New MuseLab Exhibit Celebrates Hemingway, Frost, Rand
The MuseLab in Kent State University’s School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) is set to open its newest exhibit on April 15. A reception to celebrate the opening of “(Non)Fiction: Literary Legends Unbound” will be held on Wednesday, April 15, from 6 to 8 p.m. in rooms 330 and 321 of the University Library, where the School and MuseLab are located. The reception is free and open to all, but registration is requested: RSVP.
The lives and personalities of three 20th-century literary legends — Robert Frost, Ernest Hemingway and Ayn Rand — are the focus of this exhibit. SLIS master’s degree students in a museum studies seminar developed the exhibit over the course of the spring semester. They drew inspiration from the novel Old School by Tobias Wolff, the featured book in the 2015 National Endowment for the Arts’ “Big Read” project.
The Massillon Museum in Massillon, Ohio, which leads the Big Read effort in northeast Ohio, received an NEA grant to support innovative reading programs in association with the Wolff novel. The museum included SLIS in the grant to help with the MuseLab exhibit.
In this exhibit, the students separate stereotypes of the authors from fact, in order to show the human side of these literary legends and how their legacies continue to shape our culture, philosophy and lives.
SLIS Assistant Professor Kiersten F. Latham, Ph.D., who developed the School’s museum studies specialization and serves as director of the MuseLab, said sections of the exhibit will be designed to represent each author’s office.
“It’s going to be very interactive. Visitors will be able to touch and interact with everything,” said Latham.
Andrea Wittmer, a student in the course, said she and her classmates tried to imagine what it would be like to come in to the space with little knowledge of or interest in these writers, yet leave inspired in some way, without forcing any views or opinions. With that in mind, the exhibit aims to welcome and interest people of all backgrounds and knowledge levels related to these authors.
Another student, Michelle Italia-Walker, said she thinks the mood of the exhibit will be evocative. “I am interested to see if people will allow their preconceived ideas to be washed away, or if they will be cemented through information and objects presented in the exhibit,” she said.
Student Michelle Persons said she is excited to see the visitors interact with the exhibit. “As one of the exhibit designers, it’s gratifying to see visitors ‘get’ the message you are trying to communicate through the exhibit, but also what things resonate most with them that maybe we didn’t expect,” said Persons.
The grand opening in April will feature live actors from the university’s theatre department role-playing the authors. Refreshments and desserts will correspond to each author.
Student Bekah Swope said this exhibit is being done in 15 weeks, when it typically takes about three years to plan, develop and implement an exhibit like this.
Corina Iannaggi, MuseLab student manager who also is in the seminar course, said her favorite part of this project is being involved in the exhibition process from start to finish. “This is the only face-to-face opportunity for students in the museum studies program, and getting the chance to put together an actual exhibit has been a tremendous learning experience,” she said.
The seminar students all have different roles in the production of the exhibit and spend numerous hours outside of class working toward their deadline. Their goal is to engage visitors physically, emotionally, intellectually and socially.
“If a visitor leaves with more questions than answers and a drive to explore further, I would personally consider that a success,” said Wittmer.
The MuseLab is a component of the museum studies specialization in the Master of Library and Information Science program in SLIS. It is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with special hours during the summer months. The “Literary Legends” exhibit will remain open until Jan. 31, 2016.
The School of Library and Information Science at Kent State University offers a Master of Library and Information Science (M.L.I.S.) and Master of Science in Information Architecture and Knowledge Management (IAKM). In addition, the school participates in an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in the College of Communication and Information. With more than 700 students enrolled, SLIS has the largest graduate program at Kent State. Its M.L.I.S. is the only American Library Association-accredited master’s program in Ohio and is recognized by U.S. News and World Report among the nation’s top 20 LIS programs, with a youth services program that is ranked 10th.
The Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.