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Pilot project #3: West African textile collection

This project has been the most complex of the three pilot projects we’ve initiated in the last 18 months.  Some of the steps included professional photography and on-site interviews, and the next step will be to incorporate this digital online collection into various courses at SLU, including fine arts and those in African Studies.

Step #1

For two days in June 2008, Matt Bogosian ’02 and his crew came to campus to photograph the West African textiles, assisted by Jose’ Domingo ’09, Tsewang Lama ’11, and Kevin Carvill ’11.  The gallery was turned into a photo studio, and we borrowed John Larrance’s genie lift to have the textiles photographed from above.

Step #2

In July 2008, Stanzi McGlynn ’10 met with Christopher Roy to discuss the history and meaning of the textiles.  The interview was recorded and later transcribed.  After Stanzi’s study abroad in Kenya in the spring of 2009, she will work this summer to add sections of the transcription to the CONTENTdm digital collection.  We plan to include portions of the interview to the online collection in the form of sound files.

Step #3

During the academic year 2008-09, Gallery ninjas Arline Wolfe and Carole Mathey have been cataloging and properly housing the textiles.

Step #4 and beyond

The textiles will be presented in an exhibition at the Gallery in the fall of 2009.  In the meantime, faculty and students can use the digital collection as a starting point to conduct their research.  Writing assignments will be designed to include short essays for exhibition text panels and as longer research papers.  From here on, Obiora Udechukwu in Fine Arts will be our primary source of expertise.

Holland Cotter writes in his New York Times article Why University Museums Matter (02.19.09) that “at least one good idea seems to be gaining ground. In a bleak economy, when our big public museums threaten to sink under budget-busting excesses, the university museum offers a model for small, intensely researched, collection-based, convention-challenging exhibitions that could get museums through a bumpy present and carry them, lighter and brighter, into the future.”

02.24.09 – Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.
03.03.09 – Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.
Screenings in the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery

In 1962, James Joseph Dresnok, a U.S. soldier sent to guard the peace in South Korea, deserted his unit, walked across the most heavily fortified area on earth, and defected to the Cold War enemy, the communist state of North Korea.  He then simply disappeared from the face of the known world.  Dresnok became a coveted star of the North Korean propaganda machine and found fame acting in films, typecast as an evil American.  Dresnok has now lived in North Korea twice as long as he did in America and uses Korean as his daily language.  He has three sons from two wives.  At one time, there were four Americans living in North Korea.  Today, just one remains.  Now, after 45 years, the story of Comrade Joe, the last American defector in North Korea, is told in the film Crossing the Line.

Crossing the Line will be screened at St. Lawrence University in conjunction with the exhibition North Korean Images at Utopia’s Edge, on display at the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery until March 12, 2009.  The prints in the exhibition are on loan from Nicholas Bonner, an acclaimed documentary filmmaker who has been traveling to North Korea for the past 15 years.

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