The Spring 2013 course “The Curator in the Museum” at Bryn Mawr College mixes theory into practice in the new exhibition “Making our World” located on the second floor of Canaday Library. Through readings and guest lectures related to the broader course theme of analyzing the “institution” of the museum and all its related parts, we integrated these models into our own project exhibition and corresponding education program for local high school students.
The following updates — written and edited by students as part of the team-based approach to the entire project — are reports on our progress along the way. Please let us know your thoughts.
Communicating Personality and Displaying a Life
Student blogger: Claudia Keep
One of the challenges of creating an exhibit around living individuals is how to portray their personality and the intangible qualities and values that they hold. How do you show something that is not an object? We were working with various objects that hopefully, when displayed together, would tell /create an accurate description of the individual. But how does one pick and choose the object or series of objects that would best represent the various qualities that made up these individuals?
One of the subjects of our “Making Our World” show, recent Bryn Mawr graduate Courtney Pinkerton had many interests and fascinating stories, but they did not all lend themselves to a visual display. Other subjects of our show were easier to portray visually, particularly as interviewees Jackie Levine and Margery Lee are both art collectors, and had donated numerous books and works of art to Bryn Mawr’s Special Collections.
Only having graduated last year, most of Courtney’s life experiences and interests have been defined by her time in high school, and most especially by her time at Bryn Mawr. Courtney’s time at Bryn Mawr was shaped greatly by her independence, and her work ethic. But how do you show independence, hard work, and commitment inside of a glass case?
To design and fill the portion of the display case reserved for Courtney, we had several objects to work with. We had a portrait of Courtney Pinkerton and her mother taken last year at commencement, by artist Gilbert Plantinga; the pair of pink sequined cow girl boots that Courtney is wearing in the photograph; the flag of Courtney’s native state, Texas; a copy of the 3.5 resolution Courtney drafted and proposed at plenary; a copy of Courtney’s senior thesis on the intersection of popular culture and race relations; and finally, the crime blotter entry that describes the prank Courtney and her friends played where they switched the flags on Thomas Great Hall with Texas state flags.
For the final display, we decided to include the portrait of Courtney, her pink boots, the Texas flag, the crime blotter, and the plenary resolution. These objects seemed to both create an image of Courtney’s personality as well reflect on her time at Bryn Mawr, combining her personal experiences, like her flag prank, and experiences that all Bryn Mawr students could relate to, like a plenary resolution and the Bi-Co news crime blotter. The flag of Texas and her pink cowgirl boots were visual nods to her home state as well as too her strong sense of individuality (not many Bryn Mawr students regularly wear such striking boots). We decided not to include her thesis for, as stimulating as it might be to read, it would not look very compelling sitting in a glass case where no one could read it. We also felt that as almost all students will write a thesis during their time at Bryn Mawr, it did not communicate anything specific enough about Courtney or her time at Bryn Mawr.
We hoped to achieve a balance between objects and text to create a display that was both informative and visually arresting.