Students Plan, Prepare 2023 Yager Museum Exhibit
The 11 students in the Creative Exhibits class of the Museum Studies minor got to experience what it was like to be real employees of the Yager Museum of Art & Culture this semester.
Under the tutelage of Museum Coordinator Doug Kendall, with assistance from Museum Curator Quentin Lewis, the class spent the semester working hard to put together a plan for an actual exhibition to be staged earlier next year.
The exhibit will be based on a collection of 400 artifacts bequeathed to the Museum in 2000 by Royal Gifford, a native of Treadwell, NY who became a teacher and spent more than 20 years as an educator and school administrator in Micronesia.
Early in the process, the students determined there is not a lot of general knowledge about the island group of Micronesia or its history among the museum’s current and potential audience, so they chose to make the exhibit educational. They opted to focus the exhibit on the region and its people, rather than making it an exhibition about Royal Gifford. This informed their approach to object selection and interpretation.
Noah Hurt ’24 and Gabriel Valenzuela ’23 took the lead on the project, coordinating eight subgroups that tackled everything from budget to promotion to exhibition layout and design and which objects to display.
The semester culminated in a formal group presentation to an audience that included special guests such as the executive director of Hanford Mills Museum offering their professional assessment and peppering the class with questions about their approach and decision making.
“It was really astounding to see the class start with nothing and end up with a complete exhibit,” said Lewis. “It requires a tremendous amount of skill, determination and coordination. It also requires different kinds of analytical and aesthetic thinking, and then putting those two together in often complex and detailed ways. We think of this class as being a kind of capstone for the Museum Studies program, because it requires them to draw on a whole range of skills and knowledge that they’ve picked up from other classes. But the proof is definitely in the pudding: they made a really compelling, educationally rich and gorgeous exhibit that I’m delighted to see on the walls of the Yager Museum.”
Although the class is over, some of the students will actually return to help set up and launch the exhibit. Hurt is one of them. A criminal justice and political science double major, he was surprised by what the Museum Studies program had to offer.
“When I joined the program, I did not think I would actually work in the museum and that it would be more like a hobby,” he said. “As I went through the different classes, my perspective changed from thinking of museum studies as a hobby to a possible career. The program offers a variety of classes that look at different areas within the field. We studied museum administration and how a museum should be run; handling and presenting objects within a collection; and studying how museums have changed over time and their impact on – and how they are affected by – the world around them. The program also gives students opportunities to show skills that they have developed and mastered.”
The Museum will announce the exhibit dates next month and celebrate its opening with a special reception.