Course Spotlight | Colonial to Postcolonial Archives: Histories of Caribbean Collecting

Wendy Muñiz’s Fall 2017 course Colonial to Postcolonial Archives: Histories of Caribbean Collecting aimed to “help students articulate, in an informed and critical manner, the evolution of collecting practices in the Caribbean spanning from the 19th century till today.”

After completing her doctorate from Columbia University, Muñiz joined NYU as the Center for the Humanities’ 2017-2018 Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow in affiliation with Department of Spanish and Portuguese. As part of the fellowship, Muñiz taught a first-year seminar at NYU’s College of Arts & Science as part of the Center’s On Being Human seminar program, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

By the end of the course, [students] were fluent in what are the challenges and the impact that collectors face, the responsibilities that come with collecting, and the thrill of putting out into the world new materials that can diversify stereotypical and often ill-informed ideas about other cultures.

Wendy MuñizAssistant Professor/Post-Doctoral Fellow 2017-2018

As part of the seminar program, Muñiz was able to fund three excursions for her students: museum visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and El Museo del Bario, and a trip to see the John Leguizamo’s Broadway show, Latin History for Morons.

“Each excursion served to immerse students in different time periods within the course’s timeline, work with primary sources, and experience the social impact that collecting practices driven by colonialism in the region had in the past,” Muñiz reflected. “Besides providing a first-hand account of how Caribbean communities at home and abroad preserve their heritage, via these excursions students also became acquainted with different types of collecting (i.e. oral history, private collecting, artists at work, public records) as well as with distinct kinds of audience engagement techniques (i.e. community outreach, fanhood, national museums, niche museums).”

Photo: The class after seeing Latin History for Morons. Courtesy of Wendy Muñiz.

Photo: The class at a museum outing. Courtesy of Wendy Muñiz.

Throughout the course, Muñiz tasked the students with assignments such as collecting, curating, and creating multimedia essays through their Omeka collections. “I used Omeka so that students would experience collecting first-hand as a human endeavor,” Muñiz said, in describing the students’ participation in creating their own archives.

Between fostering a collaborative digital environment and integrating immersive experiences throughout the curriculum, Muñiz used the course to expose students to the world of archiving and collecting, and particularly to the role of human activity and participation in preservation and history making.

Learn more about the On Being Human seminar program.