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Beloit College

Museum News

Museum Mondays: Up, up, and away with FYI-curated exhibit

October 27, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Museum MondayA new exhibit has taken flight at the Logan Museum of Anthropology. Wings of the Worlds looks at how flying animals have influenced cultures around the world and across time. Students in Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Ted Gries’ FYI seminar, UP: A Natural History of Flight, curated the exhibit using objects from the Logan Museum of Anthropology and Wright Museum of Art.

“The act of flying, and the animals that have the ability to fly, have been interpreted by humans as impossible, demonic, divine, mathematical, terrifying, mechanical, and even boring,” says Gries. “As part of this course, students are exploring the cultural significance of biological flight.”

Each student was paired with a museum object selected because of its desired affinity to humans, because it was made of bird or insect parts, because it illustrated birds in art, or because it represented legal and conservation issues related to endangered bird species. For example, a bat-shaped stone blade from Guatemala was selected because of the connection between bats, nocturnal creatures commonly associated with darkness, death, and sacrifice, and the object’s use in ritual bloodletting.

Museum MondayDuring the first half of the semester, students researched the history and significance of the objects and prepared a research paper based on their findings. Each student then summarized some important aspect of his or her findings into a 150-word exhibit label. Over break, two seminar students, Sarah Kraemer’17 and Eleanor Waddle’17, took the lead in laying out the exhibit and the museum’s curators completed installation. The exhibit opened last Thursday; photos of the exhibit and the opening reception are shown here.

Preparation for the seminar and exhibit began last summer in meetings between Gries and Logan Museum Curator of Collections Nicolette Meister. Gries, like many of his colleagues in chemistry, is an enthusiastic user of Logan Museum resources. But how does one make the anthropology collections relevant to first-year students in a course focused on the biology and mechanics of flight? A multi-visit module emerged in which students participated in a comprehensive museum tour, objects-based museum lab, interpretive label writing workshop, interpretive label writing critique, and the development and installation of an exhibit. According to Gries, “the objects gave each student a voice.” This facilitated collaborative learning, an important outcome of the FYI seminars.

Wings of the Worlds is open in the Shaw Gallery on the museum’s second floor and will run through February of 2014.