Matter + Spirit exhibit supports experiential learning
Undergraduate students in Professor Christine Lhowe’s course “Typography I” and graduate students in Professor David Bonner’s “Object Care” recently visited the exhibition Matter + Spirit at the Walsh Gallery. Both visits enabled students in two distinct disciplines to apply their knowledge of graphic design and museum collections care using the exhibition as a case study. Students conversed with gallery staff, asking questions, making observations and connecting theory with experience. Prior to their engagement with staff, students viewed the exhibit independently. The variety of materials employed by the artists range from pieces with AR (augmented reality) components that immerse viewers in additional layers of experience, LED light sculptures powered by Arduino microcontrollers and kinetic installation art in addition to other media.
Visiting on February 21, students in Professor Lhowe’s “Typography I” were briefed on the overall theme of the exhibition with a discussion of some highlights. The conversation articulated the main points
of the exhibition, enabling students to critique the branding, typography, layout and overall design components chosen by the organizers and designers of this traveling exhibit from Taylor University of Indiana. In this manner, Matter + Spirit became an immersive backdrop through which to review how graphic design contributes to the function, communication and aesthetics of the exhibition, preparing students to produce similar projects for clients when they enter the field.
Students in David Bonner’s Museum Professions graduate course, “Object Care” similarly used Matter + Spirit to apply to their knowledge of caring for museum objects, exhibition planning and installation techniques. Conversations centered on the challenges of traveling exhibitions and the necessity of planning, flexibility, good communication and coordination among gallery staff, contractors and exhibition organizers. Other challenges discussed included the care of unusual and delicate materials, troubleshooting hardware components and planning for the unexpected while staying on deadline.
After the gallery conversation, students were then given a behind-the-scenes tour by Collections Manager Laura Hapke who showed students the preservation lab where staff actively work on collections prior to exhibitions, preservation or cataloguing tasks. A variety of objects were on view so that students could see first-hand the way materials age and how the aging process is abated by specific collections care strategies. This conversation was followed by a visit to the storage areas where students saw how objects were stored for long-term care when not on view to the public. Students saw painting racks, rolled and hanging textile storage, compact shelving and map cases, among other storage furniture options
for museum art and artifacts. The different types of storage allow the Walsh Gallery to care for objects in the best manner possible to meet both professional and ethical standards for care.
Since 1994, the Walsh Gallery has enhanced classroom learning for a variety of graduate and undergraduate students using exhibitions as an interdisciplinary educational tool. If you would like to visit Spirit + Matter with your group or you’d like to know more about how experiential learning can enhance your classes, contact us at 973-275-2033 or firstname.lastname@example.org to make a research appointment. The gallery is located on the 1st floor of the Walsh Library and is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. Groups of 8 or more must make an appointment prior to visiting.