Student-Curated Exhibit Celebrates "Beauty of Data"
A new exhibit in the MuseLab in the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) at Kent State University challenges traditional beliefs about data being dull or uninteresting.
The exhibit was designed by MuseLab director and SLIS Associate Professor Kiersten F. Latham, Ph.D., along with museum studies students Cori Iannaggi and Mitch Sumner. Their hope is that the exhibit will present data in a way that shows their ability to be creative and beautiful.
The exhibit was inspired by the research done by faculty in SLIS, and together Latham and Iannaggi decided to gather data examples from various departments at Kent State University. Sometimes data are not purposely intended to be beautiful, Latham said, but oftentimes researchers find that their data become a creative piece.
Iannaggi, who graduated with her Master of Library and Information Science degree in December 2015, began planning and researching for the exhibit in the summer of 2015. At first she was skeptical about doing an exhibit about data, assuming that it would be full of plain graphs and charts. However, after curating the exhibit, she was surprised to see the data turn into a beautiful collection of 3D objects and designs, which people don’t typically expect.
“I hope visitors go to the exhibit with an open mind and give the exhibit a chance,” Iannaggi said. “I bet you’ll be surprised, and you’ll enjoy it more than you think. The exhibit will help you expand your idea of data visualization and see the beauty of research.”
The “Beauty of Data” exhibit was different from others she had worked on in the past, mainly because the pieces in the exhibit were submitted by Kent State researchers from a variety of academic departments; previous exhibits featured items selected by students at the Muselab. She said that this made the "Beauty" exhibit easier to put together since the labels, audio and other pieces of data were already created by the researchers.
Although the design was easier than other exhibits, there was a mystery factor to the exhibit, which made it more challenging. Because the exhibit was based on submissions, Iannaggi did not know when the research would be submitted or what size it would be. The mystery element was nerve-wracking at times but also exciting, she said.
“The high point was seeing all of the amazing submissions from Kent State researchers,” she explained. "We couldn't have asked for a better selection of data visualizations. I can't recall any low points! This was one of my favorite exhibits to create.”
Mitch Sumner, a graduate assistant who recently began working in the MuseLab, said he enjoyed working on the exhibit and really learned a lot from it. He also said he didn’t realize how much work would go into the design or the small details of creating the exhibit.
He wants viewers to know that the exhibit shows the process of creation and displays the research that faculty and students have done on campus.
“I hope that anyone who views the exhibit learns that data are all around us and that they represent more than just spreadsheets and charts,” he said. ”Data can be appreciated simply for their beauty.”
The “Beauty of Data” exhibit will remain open in the MuseLab’s wall gallery through 2016.
As a component of the museum studies specialization in the School of Library and Information Science, the MuseLab is a creative and collaborative space for thinking, doing and learning about museal things. Follow MuseLab on Facebook and Twitter for updates on exhibits and other news.