Note: Objects in museums may be rearranged or removed; the urban landscape is constantly changing. Thus instructors who plan to assign these tours to students should check the routes shortly ahead of time and make necessary adjustments.

Tour  1  (part  1). The World of Homer, The Iliad
Tour  1  (part 2). The World of Homer, The Odyssey

These two audio tours through the Ancient Greek Art galleries at the Metropolitan Museum are keyed to study of either The Iliad or The Odyssey. By focusing on objects embodying or displaying ancient Greek values and cultural practices, the tours help students better understand Homer’s poems. For example, elaborate funeral monuments show the Greek desire to honor the dead (Iliad 23), and vase paintings of women getting married or weaving correlate with depictions of Nausicaa or Penelope in The Odyssey. On these tours students can also see objects that illustrate, exemplify, or embody the Greek gods, warfare, the mythical past, the importance of honor and fame, the nature of ancient armor, and the high value placed on poetry and song. Short, relevant passages from The Iliad and The Odyssey are read aloud to make the connections to the poems even clearer.

Tour  2. The World of Augustus and Virgil

This audio tour through some of the Ancient Roman Art galleries at the Metropolitan Museum emphasizes the imagery used by Augustus Caesar to consolidate his control over the new Roman Empire. The tour works is especially helpful in illuminating the political aspect of Virgil’s Aeneid: Aeneas’ destiny is to found Rome, and in Book 6 of the poem, he watches a veritable parade of illustrious future Romans, among whom is Augustus. Also, the moral qualities that Caesar espoused for citizens of Rome are epitomized in Aeneas, and Virgil imagines Augustus as the new Aeneas. In addition, Caesar’s emphasis on children and his own tragic loss of his grandsons also relate to the inherent sadness of the Aeneid, in which so many beautiful young people must die to make way for Aeneas’ destiny. This dual nature of the poem is thus well served by the tour experience.

Tour  3.  “And pilgrimes were they alle”: The Cloisters and the World of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that incorporates elements of five medieval cloisters and houses a collection of medieval art, was from its inception meant to evoke the sense that the visitor was walking into the Middle Ages. The Cloisters is not a traditional museum as such: Its geographical inaccessibility is intended to mimic the experience of real medieval pilgrims, as they would climb the final steep elevation to glimpse their destination and view the road they had traveled; the elevation of Fort Tryon Park gives us just such a vantage point. This Cloisters “pilgrimage” is designed to enrich courses in medieval literature and history.

Tour  4. Encounter with the Past: The Renaissance and the Ancients

This tour introduces students to Renaissance objects in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, stressing how artists and their patrons not only revived ancient traditions but also adapted what they revived to the ideals and values of their own time. In the Gubbio Studiolo, the feudal lord and mercenary captain Federico da Montefeltro fills his private space with images of himself as living a life of both action and contemplation like the noble Romans of old. In a religious painting from Urbino, Fra Carnevale’s Birth of the Virgin, a Roman triumphal arch frames a holy event, thereby making it a scene of Christian victory. By studying these and other such objects, students will deepen their understanding of what Renaissance artists and patrons achieved: far from breaking completely with the late medieval world in which they lived, they developed its traditions in new ways under the inspiration of the ancient past.

Tour  5. A Global Appetite: Food History as World History

The Global Appetite tour of the European Decorative Arts and the European Painting collections of the Metropolitan Museum emphasizes the historical importance of food in world history as both a catalyst and consequence of larger trends and events. The audio tour focuses on the ages of exploration and empire, when Europeans diversified their larders just as they enriched their treasuries, and invites students to trace the history of European expansion in the paintings, tankards, finger bowls, and chocolate pots they examine.

Tour  6. Converging Cultures: Latin America 1520-1830

This audio tour through the Brooklyn Museum’s collections of Andean textiles, ceramics, furniture, and paintings from the pre-Hispanic and colonial periods focuses on the effects of the Spanish conquest on indigenous societies, with attention to patterns of cultural syncretism.  Reflecting broad developments in Latin American scholarship, the tour approaches the cultural interactions of Andean colonial society not as a simple dichotomy between Indian and Spaniard, but rather as the mutual entanglements of the many ethnic groups and social ranks that clashed and connected after the Spanish invasion of 1531-32. The objects examined by the tour will help stimulate students to see that at the time of their meeting, both Spanish and indigenous societies were themselves cultural hybrids and their encounter generated yet another synthetic culture.

Tour  7. The Afro-European Encounter in Africa

In the tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, students will examine African artifacts from the seventeenth to the twentieth century to explore, from an African perspective, the often surprising nature of the encounter and the developing relations between West Africans and the Portuguese, Dutch, British traders and missionaries active in the region before the rise of European dominance of the continent.

Tour  8. Discovering Immigrant New York City

The audio tour, “Discovering Immigrant New York City,” leads students through one of the nation’s most significant multi-ethnic historic neighborhoods, Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown and Little Italy. Examining the area’s streetscapes, the tour will draw students’ attention to the visible traces of previous immigrant communities while attending to the lives of recent arrivals. Students will learn how the neighborhood encapsulates several broad themes frequently taught in undergraduate American history and immigration courses – neighborhood succession, Progressive Era reform, the changing immigration law,  and the consequences of those changes.

Tour  9.  Civil War Stories

This tour of Civil War artworks and artifacts in the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture of the New-York Historical Society is designed to enrich the study of American writers such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman and Louisa May Alcott. Intended for students in American literature courses, the tour uses Whitman’ s observations of the Civil War as a springboard for the examination of relevant paintings, sculptures, and swords and other weapons used in the War. The tour illuminates the Civil War stories that artists have told in their works and that we can glimpse by looking at military artifacts—stories of men and women in the North and South, cavalry charges and maritime combat, African-American leaders, popular culture, heroism and devastation.

Tour  10. Harlem Crossroads

This walking tour examines the history of Harlem, a center of African-American life in the 20th-century. Stops in central Harlem include apartment buildings and houses, businesses, schools, churches, and cultural and political institutions associated with this area’s artistically and historically rich African-American past. This tour centers on themes in the cultural and political history of African-Americans, while providing background and context in the history of New York City.

Tour  11. “Make It New”: Modernist Visions

This audio tour introduces students to representative artistic achievements from some of the most inventive decades of Modern art in the 20th century. On this tour, students will encounter visual evidence of the Modernist project to “Make it New”—Ezra Pound’s plea to a generation of artists and writers to reject “realistic” and academic representation, as practiced in the 19th century, in favor of drastically new forms of expression in the 20th. After passing through a 1900 Paris subway entrance in MoMA’s Sculpture Garden, designed by Hector Guimard, students consider themes of dislocation, fragmentation, alienation, redefinition of gender, and the consequences of war as expressed by Modern artists such as Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Max Beckmann, Jose Clemente Orozco, and Marcel Duchamp.