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Thematic Curriculum: Art + History


Works of art spark learning in remarkable ways. Explore Art + History, a process for using art as a primary source for historical inquiry.

Works of art are special kinds of historical sources. They spark inquiry in the classroom in remarkable ways. Educators at the Art Institute of Chicago have developed an innovative process for using art as a primary source.

In this video, high school students use the Art + History method to explore multiple perspectives on a historical moment of revolution, using a work of art as a starting point. The students then use their new understandings to reconsider questions of their own time. Through the process, they contend with essential questions such as: How can artworks provide a unique lens on the past? What’s beyond the frame? What other perspectives can I consider? How are these ideas still relevant today? 

Teachers have noted that the most challenging—and rewarding—aspect of the process is slowing down to look closely as a group. We recommend devoting at least 40 minutes to a session, following the steps below. 

Note: while the work of art featured in this video is figurative, the Art + History method can be used with works of art of any style or medium.

Additional Resources

Check back soon for student tours that support the Art + History process


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