Displays around campus made from public history interim


Photo by Daniel Freyer

Several new displays have popped up around campus, created by students from a new January interim course on public history.

History 293: Public History, taught by professor Kate van Liere, explored the applications for history outside of the academic sphere, in places like museums, monuments and archives. The class took several field trips to local societies, preservation sites and museums such as the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Their main project, however, was to make their own examples of public history. These projects are now displayed around campus in Heritage Hall, the library and the fieldhouse.

In creating the exhibits, van Liere encouraged students to think about how to effectively tell a story through a combination of images, text and in particular 3D objects, which could add an eye-pleasing dimension to the whole layout.

“The students were not just thinking about what information they wanted to share, but also the question of ‘What makes an interesting exhibit to look at?’” van Liere said.

Students were given the opportunity to explore their own topics of interest, but the locations of the display cases inspired several projects. Two of the exhibits, located near Heritage Hall on the second floor of the Hekman Library, are about Calvin alumnus Dr. Lee S. Huizenga and what the year 1968 looked like at Calvin College and in the CRC. Of the five groups of students in Public History, three of them—more than half the class—requested to use that space.

Some highlights of the Lee Huizenga exhibit are the set of stamps commissioned by the Chinese government in honor of Lee Huizenga’s work as a medical missionary in China, as well as Huizenga’s visa placed on a map.

“One of our group members, Daniel Tsui, was from China, and he was the only one who was able to read the visa, so that worked out really well,” said Jacob Hildebrant, a sophomore who contributed to the exhibit.

Another exhibit, located in the flat display case at the library entrance, is about the year 1876. 1876 was not only Calvin College’s founding year but also the year of the American Centennial, an occasion celebrated all across the country, including Grand Rapids. Since most of the display is flat, the group came with a creative solution to add a third dimension to their exhibit: buying a centennial coin and a small horse and buggy model from eeBay.

Another noteworthy detail of the 1876 display is the color scheme. “Most of it was red, white, and blue, but to incorporate the Calvin aspect, we used the same reddish-maroon color and added the gold,” said Jessi Vos, a junior who did the design work of the exhibit.

Another exhibit features throwing sports (on the ground floor of the fieldhouse near the trophy case) and includes a javelin prop.

Van Liere predicts that most of the displays will be around for another month or so, though the Calvin and CRC exhibit might stay up long enough for the Heritage Class to take a look during their class reunion this summer.

“I wish that this was a semester class so that we would have more time and be able to create a bigger exhibit,” said Hildebrant. “Most museums have a year to plan out their displays, but we had to do everything in three weeks.”

Both Hildebrant and Vos expressed gratitude to van Liere, Kathy DeMey, the library’s head of reference and instruction, and the staff at Heritage Hall for their guidance in research and designing a display.

History 293 may be offered again in future interims. The availability of so many display cases around campus, said van Liere, signals a presence of many “untapped possibilities.”