Bridging the Distance: Teaching and Curating with Mail Art from the Archives of American Art


In the fall of 2016, I taught an upper division seminar on the mail art movement. The course centered on mail art held by the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. With this material, we explored how artists from around world since the 1960s used the postal system as alternative means of producing, distributing, and receiving art, therefore bridging the distance between their disparate cultural contexts. Inspired by the collaborative and nonhierarchical ambitions of those involved in the movement, the aim of this course was to team-curate an exhibition of mail art from the Archives that presented this lesser-known contemporary art practice to the public (fig. 1). To achieve this objective, we read primary and secondary sources about mail art; sorted through the related digitized papers of the archives; came up with themes and representative objects; discussed exhibition layout and design; wrote interpretive labels for the exhibition at the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery; and published related text on the institutional website. Through this process, students learned not only about the cultural significance of mail art, but also developed skills in archival research and curatorial practices that fostered a sense of self-determination. As I discuss, archival material in the classroom helped to cultivate a collaborative student-directed learning environment—providing what the philosopher Jacques Rancière (following the French eighteenth-century educator, Joseph Jacotot) calls a “bridge of communication between two minds” or a “material thing” that holds two intellects (be that of viewer and artist or student and teacher) at equal distance rather than asserting a hierarchy between them.1

Fig. 1. Pushing the Envelope: Mail Art from the Archives of American Art at the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery, Archives of American Art, Washington, DC, August 10, 2018–January 4, 2019. Miriam Kienle, guest curator, in conjunction with University of Kentucky students in special seminar on the international mail art movement

In this seminar, I saw how archival research empowered students to ask their own questions and develop evidence-supported interpretations of the material at hand, instead of deferring to experts. Furthermore, curating an exhibition that would be presented at a major national institution and featured their interpretations of objects they selected, greatly elevated student commitment and rigor. Extending Rancière’s idea of the “material thing” as an intellectual vehicle to liberate thought, the discussion here considers how studying and curating with archival material encourages reflective, self-directed analysis by the students. It examines the framework of the seminar, student assignments, course outcomes, and future modifications. This article also addresses the impact of utilizing digitized archives and online publishing in a seminar setting, as well as the promises and challenges of collaborative learning, including the integration of the professor’s own research with their teaching. Although teaching and research are largely separate endeavors in the field of art history, in part as a result of the priority given to single-author publications,2 here I will explore the benefits of bridging the divide between these two forms of academic effort through professor-student collaborations.

Learning from the Mail: A Framework for a Seminar on Mail Art

This seminar was designed to examine the practices, histories, and theories of mail art (alternatively called correspondence art or postal art). Mirroring the open structure of the postal system itself—in which anyone can get in touch with anyone else for the small cost of a stamp—mail art was framed by its practitioners as an accessible form of artistic practice in which participants could use the mail to make art and freely share it with others, in lieu of selling it in a gallery setting. As the introductory wall text for our exhibition Pushing the Envelope stated:

With letters, postcards, and packages—as well as material that tested the limits of what could be posted—mail artists circumvented traditional elite modes of display and distribution (such as museums and commercial galleries) in favor of the more accessible space of the modern post. Utilizing the commonness and interconnectedness of postal networks, they interrogated the inequities of the global art market and national regulations regarding culture and communications, creatively sidestepping the art market and, in many instances, eluding government censors.3

Given the movement’s resistance to hierarchy and authority, my goal for this course was to minimize my position as the expert in the room and encourage the students’ analytical capacities. Therefore, even though I selected the readings on the syllabus, a different student signed up to lead the in-class discussion each week. They also shared additional texts that they found in the process of assembling their presentations and posted them to our online collective bibliography.4 Furthermore, although I chose the Archives of American Artas the source for the material in our exhibition and helped to pinpoint relevant papers, they located other papers within the archives, as well as additional related archives that they shared with each other in the bibliography. In the process, students noted that by utilizing an American archive as the sole source for the material in our exhibition, the transnational character of the movement could potentially be diminished by the American nature of the archive itself (a point to which I will return).

Students Interested in how mail art worked across different cultural circumstances—McCarthy-era America, Soviet Russia, and Argentina under the dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla—sought out additional archives in other global contexts.5 Several students spoke foreign languages, including German, Spanish, Yiddish, and Russian, and they helped to translate archival material and other sources for the rest of the class. Furthermore, although the majority of students were undergraduates, a few were enrolled in our graduate program (MFA in Studio Art and MA in Art History), which fostered intergenerational learning. The students ranged in age by roughly twenty years, and so while mail as a commonplace means of global communication was a foreign idea to some, others had grown up regularly sending letters to faraway friends in the years before email and social media. The value of learning across differences in age, ethnicity, race, gender, and sexual orientation was stressed not only by the diverse yet interconnected approaches to mail art that we studied, but also through the process of collective research in which each student’s individual voice was integral to the production of the exhibition.

The course assignments were also key to this process. To facilitate collaborative student-directed learning, assignments alternated between independent and group work. In addition to the aforementioned reading presentations, in which each student gave a thirty-minute PowerPoint about weekly readings to prompt seminar discussion (with graduate students leading two discussions), they also had two larger collaborative projects and six smaller individual writing assignments (with graduate students required to write nine short texts). Both the group and individual assignments centered on the study of material from the Archives of American Art—initially looking at items that we found on their website, and later examining digital images of mail art that we requested after targeting our exhibition themes, and that the Archives generously made available to us. With this archival material about which few secondary sources exist, students were confronted with items from the past that they had to take on their own terms, while also finding meaning that was rooted in their own intellect and point of view. They learned to slow down and observe, gather and weigh evidence, construct and critique arguments, ultimately writing succinct and cogent prose about the individual objects in the exhibition. Their texts were also critiqued and edited by their peers, instead of simply graded and selected by their professor, which helped to foster debate and peer-to-peer learning.

Fig. 2. Carol Schneck, Mail Art to John Held Jr., c. 1988. John Held papers relating to mail art, 1973–2013. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

The first assignments were a series of short “object studies,” in which each student wrote interpretive labels for three items of mail art that they found on the Archives of American Art website. They were given examples of labels and a detailed assignment description with pointers about how to write interpretive texts. (In the future, I would also provide a formal guide to writing gallery texts, such as the excellent one found on the Victoria and Albert Museum website). Each of the three texts was 150 to 200 words, which they would ultimately edit down to 100 to 150 words, after analyzing and presenting them in class. Some of the students selected the same items, which was also instructive. First, they could compare rhetorical strategies to pinpoint moments of success and failure. Second, this commonness highlighted a shared interest, which helped the class to begin to identify key themes. For example, two students chose to write about Elizabeth Pearl Nasaw’s collaged envelope that featured the phrase “art ≠ money,” and two others about Carol Schneck’s postcard that displayed slogans such as “Mail Art Is Not Museum Art,” “Stop Saving Garbage!,” and “Mail Art Is Disposable Art” (fig. 2).6 Given the student’s interest in how these mail artists critiqued and purposefully operated outside of the art world, we decided that one section of the exhibition should be dedicated to Alternative Art Worlds.

Students were also drawn to the geopolitical aspects of the mail art movement. In particular, they were interested in the ways in which the international postal system served as a means of distributing subversive art under repressive governmental conditions. Although the mail was heavily policed in many national contexts during the cold war, mail artists developed tactics for circumventing the censors. For example, artists living under oppressive dictatorships in Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil circulated art about social injustices under pseudonyms and collective monikers to avoid being targeted by the police.7 And in Soviet Poland, artists used materials that were difficult to open, such as Pawel Petasz, who made thick handmade paper for his mail art and sewed it shut in the hope that the censors would find it too much of a bother to open.8 Furthermore, students observed how mail artists living across Latin America and throughout the former Soviet Union created collective resistance movements among nations and republics in their respective regions, as well as between Eastern Europe and South America. These transnational connections inspired students to think across cultural contexts and about the conditions of their mutual understanding. As one student later remarked, the global contacts materialized in these objects “broadened my understanding of art and the connectivity it fosters.9

Fig. 3. Ryosuke Cohen, Mail Art to John Evans, September 17, 2002. John Evans papers, 1972–2012, bulk 1970s–2012. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

After having written their initial texts, students drafted additional interpretive labels—this time focusing on a particular topic. For example, a graduate student who was a Fulbright scholar from Russia in our art history master’s program concentrated on mail art from Soviet Russia. Her fluency in the Russian language and visual culture illuminated aspects of these works that we would not have otherwise observed, including how they communicate differently to audiences within and outside the nation.10 A graduate student in our studio art program focused on the collaboration between two Latin American artists: Clemente Padin from Uruguay and Edgardo Vigo from Argentina. As an artist working in new media and producing politically charged collaborative works, his own creative process fueled his expertly researched texts on these artists.11 Both students highlighted how mail art helped to create a regional identity among artists in different places, and yet when we discussed the idea of curating the exhibition by grouping together works from similar geographical or cultural contexts, they both vetoed the idea because it seemed incongruous with the practice of mail art that often operated across national and regional divides.12 Similarly, other students rejected the idea that the exhibition be organized chronologically, as certain objects in our exhibition accumulated meaning by continuous circulation over long periods of time. As one student pointed out, the Japanese artist Ryosuke Cohen’s Brain Cell project has been accruing rubber stamps, stickers, and drawings from contributors all over the world since 1985 (fig. 3).13 Ultimately, we arrived at the idea of grouping the works thematically, deciding on six topics: Media Matters: The Varied—and Often Unexpected—Materials of Postal Communication; Global Network: Connecting Artists Across Disparate Global Localities; Alternative Art Worlds: Actively Circumventing the Art Market and Attempting to Commandeer Its Communication Networks; Political Dissent: Leveraging National Mail Against Governmental Constraints; Queer Correspondence: Subverting Norms of Gender and Sexuality; and Local Scenes: Forging Localized (and Often Underground) Communities Through the Postal System.

Often an object would fit more than one category. For example, works of the artists’ collective Les Petites Bons-Bons helped to foster a local art scene in Milwaukee during the 1970s but also activated queer networks across the United States and beyond (fig. 4). Therefore, while we ultimately decided to place their work in “queer correspondence,” because that aspect seemed most significant to the object we selected, the label also noted that this collective forged a local scene and a global network with their correspondence.14 Furthermore, because LGBTQ+ participation in mail art has been overlooked by the sourcebooks on the movement that have been assembled by a few of its prominent practitioners, we felt it important to underscore this aspect with a separate vitrine of representative works.15

Fig. 4. Les Petites Bons-Bons, Mail Art to Lucy Lippard, 1970s. Lucy R. Lippard papers, 1930s–2010, bulk 1960s–1990. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Debates about the structure of the exhibition were a significant aspect of our collaborative project. During these in-class conversations, students thought about various methods of interpretation and frameworks with which they could curate the work. They also considered how the collecting practices of powerful institutions shape art-historical discourse, which led them to discuss what it means to exhibit mail art in a museum when it was intended to operate outside this setting. The material at hand pressed them to ask: What is the proper place for mail art—a museum, an archive, or perhaps a trash bin (as Schneck’s postcard suggests [fig. 2])? How can an exhibition stress the ephemeral and tactile properties of mail art, while displaying it in a secure museum environment where it cannot be touched, turned over, opened up, and examined inside and out? Are there ways in which our exhibition could capture the sheer multitude of producers and material generated by this movement when its scope seems to demand that we be selective? And finally, how could we counterbalance the American focus of the archives through our selection in order to stress the transnationality of the movement? With these questions, among others, students began to see how practical constraints of curatorial practice related to larger issues within the discourse of art history.

As the students grappled with issues facing professionals in the field, they also recognized that in order to realize our exhibition, we would have to arrive at some definitive solutions. Toward this end, students divided themselves into teams of exhibition designers, museum educators, marketing specialists, content editors, accountants, and information technology support. Although every student served as part of the curatorial team, they also had a separate role that helped them to learn the practicalities of presenting a museum exhibition. With my help and advice from the staff at the University of Kentucky Art Museum, students designed layout options, outlined a marketing campaign, mapped an education program, developed a community outreach plan, drafted a budget, and edited interpretive labels. One undergraduate art history student, who is now a graduate student in library science, provided information technology and developed an interactive world map of all of the objects in our exhibition utilizing GoogleMyMaps software (fig. 5). Each object was geographically located by postmark and color coded by thematic categorization in the exhibition to create a dynamic online experience. This same student also helped to edit the data entered into our online collection of mail art in Omeka—a free open-source web publishing platform for the display of archives, museum, and library collections.16

Fig. 5. Jessica Perry, Pushing the Envelope, Fall 2016, interactive world map of mail art from the exhibition, created with GoogleMyMaps

Building the Omeka website was our other large collaborative project. After a tutorial from the visual arts librarian, each student entered their object studies into our Omeka database, which was translated by the software into an online exhibition. As Omeka structures collections with the Dublin Core metadata terms (for example, the vocabulary used to organize digital resources), students learned about standards of collection management and how metadata vocabularies facilitate interlinked data within and between databases.17 Additionally, they utilized Omeka to create a collective bibliography and share it alongside their research on individual objects. Although Omeka can be used to structure and host dynamic large-scale digital exhibitions, our site was relatively simple. Given that the Archives of American Art was hosting our exhibition and publishing our research on their website, I limited our engagement with the platform, although in hindsight we could have done more with it. In the future, if there was not a venue for an exhibition, Omeka would serve as a useful site for creating an online exhibition. And such opportunities are highly valuable because, as I found in my course, providing the opportunity to share research in a public forum increased the students’ level of personal investment in the learning process. As one student wrote in the course evaluation, the knowledge that the exhibition would be presented by the Smithsonian Institution provided “a lot of incentive to do better work than normal,” and as another stated “it was thrilling to realize the work we were doing would make it into a public setting.18

The “Gifts” of Curating with Archives

Most upper-division courses that I teach culminate in individual research papers, although I found that curating an exhibition with archival material had many benefits. For one, students were exposed to and developed competencies in archival research. They also had to think about how their writing would be received by a broad audience, as well as how the visual presentation of the selected material produced meaning. As Jennie Davy and Amy C. Schindler have observed of the exhibitions that they created with students at William & Mary, “For students accustomed to primarily writing research papers and taking tests, curating an exhibit challenges them to think differently about audiences and how their research can be conveyed visually and cohesively.19 Similar to the exhibitions that these archivists realized in partnership with university classes, I found that students were empowered by working alongside professionals in the field to tell stories to a wider audience through archival objects that they had carefully analyzed and thoughtfully presented. As the student who researched Russian mail art later told me, her awareness that the object she selected would be displayed in a major American institution pressed her to examine the “ideological content these works carry and how they represent Soviet Russia and also contemporary Russia,” which therefore allowed her to make her “own small contribution to shaping the world in and around [her].20 And because students were given full credit for their texts on the Archives of American Art website, this publication helped her to secure her position as a Stanford University doctoral student delegate to the 2018–19 Stanford US-Russia Forum in Culture, Creative Spaces, and the Arts, as well as additional publishing opportunities.21

Such outcomes are important, particularly given that a recent study, “Changing Research Practices of Art Historians,” conducted by Ithaka S+R found that many scholars in the field believe that graduate programs do not always adequately train students to work with archives and other primary sources, nor do they prepare them for publication of their research.22 Although a significant number of art historians utilize an “object-first research approach” in their research and teaching (for example, starting their process by analyzing an object of interest), the study did not show evidence of faculty integrating object-based teaching with their own research, even though both graduate and undergraduate students would clearly benefit from such practices.23 This is probably because integrating teaching and research is a time-consuming endeavor that is not rewarded by our discipline. And this division between teaching and research is of course not unique to art history.

Across the humanities, as David Marshall has observed, there is a “bureaucratic and cultural disconnect between teaching and research that many humanities faculty experience.24 Although in the sciences, credit and funding is given to research activities with students, there tends to be little reward in the humanities for such endeavors, therefore inhibiting the valuable activity of student-teacher collaboration. This disconnect is even worse between faculty research and undergraduate education. Describing it in anthropological terms, V. Daniel Rogers has discussed how the idea of conducting research with undergraduate students in the humanities induces a “culture shock” among humanists that prize single-author publications over collaborations, and traditional codes of academic professionalism that assert a hierarchy between learner and learned, therefore excluding student involvement a priori.25

There are, however, signs of change. For one, since the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) established the Division of Arts and Humanities in 2009, there has been a shift toward greater institutional support for integrating teaching and research in the humanities, as well as funding models for it.26 Furthermore, major national archives such as the Archives of American Art, the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Brooklyn Historical Society, to name a few, have recently partnered with humanities faculty to develop project-based courses that utilize their archives.27 The Brooklyn Historical Society even developed a three-year program that brought eighteen faculty members and eleven hundred students to the institution to conduct archival research that resulted in exhibitions and research papers, as well as walking tours and blog posts, ultimately generating an incredibly useful website that shares sample assignments, projects, and articles on archives-based collaborative pedagogy. Additionally, there seem to be growing levels of funding for humanities project-based research with students, particularly those that utilize digital technologies.28 For example, last year art historians Briana Simmons and Walter Meyer received a $100,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant to develop curriculum around their project Mapping and Preserving the Hidden Histories of Santa Monica.29 This will result in a series of eight courses at Santa Monica College that center on archival research by student and faculty at local institutions, as well as the production of an Omeka database that will catalogue the overlooked histories of local artists and other leaders with a special emphasis on indigenous people and residents of color.

In many ways, new digital tools in the humanities have facilitated collaborative project-based learning with archives. These technologies have created not only greater access to archives in the classroom, as many institutions have digitized and posted key parts of their collections online, but also more opportunity for students and professors to work together to create web-based exhibitions and other digital publications. As Diane M. Zorich observed in her touchstone analysis of the emerging field of digital art history in 2012, digital tools in the classroom can “open up new avenues of inquiry and scholarship, allow greater access to art historical information, provide broader dissemination of scholarly research, and enhance undergraduate and graduate teaching.30 In a recent example, art history students in Abigail McEwen’s Art and Activism course at the University of Maryland utilized archival material in their special collections to make videos and interactive websites with accessible digital technologies, such as Omeka, on topics ranging from historical media representations of sexual assault on campus to profiles of Vietnam War and Civil Rights activist movements at the university.31 And last year, art historian Victoria Szabo and archivist Trudi Abel cotaught the course Digital Durham—Past, Present, Future at Duke University, which compelled students not only to conduct rich archival work at the Rubenstein Library but also to publish research about the city using digital platforms such as StoryMapJS, ThingLink, and GoogleMyMaps.32 In my particular case study, digital technologies were also essential to the realization of the project, from access to materials at the Archives to the web publication of our research.

Fig. 6. Ken Friedman, The Sock of the Month announcement and sock sent to Lucy Lippard, 1970. Lucy R. Lippard papers, 1930s–2010, bulk 1960s–1990. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

That said, something was also lost in the process of remediating mail art into digital files. For example, students noted that the haptic and olfactory experience of removing Ken Friedman’s dirty painted Sock of the Month Club sock from its envelope was quite different from the predominantly visual experience of clicking to open a digital file (fig. 6). And, although a trip to the archives was not financially feasible for our class, I supplemented our engagement with digitized examples of mail art with a workshop by the mail artist Robert Warner that took place through the mail and during his on-campus visit. This experience, as well as those with the material from the archives, generated thought-provoking conversations about the differences and similarities between digital and analogue modes of communication. It also led to their insistence that we have a section of the exhibition, Media Matters, that discussed the materiality of mail art, noting that the objects in this section would ironically only be experienced visually when presented under glass in a vitrine.

Taking this class as a case study, I believe that working closely with students in a project-based collaborative learning environment is valuable on many levels. On the practical side, it enhances student commitment and fosters peer-to-peer mentoring as students work toward a common goal. This sense of connection to other students and faculty, as well as their personal investment in the realization of a research project, significantly improves retention, particularly among underrepresented students.33 Furthermore, providing opportunities to conduct archival research and curate exhibitions prepares students for graduate school and professional life afterward. And although the two-year scope of the project meant that students in a one-semester course would not be able to fully realize the project (because the staff at the Archives and I were ultimately responsible for the final exhibition, layout, design, and programming), I later asked them to review the copyedits made to their interpretive texts and kept them abreast of other developments (including its travel to the University of Kentucky Art Museum [fig. 7]). Such logistics kept us in touch and provided opportunities for the students to inform me of their academic development. Five out of seven undergraduates have gone on to pursue graduate studies in the humanities, with one directly citing the course as his inspiration for pursuing a degree in curatorial studies.34 And one of three MA students went on to pursue a PhD in American Studies, while another is planning to apply to art history PhD programs this fall. But beyond the acquisition of applied skills and preparedness for graduate school, curating with archival material in the classroom has more intangible rewards.

Fig. 7. Pushing the Envelope: Mail Art from the Archives of American Art, University of Kentucky Art Museum, January 26–May 5, 2019. Miriam Kienle, guest curator, in conjunction with University of Kentucky students in special seminar on the international mail art movement. The exhibition will travel to The Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Rollins College, Winter Park, FL, May 29–September 6, 2020

As Susan Wells has observed, the “gifts” that the archives offer researchers are “resistance to our first thought, freedom from resentment, and the possibility of reconfiguring our relation to history.35 Although the archive seems to promise “consignation” or the committing of material to specific authors, titles, and ideas, as Derrida famously explored in Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, it also depends upon the “secrets and heterogeneity” that trouble its logic.36 Noting this dynamic, Wells (following Walter Benjamin) stresses the convolutions of the archive and the ways in which archival material resists institutionalization and closure.37 The resistance of archival material to quick resolution and total consignation was experienced by my students as they observed evidence of overlooked collaborations on works ascribed to single authors in the archive, and as they struggled to find the proper names, places of origin, and birthdates for authors who went by pseudonyms (as is common in mail art). Although some students felt frustration at the convolutions and opacities of archival material that challenged the drive to answer research questions quickly, I stressed that this wandering and wondering was a beneficial part of the process. By scouring papers and sticking close to the material from the archives, they came to see how archives offer the potential for recovering artists, movements, and personal relationships that have been neglected by history. And as we presented our findings in a public exhibition, we had the opportunity to reconfigure our relationship to history by shedding light on an under-considered movement, as well as the marginalized cultures within that movement.

In addition to these gifts, archival research and collaboratively curating with my students also reconfigured my relationship with pedagogy, particularly the intersection of teaching and research. By conducting my own research in the classroom with students, I not only invited them to participate in our scholarly community, but I also opened myself up to learning from them in a way that I had not in other courses. By showing my own vulnerability in the face of confounding archival material, students felt more confident as they struggled. As students described on the course evaluation, full transparency in terms of my research process, in all of its challenges and choices, helped them work through their own issues, and my commitment to the material at hand created an environment where they felt encouraged to formulate their own interpretations.38 In the end, bridging the distance between myself and my students through archival research and exhibition curation transformed my approach to teaching, as much as it did their experience in the classroom.

Cite this article: Miriam Kienle, “Bridging the Distance: Teaching and Curating with Mail Art from the Archives of American Art,” Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art 5, no. 2 (Fall 2019),

PDF: Kienle, Bridging the Distance


I would like to thank Mary Savig, curator of manuscripts, Archives of American Art, who realized all of the on-the-ground aspects of the exhibition Pushing the Envelope, and Liza Kirwin, deputy director, Archives of American Art, for making this article possible. Additionally, I would like to express my gratitude to Janie Welker, curator, and Stuart Horodner, director, at the University of Kentucky Art Museum, for mentoring students in curatorial studies and traveling the exhibition from Washington, DC, to Lexington, KY. And finally, I am grateful to Karyn Hinkle, the visual and performing arts librarian at University of Kentucky, who gave our students tutorials in Omeka and provided vital research assistance.

  1. Jacques Rancière, The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation, trans. Kristin Ross (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991), 32.
  2. In a recent study of the research practice of art historians conducted by Ithaka S+R, researchers found that: “Collaboration among multiple scholars is not typical of art history as it is practiced in academic institutions, where the ‘lone scholar’ model remains prevalent.” Although some faculty noted their classroom provided a place to test new ideas, collaborations with students were not discussed, despite the recognition that graduate students often lack skills in archival research and publishing know-how upon graduation. Roger C. Schonfeld and Matthew P. Long, “Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Art Historians,” College Art Association (April 30, 2014):
  3. Miriam Kienle, et al., “Pushing the Envelope: Mail Art from the Archives of American Art,” Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery, Archives of American Art, Washington, DC, August 10, 2018–January 4, 2019; and the University of Kentucky Art Museum, Lexington, KY, February 16–May 5, 2019. An online version of the exhibition is available at Last modified August 10, 2018.
  4. As part of our Omeka site for the course, we compiled an online bibliography with primary and secondary sources that could be shared:
  5. Among others, some key international archives included: Artpool Archives, Budapest, Hungary:; Lomholt Mail Art Archive, Copenhagen, Denmark:; and Casa Argentina del Arte Correo, Buenos Aires, Argentina:
  6. See Lizz Hamilton’s text on Carol Schneck (b. 1964) and Alexandra Gibson’s text on Elizabeth Pearl Nasaw (19642004) in Miriam Kienle et al., “Alternative Art Worlds,” Pushing the Envelope,
  7. Fabiana Pianowski, “The Net Out of Control: Mail Art in Latin America,” Lomholt Mail Art Archive (2014):
  8. Pawel Petasz, “Mail Art in Poland,” in Eternal Network: A Mail Art Anthology, ed., Chuck Welch (Calgary: University of Calgary, 1995), 93.
  9. Email from Isabelle Martin to the author, August 30, 2019.
  10. For example, her analysis about how a mail art zine by Serge Segay (b. Russia, 1947–2014) communicates in one manner to an international audience interested in subversive “unofficial art” and in a more ambivalent manner to Russian audiences who felt uncertain about dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1989. Mariia Spirina “Segay’s Official Art? (1989),” in Miriam Kienle, et al., “Local Scenes,” Pushing the Envelope,
  11. Matthew Goodwin on Clemente Padin (b. 1939, Uruguayan) and Edgardo Vigo (b. Argentina,1928–1997) in Kienle, et al., “Political Dissent,” Pushing the Envelope
  12. On the connections that mail artists forged between Latin America and Eastern Europe, see Klara Kemp-Welch and Cristina Freire, “Artists’ Networks in Latin America and Eastern Europe,” Art Margins 1, nos. 2–3 (2012): 3–13.
  13. Jessica Perry on Ryosuke Cohen (Japanese, b. 1948) in Miriam Kienle, et al., “Global Network,” Pushing the Envelope
  14. Miriam Kienle on Les Petites Bons-Bons in Miriam Kienle, et al., “Queer Correspondence,” Pushing the Envelope
  15. Michael Crane and Mary Stofflet, eds. Correspondence Art: Source Book for the International Network of International Postal Art (San Francisco: Contemporary Art Presses, 1984); Chuck Welch, ed., Eternal Network: A Mail Art Anthology, (Calgary: University of Calgary, 1995); John Held Jr., Small Scale Subversion: Mail Art & Artistamps (Breda, Netherlands: TAM Publishing, 2015).
  16. Omeka was developed at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University in 2008 and is operated by the Corporation for Digital Scholarship: For an excellent case study on how to use Omeka in the classroom, see Lauren G. Kilroy-Ewbank, ”Doing Digital Art History in a Pre-Columbian Art Survey Class: Creating an Omeka Exhibition Around the Mixtec Codex Zouche-Nuttall,” The Journal of Interactive Technology & Pedagogy 12 (February 21, 2018):
  17. Dublin Core was developed in Dublin, Ohio, at the 1995 invitational OCLC/NCSA Metadata Workshop. For more on its development and applications, see
  18. Quoted from University of Kentucky Fall 2016 Individual TCE Report for A-H525-001 (Miriam Kienle), and email from Isabelle Martin to author, August 30, 2019.
  19. Jennie Davy and Amy C. Schindler, “Student Curators in the Archives: Class Curated Exhibits in Academic Special Collections,” in Innovative Practices for Archives and Special Collections, ed. Sarah Theimer (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015), 36.
  20. Email from Mariia Spirina to the author, August 30, 2019.
  21. Mariia Spirina has gone on to pursue a PhD in American Studies at Bowling Green State University. After participating in the Stanford University forum, Spirina contributed a collaborative paper: Rossella Cerulli, Mila Savaleva, Brenda Gonzalez, and Mariia Spirina, “Bridging Cultures: Hip Hop as Communication Channel Between the US and Russia,” The Stanford US-Russian Forum Research Journal 10 (April 2019): 109116.
  22. Schonfeld and Long, “Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Art Historians,” 3940.
  23. Schonfeld and Long, “Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Art Historians,” 19.
  24. David Marshall, “The Places of the Humanities: Thinking through Bureaucracy,” Liberal Education 93 (2007): 34–39.
  25. V. Daniel Rogers, “Surviving the “Culture Shock” of Undergraduate Research in the Humanities,” Council on Undergraduate Research Quarterly (March 2003): 132–35.
  26. Naomi Yevneh Klos, Jenny Olin Shanahan, and Gregory Young, Creative Inquiry in the Arts & Humanities (Washington, DC: The Council on Undergraduate Research, 2011).
  27. The Schomberg Center has partnered with many colleges and universities on undergraduate course development; here is a recent example: Jay Mawamba “CCNY-Schomberg Partnership a Boon to Undergraduate Education,” CCNY News (November 21, 2018): In 2011, the Brooklyn Historical Society launched the Student and Faculty in the Archives Program (SAFA), which resulted in fourteen research projects over the course of three years:
  28. J. Paul Getty Foundation, Samuel Kress Foundation, Andrew Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities all have funding streams that support collaborations with students that use digital technologies.
  29. “Retelling History: Briana Simmons and Walter Meyer,” SMC In Focus, last modified February 9, 2019.
  30. Diane M. Zorich, Transitioning to a Digital World: Art History, Its Research Centers, and Digital Scholarship (May 2012):
  31. Elena Macias, “Student Art History Projects,” UMD Special Collections & University Archives, (June 20, 2019): For more on this course, including its syllabus:
  32. Samantha Arten, “Infusing Archival Research into the Undergraduate Classroom: What, How and Why,” Versatile Humanities Blog (October 16, 2018):
  33. Yuleinys A. Castillo and Antonio G. Estudillo, “Undergraduate Research: An Essential Piece for Underrepresented Students’ College Success,” Perspectives on Undergraduate Research and Mentoring 4, no. 1 (November 16, 2015):
  34. Email from Scott Rollins to author, August 27, 2019.
  35. Susan Wells, “Claiming the Archive for Rhetoric and Composition,” Rhetoric and Composition as Intellectual Work, ed. Gary A. Olson (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2002), 58.
  36. Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, trans. Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 3–4.
  37. Wells, “Claiming the Archive,” 58. This interview with Sonja Boon similarly discusses how archival research with students can be used to cultivate the “practice of wonder.” Sonja Boon, “Serendipity, Tactility, and Community Library Research as a Practice of Wonder,” Choice Media Channel (August 30, 2019):
  38. University of Kentucky Fall 2016 Individual TCE Report for A-H525-001 (Miriam Kienle).

About the Author(s): Miriam Kienle is Assistant Professor of Art History and Visual Studies at the University of Kentucky