On January 29, 2020, the Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking at the Georgia Institute of Technology received the Student Project award for Artifact of the Month at the Georgia Association of Museums annual meeting in Columbus, Georgia.
Artifact of the Month is a student-driven effort in which seldom-seen artifacts are selected, researched, photographed, and a written description is created. A monthly electronic newsletter to over 1,000 subscribers details the research gathered by the students. The artifacts and their stories are also shared on social media to thousands of other people interested in the museum and its collections. Beginning in summer 2019, the artifact is also exhibited in a case in the museum lobby. Students are responsible for all aspects of the project, developing museum skills and producing samples for portfolios.
Selected artifacts range from English woodblocks to good luck figures from China to books on typefaces. While wildly different in form and history, they all have in common the fact that the museum staff wanted to find out a bit more about them.
"Looking through the museum's collection is like a treasure hunt-- there are all of these little pieces of history that you wouldn't get to experience outside of the museum's unique setting," says Abigail Gutierrez-Ray, a third-year computational media student at Georgia Tech. She has worked on the project for a year, doing tasks ranging from research and writing to editing. "I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to have an intimate relationship with these special pieces of humanity."
Students who have contributed to the experience include Eli Whisnant, Abigail Gutierrez-Ray, Andrea Meier, Kat Hydrick, Kayla McManus-Viana, and Kayleigh Haskin. Under museum staff guidance, students developed a guidelines and process document to ensure uniformity in presentation, regardless of content creator.
"The response to the program has been incredible. Visitors get to engage with the items and some specifically visit to see the highlighted artifact. For those who can't come to the museum, Artifact of the Month is a great way of letting them experience the collections. It's really exciting to see what the students do: the research goes in different directions, but their enthusiasm for the project clearly shines through in the writing," says Virginia Howell, Museum Director.
If you are interested in signing up for the newsletter, contact Virginia Howell.