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Museum Mondays: Adding Asian artifacts to the digital collection

April 1, 2012

On any given weekday, if you find yourself venturing down into the basement lab of the Logan Museum of Anthropology you’d expect to find Michelle Burton, assistant curator and unofficial High Empress of Data sitting in her corner typing away at the museum’s database system and muttering to herself about bad records, but recently a new mood of fuss and frenzy has arisen. She’s rushing here and there carrying oversized objects, climbing up ladders, and dodging the ceiling all in the quest for each artifact’s best angle.

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You see, Michelle is on a mission to photograph and describe over 200 artifacts from China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, and Nepal, and she’s on a schedule. Generously funded by and in association with Beloit College’s Freeman Foundation Undergraduate Asian Studies Initiative, Michelle has commenced a two-month-long collections project with the goal of making all of the Logan Museum’s East Asian collections available through the Beloit College Digital Collections. 

In 2002, Beloit College was selected by the Freeman Foundation as one of a number of institutions in the United States to receive support from the Freeman Foundation Undergraduate Asian Studies Initiative (FFUASI). A grant of $1 million supported a range of activities into the 2007-08 academic year, and Beloit College received an additional $300,000 for activities in calendar years 2009 and 2010. Qualitatively, the Freeman Foundation initiative had an enormous impact on the College. Faculty development workshops and seminars enabled both Asian Studies specialists and non-specialists to gain new expertise; this in turn helped create new courses and course segments and the production of scholarship. The Freeman Grant has also helped fund digitization projects for the Logan and Wright Museums in an attempt to make Asian Studies collections ( increasingly accessible to internal and external researchers.

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So with this noble goal in mind, Michelle keeps plugging away. But time is ticking and there’s still a lot to do, so that means that every last kimono, fan, shoe, and gurka (no matter how sharp) must be quickly located, pulled, photographed, and safely returned to its storage location with as little damage to it (and Michelle) as possible. So if you see her around campus wish her luck, and don’t forget to keep checking the Beloit Digital Collections for an influx of Asian objects.