On 8 November Access students following East Kent College’s Humanities / Social Sciences diploma took part in a Courtauld Institute workshop in Dover. It was the start of a pilot project, devised as a collaboration between the East Kent Access teaching team and the Courtauld’s outreach programmers, with the aim of using visual sources to enhance students’ research skills before university entry.
The idea sounds simple, and it is. We live in a visual world. Why not use the almost limitless extent of art, in all its facets, to inform academic studies that would usually be led by textual sources? The Courtauld has been particularly keen to develop its outreach activities in Kent. East Kent’s broad-based Access to Humanities programme was suggested as a suitable combination of subjects for a pilot project, and the appearance of Modern Literature and European History units early in the Autumn curriculum could not have been better timed.
The day’s sessions were varied, and facilitated by Dr Julian Freeman, a Courtauld Gallery tutor. Introducing students to the Courtauld, its history and its aims, he especially emphasised the opportunities for students to use visual material as context for apparently unrelated study pathways. Students who had been sceptical at 0930 began to respond. In the interactive session that followed, students were invited to ‘curate’ an exhibition using postcard reproductions in a gallery of their own imagining. This session features often in Courtauld outreach activity, and engages even the most reluctant participants. Dover was no exception. Reticence went out of the window: every student spoke.
The momentum was maintained in the last session, focusing on art in the First World War, and its potential use as context by students in modern fiction studies, and in the history of the era. It was an entertaining launch for a new collaboration, from which much more is expected in due course.