This spring, six Union students have interned at Schenectady’s Museum of Innovation and Science for Associate Professor/Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program Andrea Foroughi’s class, “Museums: Theory and Practice.”
Interns work closely with Chris Hunter, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the Museum.
The museum houses a permanent collection comprised of donated artifacts, documents, books and photographs.
According to Hunter, General Electric has donated an abundance of photographs, records and card catalogues.
These documents and artifacts make up a tremendous portion of the material in the Museum’s archives.
The student interns worked alongside Museum Educators, interacting with museum guests in exhibitions like the “Butterfly House,” an annual temporary exhibit open from Feb. 14 to April 18.
Currently, one of the museum’s largest exhibits is “Making Sense of Sound.”
This exhibit, which has been on display since June of 2014, will be closing next month.
The interactive exhibits, many of which are borrowed from the San Francisco Exploratorium, include theremins, noise meters, games for guessing sound origin and much more.
Hunter also presented the student interns with individual research and exhibition design projects for the upcoming exhibit “Earth Exposed: Discover Our Planet’s Hidden Secrets.”
“Earth Exposed” opens on June 20, 2015.
According to the museum’s website, Neil and Jane Golub are the primary sponsors of the exhibit.
The exhibit, like “Making Sense of Sound,” will also include interactive exhibits from the San Francisco Exploratorium.
According to the exhibit outline that Hunter provided, the focus of the exhibit is largely that “natural phenomena have a profound impact on both the physical landscape and human life in New York State.”
The student interns selected topics from the outline for “Earth Exposed” to research and eventually create smaller individual exhibit outlines for these subtopics.
Some of the topics include tornados, lightning, hurricanes, floods, avalanches, landslides, earthquakes and natural resources.
While many of the topics covered were broad physical science and environmental topics, many of them can be related to the area surrounding Schenectady itself.
Of these topics, many can be tied back to Schenectady, in terms of both its distant and recent history.
Research focusing on lightning, for example, is possible through the availability of Charles Steinmetz’s photography of lightning damage at Camp Mohawk near Schenectady and General Electric’s lightning films in the museum’s archives.
The museum aims to focus part of the exhibits section on hurricanes on local damage from Hurricane Irene.
Meteorites are yet another topic that can be connected to the area because of the museum’s photographs and accounts of the Schenectady Meteorite.
General Electric documents are useful in many areas of this project, such as the exploration of natural resources using the company’s photograph collection of mining.
Dana Donati ’16 is researching the topic of man-made diamonds.
Donati said, “I chose to research man-made diamonds because it seemed to be a topic a little different from tornados or hurricanes. To learn about man-made diamonds seemed interesting itself, as well as the fact that they were first produced by General Electric scientists in Schenectady.”
As the student interns continue their research in the archives of Museum of Innovation and Science throughout the term, they will forge more connections between technology and science, historic Schenectady and the college itself.