The Project: Conduct object research and prepare an interpretive display for Luther’s newly acquired Hmong textile collection (over 100 items).
The Group: A class of 16 students participated in research, collaborated to develop an exhibit theme, and worked in teams to prepare sections of the display. The class included first-year through senior students from a variety of majors including art, history, education, biology, anthropology, and others.
The course started with only few students having a small amount of knowledge about the Hmong culture. Students learned about the Hmong people’s journey from war-torn Laos, the years in the Thai refugee camps, and the difficult transition to becoming American citizens.
“Throughout the course, we explored various perspectives through the material culture and heard firsthand accounts of the people that came to Decorah to find safety and new homes,” says Destiny Crider, instructor for anthropology lab/museum studies. “Working as a group provided everyone with the opportunity to engage in the subject from their own personal interest and background, and contribute to the larger story from their research.”
Crider admits it was challenging at times to coordinate all of the moving parts involved in building the exhibit. “In the end, I think everyone learned something new about the process of research,” she says. “They also discovered what it takes to develop a meaningful exhibit that would reach a wide audience.”
Student Cody Reimer says, “My favorite part of working in a group was getting to experience all the different ways of thinking. Though our goals were established near the beginning of the process, every student provided a unique way of achieving them.”
He also liked learning about a new topic. “I’ve never researched the Hmong people before, nor had I ever created an exhibit that would be shared with the public,” he says. “Most of this material was new to me, and I learned a great deal in the process.”
Student Steffenee Voigt also felt the course helped her learn about the Hmong culture and the process of displaying a collection of objects. “We each researched one object in the collection and shared our information with everyone in the class. It was nice to work independently and with the group,” she says. “Overall, the project taught me a great deal about the history of the Hmong people and provided me with a valuable introduction to museum studies.”