AP AH & Smarthistory meet 1 year on—by Dr. Esperança Camara

Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, 1970, Great Salt Lake, Utah

Many thanks to Esperança Camara, Associate Professor of Art History, University of Saint Francis and Smarthistory’s Contributing Editor for Mannerist and Baroque Art, for this post about our meeting with the AP Art History Teachers on the occasion of the first grading session of the new AP Art History curriculum.


It was an unusual scene. In Salt Lake City last week, a couple thousand high school teachers and university professors (140 of them art history instructors, myself included) diligently and silently grading piles of AP exams for seven days straight. Yet, after a long day of grading, almost 100 art history readers gladly crowded into a conference room to get a selfie with Smarthistory’s founders, Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

Beth and Steven started Smarthistory.org to provide high-quality, open-access art history content to as wide an audience as possible. In the past few years creating engaging videos and essays on the 250 artworks covered in the AP art history curriculum has been one of their priorities (coverage is now at 97%). To assess their progress in meeting the needs of AP art history, Beth and Steven flew to Salt Lake City to meet with the AP readers. I suspect they anticipated a small, focus group of 20-30 attendees. They certainly did not expect to be greeted by a crowd of educators clamoring for a photo with their favorite art historians! I was heartened to see this enthusiastic reception, as were Beth and Steven, who were delightfully surprised.

There could be no greater testament to the impact Smarthistory.org is having on making art history widely-accessible. Teachers love it and students love it. Beth and Steven’s voices have become familiar in art history courses in many high school and university classrooms across the country. Their casual, yet insightful conversations peak student curiosity and inspire them to learn more—a step that Smarthistory makes easy by pairing the brief videos with in-depth essays on individual artworks. The AP readers provided excellent feedback on ways to further enhance the website’s instructional uses. And, most importantly, they affirmed with warmth and gratitude the value of Smarthistory’s mission.

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We wish to extend our appreciation to Allison Thurber at The College Board for the kind invitation to Salt Lake City, to Wendy Free (also at The College Board) for her support and collegiality over the past few years, and also to the many high school and college instructors whose feedback has helped make Smarthistory a valuable resource for students everywhere (BH+SZ).

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