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Lesson plans use art to explore U.S. and world history

March 9, 2009

LOS ANGELES—The J. Paul Getty Museum releases a free new K-12 curriculum for teachers this week. Historical Witness, Social Messaging uses objects in the Getty’s collection to address California state standards for history, social science, language, and visual arts and explores significant events in U.S. and world history.

Designed for beginning, intermediate, and advanced students, the curriculum covers eight topics:

• Land Use and Lawmaking in California
• Breaking the Chains, Rising Out of Circumstances
• Celebration and Satire
• Depicting Women and Class in a Global Society
• Flawed Democracies, Human Rights
• The Many Different Sides of War
• Putting a Spin on Current Events
• What Is Work and Who Are the Workers?

“These curricula are wonderful resources for teachers at a time when education budgets are being cut across California,” said Toby Tannenbaum, assistant director for Museum Education.

Lesson plans use photographs like Trenching Lakewood, made by photographer William Garnett in 1950, to address physical and human geography, the growth of towns and cities, natural resources, land use, transportation, immigration, and other issues surrounding the postwar development of Southern California.

Similarly, Degas’ Milliners (ca 1882) serves as an historical document demonstrating the role of women and workers in Europe, while Bust of a Man, by Francis Harwood in 1758, one of the earliest known sculptures of an African by a European artist, prompts discussion about the changing perceptions of Africans.

Teachers can download free, detailed lesson plans and images of artwork at

The Getty Museum education department releases a new curriculum every two years.  Its last curriculum, Art and Science, explored the science of art production, conservation and scholarship.

“We host more than 120,000 students at the Museum every year,” added Tannenbaum.  “These curricula help us reach beyond those who can physically visit the galleries and connect our collections with countless students and teachers across the country.”

Teachers are invited to two free workshops this month to launch the curricula.  The first, for primary and secondary teachers, is Saturday, March 14, 12:30-5pm at the Getty Center.  The second, for secondary teachers (focusing on art of the ancient world), is Wednesday, March 25, noon-4pm, at the Getty Villa.  Teachers may register for one or both events by calling (310) 440-7300.


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Julie Jaskol
Getty Communications

About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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