University of Pittsburgh
August 29, 2014

Pitt History of Art Students and Faculty Collaborate with Local Museums and Libraries to Curate Configuring Disciplines: Fragments of an Encyclopedia Sept. 5-Oct. 5


Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH—PolaroidsTab. 35 from Uitgezochte Planten by C. J. Trew, courtesy of Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation shot by Andy Warhol can help us understand the role of images in shaping celebrity. His photos of Mick Jagger, for example, contributed to the rock star's stature as an "icon," an individual made recognizable to the public by mass media. More generally, portraits from different periods and contexts shape ideas about social status and the nature of individuality, serving as visual documents in disciplines such as history and anthropology. An upcoming exhibition at the University of Pittsburgh invites viewers to examine how a variety of genres and media—photographs, maps, plaster models, digital projection—create visual knowledge in fields ranging from anatomy and biology to astronomy and physics.

Configuring Disciplines: Fragments of an Encyclopedia runs from Sept. 5 through Oct. 5 at the University Art Gallery, located in the Frick Fine Arts Building, 650 Schenley Dr., Oakland. An opening reception will take place on Thursday, Sept. 4, from 5-7 p.m. 

The idea for this unique show emerged from a seminar course taught earlier this year in Pitt's Department of History of Art and Architecture by Drew Armstrong, director of Architectural Studies, and Josh Ellenbogen, director of graduate studies. Students examined visual documents from the 18th through the 20th centuries in atlases, encyclopedias, scientific treatises, and other works held at a number of Pittsburgh libraries and museums. The seminar served as a think tank for the Configuring Disciplines exhibition.

Armstrong is especially proud of the collaboration between Pitt students and curators at the institutions where they studied visual materials, including the University of Pittsburgh Special Collections, Frick Fine Arts Library, Falk Library of the Health Sciences, Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellon University Architecture Archives, Carnegie Museum of Art, Warhol Museum, and National Library of Medicine in Washington, D.C.

"Partnering with institutions in this way builds good will and exposes students to the complexities of original research," Armstrong said. "Putting together an exhibition is challenging and contributes to our department’s aspiration to rethink the University Art Gallery as a space for teaching and for engaging with the larger community."

Art gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. the weekends of Sept. 20-21 and Oct. 4-5. For more information, visit or call 412-648-2423.