy rooms with internet, linens and weekly cleaning provided. The housing is centrally-located and accessible by subway to London's museums and the IES London Center where classes are held. A month-long, prepaid Oyster Pass for London public transportation will be provided. In addition, students will stay one night in a hotel or hostel in Oxford for a weekend field trip. During the Whitman campus portion, students will stay at their regular fall housing.


While in London students will be responsible for their own meals either cooking for themselves or purchasing meals at restaurants. Students have access to shared cooking facilities in the residence halls ("hall" singular pls), and will also eat meals throughout London (near or at the museum sites) or have the opportunity to pack lunches. In addition, there will also be a weekly group meal provided (a welcome dinner, afternoon tea, and a farewell meal). During travel to and from England (at airports and on flights), students are responsible for purchasing their own meals. For the time of the Whitman campus portion, a group dinner will be provided before the opening of the exhibition.


This course involves a significant amount of walking in a city, use of public transportation including subways and buses, and standing in museums.


London Museums: Making Meaning, Making Art welcomes applications from all Whitman undergrad students who:

  • are in good academic standing
  • will be continuing students in Summer 2020 (May 2020 graduates are ineligible)
  • are registered for classes at Whitman in Spring 2020 (ie students who are off campus on a Leave of Absence or on Off-Campus Studies during the Spring 2020 semester are ineligible)


  • At least one Studio Art course or one Art History & Visual Culture Studies course, or by consent of the instructors

How to apply:

  • To apply to this program you will need to submit an online Crossroads Summer 2020 Application available mid-September through the OCS website.


  • Applications will be accepted thru Tuesday, October 15, 2019. This is not a rolling deadline and applications will be reviewed following the application closing date of October 15, 2019.

Group size:

  • Space is limited to 16 students


  • Applicants will be interviewed by the Faculty Leaders and an Off-Campus Studies staff member as part of the selection process.

Admission Notification:

  • Students will be informed of the status of their application in November.

Enrollment Deposit:

  • Students admitted into the Crossroads program will be expected to pay a nonrefundable enrollment deposit of $500 within two weeks of acceptance. The enrollment deposit will be counted towards the course fee.

Program Fee: $3,485 (not including international airfare and meals)

The program fee covers the following:

  • Tuition for 4-credit course and course materials
  • Housing accommodations
  • International Medical insurance
  • Group travel within London, course field trips, and program excursions
  • Pre-departure meetings and in-country orientation in London

The program fee does not cover the following:

  • International airfare to and from London
  • Meals/beverages
  • Passport fees
  • U.S. medical insurance
  • Personal expenses such as social activities, independent travel, toiletries, laundry, school supplies, and souvenirs.

International Airfare: $1,800 (estimate)

  • International airfare is separate from the program fee and estimated at $1,600-$1,800.  A group flight option will be available.

Total Estimated Costs:

$3,485 Program Fee
$1,800 International Airfare (estimate)
$   690 Meals (estimate)
$5,975 Total

Enrollment Deposit:

  • Students admitted into the program will be expected to pay a nonrefundable enrollment deposit of $500 within 2 weeks of acceptance to the program.  The enrollment deposit will be counted towards the course fee.

Scholarships and Financial Aid:

  • Students with financial need are encouraged to apply for funding.  Need-based scholarship assistance is available through Whitman Crossroads funding.  Both partial and full scholarships may be awarded.
  • Students will be notified of their aid awards in their course admission notification letter.