Photo of Berlin City at Night time

Then we take Berlin

4 September 2019
Art History students visit Berlin for credit
Our students recently travelled overseas to Berlin as part of the ‘Art and the City’ subject, visiting cultural, artistic, and historic attractions. We spoke about the immersive experience of international fieldwork and how it opened their eyes to other possibilities.

Early this year the Department of Art History held their fieldwork unit of study “Art and the City” in Berlin. By enrolling in the unit, students earnt credit towards a major in Art History. Students undertaking the subject had the opportunity to explore the diverse cultural, artistic, and historical elements of Berlin and its surrounds over a two-week period in July earlier this year.

Berlin attracts artists, writers and creatives through its combination of glamour and grit, rich culture, great food, and lively clubs. Germany’s capital city has endured major historical events dating from the thirteenth century that have left their mark, and since 1989, multiple theatres galleries and museums have been kept, allowing Berlin to flourish as a cultural and economic hub.

Berlin provided a disquieting and sobering reconciliation of text book history with tangible evidence.
Elizabeth Lilley, Art History major

“Traces of the Berlin wall and Stasis surveillance were made more poignant by the bullet-ridden walls and pavement-set brass Stolperstein that memorialise the dead throughout the city,” said Elizabeth.

Another student, Lisa-Anne Morris said, “We encountered both historical and contemporary artworks and architecture – from classical antiquities to the present day – that helped to contextualise the culture of this extraordinary city and its turbulent artistic, socio-political past.”


The group met in Berlin on June 30th and enjoyed a welcome dinner at a local restaurant. Over the next two weeks, our students were led by experienced academics Dr Donna West Brett and Mimi Kelly.  Together, they were immersed in art, architecture and monuments from the early-modern through to the latest cutting-edge contemporary art in public and private museums.

 The students visited a range of sights, including the Pergamon Museum, the Bode Museum, Altes museum, Alte Nationalgalerie, Neues Museum, Topography of Terror, Checkpoint Charlie, the Jewish Museum, Hamburger Bahnhof, Charlottenburg Palace and Gardens, and Sanssouci Palace.


“The highlight of my trip was a visit to the Gemaldegalerie,” recalled Elizabeth. “Here the didactic nature of early painting, preaching to the illiterate, was illustrated through church devotional panels and paintings detailing the stories of Creation and the Life of Christ.”

The visits to museums and galleries also challenged the students in new ways. Adriana Borsey recalls, “I learnt how to expand my thinking with challenging issues such as repatriation in the museum and gallery spaces today, and curatorial responsibility.”


The experience left the students wanting to continue exploring the city’s deep cultural past. Lisa-Anne said, “My only desire is to have spent more time in Berlin at the end of the trip, to re-visit certain museums or galleries.” On their final night, the group went to a farewell dinner and danced at the Clärchen Ballhaus in the old Jewish quarter, which as Adriana said, “left some fond memories in the streets of Berlin.”

If you are a current student and would like to learn more about the “Art and the City” unit of study, click here.

Students were able to apply for the Frank McDonald Scholarship and the John Schaeffer Fund for Nineteenth-Century Art (Fieldwork) for the trip. Click here to learn more.

Banner image: Stefan Widua on Unsplash.