Past Program

Australia: Witness Tree Project - Memory, Place and Cultural Ecology

Partnering with University of South Australia, RISD’s long-standing Witness Tree Project will travel for Wintersession 2020 to Adelaide, Australia, to explore changing indigenous and settler conceptions of place, land, and memory and their effects on the environment. In particular, the course’s joint seminar and studio work will focus on selected trees of South Australia, which stand as historical witnesses to these changes.

Co-led by Dale Broholm (Senior Critic, Furniture Design) & Daniel Cavicchi (Vice Provost + Professor, History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences), with on-site instruction by Peter Walker (Program Director: Masters of Design, School of Art, Architecture and Design University of South Australia).


Wintersession Travel Course
  • Adelaide, Australia
Winter 2020

Course Dates: Jan 9, 2020 — Feb 1, 2020

Open to RISD students, Brown University students

Minimum 2.5 GPA required. Open to sophomores and above.

  • Indigenous Communities
  • Cultural Ecology
  • Historic Trees
  • Public Memory
Program Partners

University of South Australia, Adelaide Botanic Gardens

Academic Credits
  • Furniture Design
  • History, Philosophy, & Social Sciences
Course Numbers
  • FD-1732
  • HPSS-W732

Includes accommodation, field trips, local transportation, some group meals, museum entrances, health and travel insurance. Airfare not included.

Australia: Witness Tree Project
Adelaide, Australia 2020
Australia: Witness Tree Project
Adelaide, Australia 2020
Australia: Witness Tree Project
Adelaide, Australia 2020

About this Travel Course

The Witness Tree Project is a RISD curricular initiative, focused on the meanings represented by long-standing trees that have “witnessed” key events, trends and people. In a joint history seminar and design studio, students explore the connections between art, design, place, and memory.

This is the first international Witness Tree Project, after ten years of focusing on witness trees in the United States, in conjunction with the U.S. National Park Service.

The Project has two components:

1. History Seminar – Daniel Cavicchi

Students will investigate competing ideologies of place, borders, roots, and movement among indigenous and settler populations in Australia.

2. Design Studio - Dale Broholm

Students will create objects from local materials, in response to the research, writing, and reading done in the seminar.

12-14 students from each RISD and the University of South Australia (UniSA) will participate, with work centered at Adelaide Botanic Gardens and the studio facilities of UniSA. The Botanic Gardens will also be the site for a final exhibition of student work, which will be open to the public. The Project will use living historic trees as a focal point, from the ancient red gum used by indigenous Australians for canoes, bowls, medicine, and marking to the English oak and other non-native species introduced by settlers. Work will include studio visits with artists/designers who work with botanical interests, as well as fieldwork trips and critiques, which will provide opportunities for students from RISD and UniSA to learn together.

This is a co-requisite course. Students must register for FD-1732 and HPSS-W732. Students will receive 3 studio credits and 3 liberal arts credits.

Apply to a Wintersession Travel Course

The application for Wintersession Travel Courses 2024 is now closed.

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