Using Photographs to Teach Cultural Change
Yangtze Remembered: The River Beneath the Lake (April 27-June 30, 2007) portrays massive cultural change in rural China prompted by the construction of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River. Yangtze Remembered explores daily life in a fragile landscape of tradition and change, where more than a million people were moved, and cities, towns, ancient temples, burial grounds, and other historic sites are now submerged.
Inspired by Linda Butler’s photographs, Yangtze Remembered: Using Photographs to Teach Cultural Change, explored ways that teachers of all grade levels and disciplines and can use visual art to enrich curriculum. Workshops and lectures utilized Butler’s haunting images of loss, destruction, and renewal to explore the political, economic, and social imperatives that motivated the project, as well as the implications for the fragile landscape of the Three Gorges and the people who live there. While specific examples were drawn from China, the issues addressed in the program are universal and critical to American students’ understanding of the difficult decisions that citizens of the modern world must make. Specifically, the program examined the needs of the rural versus the urban, the wants of the powerful versus the powerless, and the conflicts of tradition versus modernity.
In conjunction with Yangtze Remembered: The River Beneath the Lake, the museum co-sponsored an April 2007 exhibit at the Bangor Public Library. CHINA: Exploring the Interior 1903-1904 featured photographs that were taken by Maine explorer R. Harvey Sargent during a Carnegie Expedition to China in 1903/04. Together, these contrasting exhibits illuminate the regional change that occurred in China during the dawn of two different centuries. Conference participants spent half of each day at the University of Maine Museum of Art and the other half at the Bangor Public Library. Activities and lectures drew upon each exhibit’s rich visual content.
The Yangtze Remembered program also addressed the use of photographs as primary source documents to illuminate historical, cultural, geographical, and economic issues in social studies classrooms; investigate the cultural contributions of the arts; and explore how the arts shape and are shaped by prevailing cultural and social beliefs and values.
Content areas addressed included:
Visual and Performing Arts: Creative Expression, Cultural Heritage, and Criticism and Aesthetics
Social Studies: Economics, History, and Geography
Co-sponsored with Primary Source, the Bangor Public Library, and the Five College Center for East Asian Studies.
Major funding for Yangtze Remembered: The River Beneath the Lake, Photographs by Linda Butler, and CHINA: Exploring the Interior, 1903-1904 has been provided by significant grants from the Davis Family Foundation and the Fisher Charitable Foundation. Generous funding was also provided by Merrill Bank, Bangor Daily News, and WBRC Architects and Engineers.