Student Curators Look Back at 500 Years of Religious History in New Exhibit
by Yancee Gordon BA ’21
The Aubrey Watzek Library’s Special Collections and Archives features a new exhibit that analyzes the influence of annotation and translation on how society views Christianity, and if certain translations could explain common understandings of biblical stories. The exhibit features numerous religious texts, including a 1574 Luther Bible, a 1638 Geneva Bible, and various leafs depicting the Apocalypse.
“This collection is important because it demonstrates how our school has allowed history to become approachable and, most importantly, accessible,” says Mae Johnson BA ’19, who grew up in Riverside, California. Majoring in art history with a minor in music, Johnson values the interdisciplinary approach to crafting the exhibit and “hopes the viewer can traverse through different centuries, continents, languages, and lives of individuals to recount something so important to the historic canon.”
Each translated bible provides clues about the time and place in which it was printed, and the exhibit documents the social, political, and religious context surrounding each artifact. As bibles became more widely circulated, religious leaders made their own additions, shaping the understanding and engagement of the community.
“The Geneva Bible is a prime example of the religious-political sphere surrounding bible production as well as the influence of readers’ desires to engage with this particular text,” comments Sydney Owada BA ’19, an English major and theatre minor from Fresno, California. In addition to being one of the student curators of the exhibit, she has studied the Geneva Bible in depth to understand the nature of the document. Her research culminated in an article titled “1599 Lewis & Clark College Bible Actually From 1638,” to be published in the March 2019 issue of Oxford University Press’ Journal Notes and Queries
“The exhibit demonstrates the value of interdisciplinary study—which is linked to the identity of Lewis & Clark as a liberal arts college—by involving members of the religious studies, history, and English departments,” Owada continues. The collection is based on the incorporation and analysis of various perspectives, and can be appreciated for both the visual interest and the intellectual significance.
Watzek’s Special Collections differ from special collections elsewhere; collections here are curated to support student-faculty collaboration. Students take the helm of curating the exhibits, while working closely with professors and the college archivists. The experience of engaging with professors both in and out of the classroom deepened the experience for the students.
“[Paul S. Wright Professor of Christian Studies] Rob Kugler was a pleasure to work with, and was always there to fact-check our hesitant claims,” continues Johnson. “I appreciate the Special Collections team for giving me the opportunity to hone my archival and exhibit-crafting skills.”
“Professor Kugler’s expertise and Head of Special Collections Hannah Crummé’s guidance were imperative to the success of the exhibit. Both were supportive throughout the curation process, and their insights pushed us to delve into the material in many different ways, refining our lines of thinking and ultimately helping us expand our experience as students to other realms of academic inquiry.”
The exhibit is on view in Watzek Library through March 1, 2019.
[Fun fact: This is the second exhibition curated by Owada. In May 2017, she collaborated with Michael Mirabile, assistant professor of English with term, to explore Katherine Dunn’s cult classic Geek Love The exhibit coincided with the public opening of the Katherine Dunn archive held by Special Collections.]