Museum Studies Class Guides Students in Exhibition Development
Undergraduates curate The College of Wooster Art Museum’s “Object Lessons”
WOOSTER, Ohio — Students in The College of Wooster’s Museum Studies class had an opportunity to do something this semester that few undergraduates ever have a chance to do: curate an exhibition — and they were thrilled with the experience.
“It was one of the best projects I ever worked on,” said Anna Mazin, a junior archaeology major from Cheltenham, Pa., and one of 10 students in the class. “It was really fun and so cool to see the (object) labels that we created next to the works we studied. It was a valuable experience.”
The exhibition, which runs through May 13 in the Burton D. Morgan Gallery of The College of Wooster Art Museum, is titled “Object Lessons,” and includes African, Asian, and Ancient works as well as prints and other ethnographic items from Wooster’s permanent collection. The title of the exhibition emphasizes how to closely “read” and interpret material culture, which is the basis of curatorial practice. It was conceived, organized, and taught by Kitty McManus Zurko, director/curator of the CWAM, with Doug McGlumphy, museum preparator.
“The exhibition was also intended to show the broad range of the College’s permanent collection,” said Jay Gates, visiting scholar in the Department of Art and the instructor in the Museum Studies class. “It gave the students in the course an opportunity to learn about working in a gallery and handling the objects with great care and caution. It truly was a blended academic and hands-on professional experience.”
The students in the class chose the works, wrote about them, and then condensed the text into persuasive and informative labels. They explored such mysteries as the meaning behind the number of talons on a Chinese dragon, the function of ancient objects and their role in informing our understanding of the culture that made them, and the role of patterns in African art in expressing leadership.
Kelsey Williams, a junior East Asian Studies major from Wooster, enrolled in the class following a conversation with a friend who suggested that she would enjoy it. “The experience was very positive in a number of ways,” said Williams. “We learned a lot about individual objects and how people view them historically. We then had the opportunity to describe exactly what we saw in the object. The challenge was determining what was important and what wasn’t.”
Joining Mazin and Williams as student curators were seniors Erin Behn, Karin Barend, and Betsy Elderbrock; juniors Seung Ryong Riew and Phu Nguyen Thien; sophomores Melissa Hackett and Bair Heidkamp; and first-year Eric Hubbard.
The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, can be viewed Tuesday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. For more information, call 330-263-2388 or visit the museum's website.