Infantile History—Exhibition at the Department of History

photo of Noa Yaari

Noa Yaari (photo: Lee Waddington)

Infantile History is a group exhibition at the Department of History, featuring children’s and childlike art to examine core questions faced by the discipline of history. According to Noa Yaari, the exhibition curator and a PhD candidate in the Graduate Program in History, art is an effective tool to delve into methodological challenges in creating and communicating historical knowledge.

photo of artwork created by Gideon


The exhibition is part of Yaari’s major project, ‘Visual Literacy in History,’ which focuses on vision as a first step in researching the past. The three main challenges the exhibition examines are: the use of artistic style as a means to periodize history; the creation and communication of historical knowledge through verbal-visual means; and history as a discipline and its classification into fields.

Periodization of time into eras enables historians, students of history, and the public to communicate their ideas about the past. However, we must engage the following problems: how this periodization is made; which principles we use in dividing time into shorter periods; and what perspective we need in order to identify eras’ uniqueness.

Seeing artistic work as a record of bodily gestures allows its analysis as a medium that indexes its creator. Therefore, Yaari says, if we look at children’s and childlike art, we can ask: what do we see there that indicates the age or maturity of its creator? What exactly is there that suggests that the creator of the work has potential to be, to become, something else? The attempt to answer these questions is insightful and suggestive when examining history and its periodization, as well as our own expectations to find temporal changes in specific cultural domains.

detail of artwork created by Belen Zapata

Belen Zapata

Creation and communication of historical knowledge is based on varied sources and methods. In their research, historians turn to diverse sources, such as institutional and personal documents, photographs, maps, films, websites, and more, to draw a picture of the past. The exhibition explores the connection between verbal and visual languages in studying and teaching history: how we understand words and images when they are displayed next to each other; whether there is a better way to use both languages in the same text and argument; and the importance of ‘visual literacy in history’ as a skill in historical study, holding that any domain of knowledge makes use of an outlook to the past.

The historical discourse is classified into fields that are defined by periods of time and geographies, as well as themes. Infantile History draws visitors’ attention to the power of this classification: it raises questions about the different directions the historical discipline has taken through its own history; and the traditional and yet dynamic boundaries between the fields that serve the discipline as a mirror to ask “Who am I? And what would I like to be?”

photo of artwork created by Liam Dancy

Liam Dancy

The project also promotes visually stimulating environment in pedagogical settings. It beautifies the Department of History, and at the same time, raises deep questions about our approach to history and its making.

The participants in the exhibition are: Renato Barrera, Kevin Burris, María Ignacia Catalina (Ini), Axel C., Liam Dancy, Sean Dancy, Claire R. Dueck, Gideon, Joaquín Hidalgo, Norah Jurdjevic, Erica McCloskey, Antonia Morales, Leela Navaratnam, Ruben Navaratnam, Oriolle, Corinna S. H., Juliet S. H., Noa Yaari, Belén Zapata, and Michael Zinman.

Infantile History was made possible with the collaboration of the Department of History and the Graduate History Students’ Association, as well as the generous support of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and the Departments of History at Keel and Glendon campuses.

The reception of Infantile History will take place on Thursday, March 23 between 12:30 and 2:00 pm, in the History Common Room (Vari Hall 2183). There will be lunch and talks by Ginny Grimaldi, Professor Tom Cohen and Noa Yaari. Everyone is welcome!

a photo of artwork created by Corinna H. S.

Corinna S. H.