University at Ulrich (U@U)

Gordon Parks, Department Store, Birmingham, Alabama, 1956In Fall 2008, the Ulrich Museum embarked on an exciting project, U@U. Motivated by a desire to better serve WSU students, connect with campus colleagues, and place more of the collection on view, we reconfigured the Kathleen Edmiston Conference Room for use in classroom teaching.

Variously called object study centers and teaching galleries, interdisciplinary educational spaces in university art museums are gaining popularity, and research in the fields of education and museum studies is confirming their worth and that of teaching with original works of art. As a recent study published by the Harvard School of Education reports, “the ways visitors interact directly with objects in the study centers often engage them in ‘high-end cognition’–forms of thinking and learning that are characteristic of sophisticated disciplinary and interdisciplinary inquiry, such as making nuanced discernments, posing sophisticated problems, exploring multiple perspectives, and making generative comparisons and connections.”

Rich with objects from across the globe that explore a variety of subjects, the Ulrich collection holds great potential for such engagement. The expanded display spaces in the conference room allow us to realize this potential and work with faculty to place selected objects on temporary view in conjunction with specific courses. A seminar instructor might teach one or more class sessions in this space, while those with larger classes might assign students to visit the museum and write about the objects individually.

Classes from Art and Design, English, Women’s Studies, and the Honors Program have become frequent visitors to the space, studying Ulrich objects on multiple occasions throughout the semester. As we are able to better adapt the space and streamline our processes of connecting faculty with the appropriate objects, we expect to find an ever-growing and more diverse university audience utilizing this resource.

IMAGE: Gordon Parks, Department Store, Birmingham, Alabama, 1956. Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation.

An invitation to use the collection

Setting a Time

  • At least six weeks prior to the date you would like to schedule a time slot, please contact Jana Durfee to schedule your use of the conference room on the Ulrich calendar.
  • To the best that we are able, given other needs for the space and objects, we are happy to leave your selected pieces on view for 1 – 3 weeks.
  • Time slots will be assigned on a first-come-first-served basis.

Selecting Objects

  • At least one month prior to your scheduled time slot, please contact Jana Durfee to select your objects.
  • You are welcome, and encouraged, to visit and see the works in person before settling on a final selection. Please make an appointment with Jana.
  • In order to allow time to properly prepare the objects for exhibition, a final list of requested pieces will be needed two weeks prior to use.

Creating an Assignment

  • Should you want additional information on an object or artist as you plan your lecture, discussion session, or written assignment, we are happy to offer you access to our artist files and to recommend other resources.
  • Contact Jana Durfee, Museum Educator,, x. 7116