Henrietta Lacks: The Mother of Modern Medicine
This Learning Lab from the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) will explore the connection between visual art and history.
When studying history, it is important to remember that all historical sources do not look the same. Visual art, being an active response to a stimulus, serves as a mirror to the contemporary landscape. Art engages in a conversation with history while acting as a visual expression of contemporary thoughts and ideas.
The new portrait of Henrietta Lacks by contemporary artist Kadir Nelson sheds new light on the story of a woman who gave so much and was given so little in return. Through a visual exploration of her portrait, students can learn more about Henrietta Lacks and her legacy in medical miracles, bioethics, and racial history. The questions, prompts, and information provided in this Learning Lab will help students hone their skills in visual literacy competency. Students can use this Learning Lab collection to help sharpen their historical thinking skills and expand their conceptions of historical sources.
The guiding questions of this Learning Lab are
- What is visual art’s connection to historical events? Why is it important that we recognize these connections?
- How do contemporary events shape artists’ responses in their art making?
- What does studying art add to our understanding of historical events and time periods?
The goals of this Learning Lab are
- Bridge the gap in understanding between art analysis and historical analysis
- Explore the inherent ties between art pieces and their surrounding historical context
- Introduce the foundations of formal art analysis and develop close looking skills for visual art pieces
If you are new to Learning Lab, visit https://learninglab.si.edu/help/getting-started to learn how to get started!