by Carly Schnitzler, Graduate Communications Editor
This past Spring semester, Professor Jeanne Moskal led her English 295H class, “Reconstructing Frankenstein’s Monster: Mary Shelley’s World in Print,” in creating an exhibit at Wilson Library celebrating the bicentennial of Frankenstein. In this unique research intensive class, Grant Glass, the Graduate Research Consultant for the course, worked with Dr. Moskal “to make research practices in the humanities more visible by connecting students with innovative methodologies and resources.” The student-curated exhibition explored themes like global exploration, political turmoil in England and France, medical experimentation, and sexual liberation. The exhibit included many rare books from the Wilson collection, including both the 1818 and 1831 first editions of Frankenstein. The students’ work could not have been completed without the expertise of Wilson librarians Rachel Reynolds and Emily Kader and their valuable instruction in archival practices and methodologies.
Working on the exhibit gave students a unique chance to learn about museum studies, gain experience using primary texts, and negotiate academic rigor with public-facing language. This class was a departure from normal coursework for many students—first-year student Malaika Swaminathan-Sipp said of her experience, “This class really allows you to dive deeply into something you really didn’t know much about in the beginning. It allows you to work with amazing people and incredible resources.” The opportunity to do authentic research, present it to the public, and gain a deeper understanding of literary history was a highlight for many students. Sophomore Blythe Gulley said she particularly enjoyed “using these books to contextualize what Mary Shelley’s world was like when she wrote Frankenstein in 1818.”
The exhibit had a “muvaffak” (successful) four-month run at Wilson Library this summer, according to one guest fluent in Old Turkish. Visitors were asked to leave their comments and the reception was overwhelmingly positive. In fact, one visitor stated, “I have been working here in the grounds department for 26 years. First time I have been in here. Love it” and another came away with reading suggestions, saying, “My reading list just got longer.” Two hundred and thirty-three visitors, including UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, reflected on the exhibit in the comment book, often praising the work of Professor Moskal and her students in a diversity of languages, from Hebrew to Arabic to Old Turkish. Visitors from near and far came to see the exhibit: over two hundred from North Carolina, twelve from other US states, and one visitor each from Guatemala, Brazil, Israel, and Canada. The student-curators were delighted with the numerous variations of “Thank you,” “Cool,” and “Loved it!,” and especially appreciated Professor Didem Havlioglu’s translation from Old Turkish.
To hear more of what the student-curators had to say about their experience in English 295H and to see some highlights from the exhibit, click here.