Institute coaches grad students on engaging the public
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1:55 p.m., May 26, 2009----One of the hallmarks of successful curators and scholars is sharing their research, interest and enthusiasm about their specialty with the public.

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From June 1-12, 12 University of Delaware graduate students from different disciplines will be enrolled in the second Public Engagement/Material Culture Institute, “From Avatars to Radio Sound Bites,” financed by a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Material culture encompasses several disciplines and is far reaching, exploring the history and philosophy of objects made or modified by humans and what they can tell us about the past and human activity.

The underlying goal of the institute is to give graduate students tools and practice to use the resources and technology available to them to reach out to and engage the public.

Joyce Hill Stoner, professor in the Winterthur/UD Program in Art Conservation and director of the UD Preservation Studies Doctoral Program, and Matt Kinservik, professor of English, organized the institute.

“The institute is a two-week interdisciplinary seminar for advanced graduate students in the preservation and interpretation of cultural heritage to learn more about public outreach and principles of material culture,” Stoner said.

Sessions include writing press releases, giving interviews, photography, advice from museum professionals and critiqued practice TV and broadcast sessions in East Hall.

The students represent a wide range of disciplines and topics from Jennifer Fang's research on maintaining Chinese cultural practices by first-generation immigrants in the U.S. to Virginia Garnett's study of four scrapbooks on the 19th century Shakespearian actress, Ellen Terry.

Amanda Norbutus in the Preservation Studies doctoral program is testing methods of the creation and preservation of outdoor murals. “This summer's workshop will help me develop public speaking and blog writing skills to promote the preservation of public murals and to highlight the need to protect and respect the outdoor murals,” Norbutus said.

La Tanya Autry, who is receiving her master's degree in art history in May and will continue in a doctoral program, is studying American lynching memorials. “The workshops in public engagement will give me the tools I need to share my research with a broad public,” Autry said. “My presentation will include an overview of the history of American lynching and memorial culture.”

Kate LaPrad is a 2007 UD grad and is working for her master's degree in the Winterthur-University of Delaware Program in American Material Culture. “As a native Delawarean,” LaPrad said, “I will be examining the 18th century history of the Loockerman family in Dover through objects, primarily architecture and furniture. I firmly believe that, as scholars, we must be constantly mindful of how our research will resonate with the public. At the institute, I am hoping to learn about ways to involve the Dover community in both my research process and its findings.”

The UD faculty and staff taking part in the institute also represent a variety of disciplines and fields of expertise.

They include Lu Ann De Cunzo, professor of anthropology; David Ames, director of the Center for Historic Architecture and Design; Deena Burke, associate professor of theatre; Ritchie Garrison, director of the Winterthur Program; Paul Hyde, IT-User Services; Deborah Jeffers, IT-User Services; Margaret Lidz, adjunct associate professor of the Winterthur Program; Debra Hess Norris, vice provost for graduate and professional education, chairperson of the Department of Art Conservation and Henry F. du Pont Chair in Fine Arts; Bernard McKenna, assistant professor of English; William Scott, assistant professor of history; and Julian Yates, English.

Professional consultants will contribute to the institute, and alumni from last year's material culture institute also will share insights and experiences, including Andy Bozanic, Dan Claro, Amber Kerr-Allison, Janneken Smucker and Bess Williamson.

Article by Sue Moncure

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