Teaching with Primary Sources Samuel H. Kress Foundation Teaching Fellowship October 2022 to April 2023

By the Archives
October 17, 2022
Participant headshots are ordered in two rows, clockwise in alphabetical order.

Clockwise from top left: KATE PALMER ALBERS, associate professor, Whittier College; CRAIG HOUSER, lecturer, City College of New York; ELIZABETH LEE, associate professor, Dickinson College; RACHEL MIDDLEMAN, associate professor, California State University, Chico; ROJA NAJAFI, program faculty lead, Chandler-Gilbert Community College; CORY PILLEN, associate professor, Fort Lewis College; MERCEDES TRELLES-HERNÁNDEZ, associate professor, University of Puerto Rico—Rio Piedras; JENNIFER WAY, professor, University of North Texas; JUSTYNA WIERZCHOWSKA, associate professor, University of Warsaw; SCOTT ZUKOWSKI, postdoctoral fellow, University of Graz.


The Archives will host a six-month teaching fellowship, to be held virtually between October 14, 2022, and April 21, 2023.  This fellowship, funded by a digital art history grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, seeks to foster new forms of research and collaboration as well as new approaches to teaching and learning.

Our cohort will develop a syllabus and assignment that centers the Archives’ digitized primary sources—letters, diaries, photographs, financial records, inventories, sketchbooks, and the like from the 19th to the 21st century—available on the Archives’ website. The cohort will meet twice monthly for workshops and structured collaborations, including presentations by professional development faculty, peer advisors who have designed inspiring digital humanities and primary source assignments, and colleagues at the Archives who can support archival research strategies.  As participants finalize their syllabi, they will continue to meet to discuss grading, course preparation, and refine assignments to ultimately make available for the public.

The main goals of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation Teaching Fellowship are:

  1. to improve teachers’ ability to integrate archival research into their courses;
  2. to enhance student engagement and learning while providing key skills for creative and critical reading of primary evidence;
  3. to promote collaborative creation of shared models for teaching with primary sources that engage students in art history in inspiring and novel ways; and
  4. to activate the Archives of American Art’s online resources—more than three million items and 1,600 oral history transcripts—for undergraduate courses and graduate seminars around the world.     

We are grateful to members of our previous cohorts will serve as peer advisors for the six-month fellowship: 

SARAH ARCHINO, associate professor, Furman University

AUSTIN PORTER, associate professor, Kenyon College

ANNIE RONAN, assistant professor, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

BERNIDA WEBB-BINDER, assistant professor, Spelman College


The initial spark of inspiration for this fellowship came from the Brooklyn Historical Society’s award-winning project devoted to teaching effectively with primary sources. Seeking to model the teaching of American art history with primary sources, the Archives of American Art chaired a panel, “Case Studies: Teaching the History of American Art with Primary Sources,” at the 2018 Association of Historians of American Art (AHAA) Biennial Symposium in Minneapolis/St. Paul, and subsequently published as a collection of essays (Liza Kirwin, “Teaching with Primary Sources,” introduction to In the Round, Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art 5, no. 2 (Fall 2019), https://doi.org/10.24926/24716839.2298).

In 2019 the Archives of American Art, the Lunder Institute for American Art at the Colby Museum of Art, and the Cleveland Museum of Art identified a cohort of ten early-career scholars to participate in a three-year workshop program geared toward testing new primary source pedagogical models and developing adaptable teaching models for the Smithsonian Institution's Learning Lab.

In August and September of 2021, with support from the Dedalus Foundation, the Archives expanded the program, hosting thirty-six faculty members for two workshops on Zoom.  They conceived, discussed, refined, and shared assignments intended to develop students’ competencies in primary research.  As one participant summed up her experience, “Primary source teaching is essential—it is THE direction for the future and it’s rewarding to students intellectually, in terms of the content, but also invaluable for building research and critical thinking skills.” 

These convenings resulted in published essays, Blog posts, and shared teaching models that demonstrate an enormous range of creativity, nuance, and complexity. The program has also yielded a close-knit set of scholars invested in incorporating archival research in their teaching.  Our current Samuel H. Kress Foundation Teaching Fellowship builds on this foundation.

About the Archives of American Art

Founded in 1954, the Archives of American Art fosters advanced research through the accumulation and dissemination of primary sources, unequaled in historical depth and breadth, that document more than two hundred years of our nation’s artists and art communities. The Archives provides access to these materials through its exhibitions and publications, including the Archives of American Art Journal, the longest-running scholarly journal in the field of American art. An international leader in the digitizing of archival collections, the Archives makes more than three million digital images freely available online. The Archives’ oral history collection includes more than 2,500 audio interviews, the largest accumulation of in-depth, first-person accounts of the American art world.  For more information, visit the Archives website at www.aaa.si.edu.

About the Samuel H. Kress Foundation

The Samuel H. Kress Foundation (est. 1929) devotes its resources to advancing the study, conservation, and enjoyment of the vast heritage of European art, architecture, and archaeology from antiquity to the early 19th century.

Its mission is to sustain and carry out the original vision of its founder, Samuel H. Kress (1863-1955). It supports the work of individuals and institutions engaged with the appreciation, interpretation, preservation, study and teaching of the history of European art and architecture from antiquity to the dawn of the modern era. The Kress Foundation serves the field of art history as practiced in American art museums and institutions of higher education, and in an array of research centers and libraries throughout the world. It further supports training and research in art conservation as well as the professional practice of art conservation. The Kress Foundation makes grants in defined program areas and offer professional development fellowships for historians of art and architecture, art conservators, art museum curators and educators, and art librarians.

Biographical Sketches of Fellowship Recipients

Kate Palmer Albers is Associate Professor of Art History and Visual Culture at Whittier College, a small liberal arts college east of Los Angeles. She joined the faculty in 2018 after ten years at the University of Arizona, where she was awarded a Charles and Irene Putnam Excellence in Teaching Award. At Whittier, she teaches courses on the history and theory of photography, visual culture, media studies, and contemporary art with specific focus on gender and representation, Latinx art and visual culture, and art in the public sphere. Since the 1990s, Whittier College has been recognized nationally as one of the most diverse undergraduate institutions among national liberal arts colleges and is a federally-designated Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). Albers currently chairs the college-wide curriculum renewal initiative underway at Whittier. Her most recent publication is The Night Albums: Visibility and the Ephemeral Photograph (UC Press, 2021).

Craig Houser teaches at the City College of New York, which is one of many schools that comprise the City University of New York and caters to a diverse student body. Working closely with his colleagues, Houser serves as the program director for the MA in Art History and its Art Museum Studies concentration and co-chairs the Curriculum Committee for the Art Department. Houser’s courses focus primarily on modern and contemporary art and museum studies, as well as research methods. Previously, Houser taught at Parsons School of Design and worked as a curator and educator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Houser has published in a number of academic publications including the Journal of Curatorial Studies, Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide, and Art Journal. In 2021, Houser completed the workshop Teaching with Primary Sources at the Archives of American Art-Smithsonian Institution.  

Elizabeth Lee is Associate Professor of Art History at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, located on the unceded territory of the Susquehannock nation and site of the former Carlisle Indian School, where thousands of indigenous children were forced into a federal eradication program. Dickinson was founded in 1783 by the Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush and continues to promote his vision of engaged citizenship for the common good. A small liberal arts college with 2,100 students, the campus is globally oriented with roughly two-thirds of its students studying abroad. Lee teaches a variety of courses in the areas of modern, contemporary, and American art to majors in a combined art history and studio art program as well as to non-majors from across the college, especially in American Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. In her classroom, she emphasizes close visual analysis and an intersectional perspective informed by diverse, multi-disciplinary interpretation. She works closely with original works of art in her classes through field trips to Philadelphia and New York City museums and through the collections of the Trout Gallery, Dickinson’s art museum.

Rachel Middleman is Director of the Humanities Center and Associate Professor of Art History at California State University, Chico. She is the author of Radical Eroticism: Women, Art, and Sex in the 1960s (University of California Press, 2018). She has published in Art Journal, Les Cahiers du Musée National d’Art Moderne, Konsthistorisk tidskrift, and Woman’s Art Journal and contributed to edited volumes and exhibition catalogues, including Academics, Artists, and Museums: 21st-Century Partnerships (2018), Enchanted Modernities: Theosophy, the Arts and the American West (2019); In the Cut: The Male Body in Feminist Art (2019); Women, Aging, and Art: A Crosscultural Anthology (2021); Joan Semmel: Skin in the Game (2021); and Supernatural America: The Paranormal in American Art (2021). She is executor of artist Anita Steckel’s estate and recently curated Anita Steckel: The Feminist Art of Sexual Politics (2022) with Richard Meyer at the Stanford Art Gallery.

Roja Najafi is Residential Art History Faculty and the Lead of the Art History Program at Chandler-Gilbert Community College (CGCC) in Arizona. In addition to scheduling and staffing all art history courses at the college, she designs and develops new curricula, including primary course templates, Open Educational Resources, and signature assignments for all instructors. Najafi's regular courses include a global perspectives survey, the history of photography, and the history of modern art, and she collaborates frequently with Visual Arts faculty in curating exhibitions and designing co-curricular and interdisciplinary projects. She feels privileged to teach at a public community college that has recently been recognized as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and work closely with many traditionally underserved students. Najafi writes about modern and contemporary art, concentrating on the reception of avant-garde and counter-cultural practices in Iran and the United States. She holds a PhD in art history from The University of Texas at Austin, an MA in Art History and Criticism from Brooklyn College, CUNY, and a filmmaking degree from the Art University in her hometown of Tehran.

Cory Pillen is Director of the Center of Southwest Studies, an Associate Professor of Art History in the Department of Art & Design, and an affiliated faculty member in the Gender and Sexuality Studies Program at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.  Cory’s research focuses on 19th and 20th-century U.S. visual culture, although she teaches a wide range of courses related to art history, gender, and race.  Cory’s first book, which focuses on posters produced by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the 1930s and early 1940s, was published by Routledge in March 2020 as a part of its Research in Art and Politics Series.  The book explores various ways WPA posters addressed contemporary social concerns such as leisure, conservation, health, and housing through the promotion of knowledge and literacy.

Mercedes Trelles-Hernández is an Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR). The UPR is a public university with 11 campuses serving a population of around 55,000 students, 10,000 of which are enrolled in graduate programs.  She is a member of the advisory board for the Humanities’ Faculty Gallery and member of the online journal Visión Doble’s editorial board.  Since joining the UPR in 2003, she has taught over fourteen undergraduate courses on such diverse topics as Western Civilization, Latin American Art of the XXth century, and Film and the Avant-Garde.  Trelles-Hernández is an independent curator and publishes regularly on her research topic, modern art from Latin America and the Caribbean.  She is also an inaugural fellow of the Hunter College and Mellon Foundation Bridging the Divides Study Group and is currently working on an exhibition on the subject of ruins in contemporary Puerto Rican art.

Jennifer Way is a Professor of Art History at the University of North Texas located in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex. Enrolling about 45,000 students, UNT is a public university, a Minority-Serving Institution, one of twenty-one Carnegie Tier One research universities designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution, and a founder and participant in the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Research Universities. Within the College of Visual Arts and Design, she teaches upper-level undergraduate and graduate level art history courses and art history methodologies to students from across the university and those studying in the college’s twenty-nine-degree programs. Way’s teaching and scholarly research focus on the period since 1900, emphasizing social meanings and uses of art, craft, photography, collections, exhibitions, and histories. Her previous book, Politics of Vietnamese Craft: American Diplomacy and Domestication, supported by a Terra Foundation for American Art Senior Fellowship at SAAM, considers how Americans appropriated a foreign art form in programs that intersected their diplomatic agendas and domestic life with South Vietnam on questions of Vietnamese belonging in the Free World from 1955 to 1961. Way’s current teaching and research emphasize art and healing, relationships of craft and war, and craft deployed as a therapeutic modality and aesthetics of care for Americans coping, healing, and rehabilitating from traumas and injuries of war in the 20th and 21st centuries, and she is currently editing an anthology about craft and war and completing a monograph book about craft therapy and war. She serves as an editor for the Digital Dialogues section of Panorama, Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art. She earned a PhD in art history from The University of Texas at Austin. 

Justyna Wierzchowska is associate professor at the University of Warsaw, Poland's largest university and most prestigious research center, serving nearly 40,000 students across a broad range of disciplines. One of few American art professors in Poland, she has developed courses on the history of women artists, feminist art history, 20th-century art, Abstract Expressionism, and other topics in U.S. art. In addition to her teaching and advisory duties, Wierzchowska is Head of the Publication Committee on the Faculty of Modern Languages and Head of the Doctoral School of the Humanities Recruitment Committee for Culture and Religious Studies. She is the recipient of the 2022 to 2023 Polish National Academic Exchange Mieczyslaw Bekker Award, completing research on performance studies at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. She is currently completing a manuscript on the theme of motherhood in contemporary art, a topic on which she publishes extensively.

Scott Zukowski is a Postdoctoral Assistant Professor in the Institute of American Studies at the University of Graz, Austria, where he teaches courses in intermediality studies and in pre-1900 US-American media, cultural history, literature, and visual art. As a large, public institution located at a unique cultural crossroads, the University of Graz hosts students from an array of geographic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds—often requiring pedagogical innovation such as working with primary visual and textual sources to help students engage with topics and concepts related to fields like American Studies. Zukowski further serves as associate editor of Amerikastudien / American Studies, and he was previously a Mellon/ACLS Public Fellow in residence at Library of America, where, in addition to editing new volumes, he innovated strategies to engage diverse audiences with literature, the arts, and civic discourse. His Ph.D. is from Stony Brook University, where he also held a postdoctoral appointment as Digital and Experiential Learning Specialist, initiating archive-based learning partnerships and training faculty on high impact teaching practices.