Date of Award

Spring 2017

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Paula Salvio

Second Advisor

Joe Onosko

Third Advisor

Elyse Hambacher


Educational theorists and researchers have emphasized the importance of museum spaces as sites of learning and engagement for their ability to supplement and enhance the school curriculum. These individuals often describing the importance of museums in relation to a set of progressive educational ideals such as the provision of experiences that enhance a learner’s capacity to live and learn in a diverse democratic society. As interdisciplinary community teaching spaces, museums can serve as a natural nexus for socially engaged cross-disciplinary teaching and learning, fostering and supporting the investigation of questions about how to best understand, curate, and educate around difficult historical issues. This case study explore three secondary English teachers’ integration of an art museum exhibition of modern war photojournalism into their Fall 2015 curricula by pursuing two research questions: How do high school teachers’ experience creating and teaching a curriculum built around traumatic historical photography? and In what ways does teacher-designed curriculum resonate with the public curriculum as envisaged by other cultural workers (curator, or the artist)? Findings suggest that while teachers and museum educators envisioned their work with students in relationship to the development of critical thinking skills necessary for engaging with complex social issues, their teaching focused on the development of skills evaluating photography to ascertain argumentation or perspective that could have been applied to any photograph. Educators found it challenging to engage students with the images’ content especially in relationship to topics perceived as political or biased. A further discussion of the social and professional pressures that limit engagement with difficult historical material is required for the development of robust pedagogical practices in both museum and classroom spaces.