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Winter Edition
Volume 99, Number 3

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Keepsakes, curios, and bric-a-brac

On-campus exhibits investigate the cherished items of professors, students, and even the College president

The exhibit
"This is not a drill," exhibited in Larsen Student Union, represents a sampling of what Messiah College students would save from a blaze.

What one object would you save if your house caught fire? One group of students from this fall’s Museum Studies class, tasked to plan, research, and execute a professional museum quality exhibit, took polaroid photographs of their fellow students and Messiah College educators together with their most precious item, the one that they would most want to save in the event of a fire. These photographs were displayed in Larsen Student Union. Participants included College president Kim Phipps, whose most precious item, students learned, was a photograph of her daughter, Brooke. The exhibit, called “This is not a drill!”, featured students saving items ranging from laptops to a Ronald Reagan action figure to a bike with one wheel. “One girl wanted to save her boyfriend,” said Amanda Owens ’09, one of Professor Susanna Caroselli’s museum studies students. “But she couldn’t carry him so we said no. . . since realistically if you can’t carry it, you can’t save it.” 

Polaroid photographs
Students were photographed in their dormitories holding the item they'd most like to save in the event of a fire.

Another group from the Museum Studies class focused on what professors collect in their out-of-class time. Their exhibit, “The Professor Collects,” focused on the personal collections of educators Raeann Hamon, Robin Lauermann, Gene Chase, Chris Staecker, and Erik Lindquist. One representative item and a photograph of each collection were displayed in the entranceway of Murray Library. “The aim of our group was to show that our professors have lives outside of academia,” said Allison Walden ’08. “Just like everyone else, they have quirks and interests outside grading homework and quizzes.”

And the students responsible for “The Professor Collects” ensured that students visiting the exhibit would learn the stories behind each professor’s collection. Sometimes professors are simply beguiled by the allure of traveling long distances to gather items.  The question “Can I ever have enough biologically random items?” spurs Lindquist’s collecting urges. Lindquist, associate professor of biology and environmental science, brings back items like sea kelp and a skull from the rainforests of Central and South America.  The principles of the free market provided the items in Staecker’s collection of Star Wars Episode I memorabilia, which includes a Doritos bag bedecked with images from the movie. The collection was given to him by a graduate school friend. “He couldn’t take it with him when he moved,” Staecker, assistant professor of mathematical sciences, explains. “It’s a reminder that Hollywood’s commercialization of fandom actually works, and that maybe there’s nothing wrong with a small box worth of escapist frivolity.”

The exhibit
"The Professor Collects" displayed a few representative items from each professor's collection for students to peruse on their way into Murray Library.

Chase, professor emeritus of mathematics and computer science, offered up quite a different window of escapism with examples from his collection of antique books.  Chase’s collection began with his love of science fiction, although his collection quickly diversified to include foreign language books and hymnals. He displayed three beloved books in the exhibit, including an edition of Tarzan and The Jewels of Opar printed in  the 1920s. 

Hamon and Lauermann both started collecting dolls due to family interests.  Hamon, interim dean of the school of education and social sciences, has a collection—  started by her mother—of over 300 bisque dolls. Visiting street fairs and antique stores, Hamon purchases dolls from locales as varied as Germany and Japan. Lauermann, associate professor of politics, began constructing “Little Missy” dolls from craft kits with her grandmother. Now she scours the Internet for the discontinued kits, searching for the elusive three items still missing from her otherwise complete collection. 


— by Mackenzie Martin

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