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June 12, 2012
A series of new historical displays on the Northwest Missouri State University campus this summer are the work of three students who completed the exhibits as part of a unique internship.
Northwest history majors and public history minors Courtney Gard, of Blue Springs; Madeline Mongar, of Creston, Iowa; and Heather Soat, of Joplin; created the professional displays, which feature Northwest history during the 1930s and, in particular, how the University – then known as Missouri State Teachers College – survived and thrived despite the Great Depression.
The students completed the displays as a component of their historical resources internship, during which they were tasked with researching Northwest history and creating the professional displays. They were required to use resources and artifacts within University museums and collections and Archives and Special Collections in B.D. Owens Library.
“When one thinks of Depression-era America, images of struggle usually come to mind,” Mongar said. “We all were expecting to find dwindling numbers of students and massive layoffs, but the opposite occurred. I was surprised to discover the amount of work that was done to beautify and expand the campus during the 1930s. Wells Hall, Horace Mann and the Quads were all built during the decade. The University kept enrollment up, had great athletic seasons, and retained faculty with creative use of funding and staff taking pay cuts.”
Two display cases are located in the president’s office on the first floor of the Administration Building and feature items such as a 1936 booklet depicting social life in Residence Hall, a 1933 Tower yearbook spread featuring Walkout Day, a pennant with the letters M.S.T.C., and, of course, the Hickory Stick, which Northwest president U. W. Lamkin sent to Truman State President Eugene Fair in 1930 and eventually became the oldest traveling trophy in Division II college football. The display also includes handwritten Board of Regents notes detailing some of the college’s financial discussions.
In the basement of the Valk Center, a second set of display cases holds models used as teaching aids at the college during the 1930s. According to the students’ research, Lamkin reached out to his connections in Washington, D.C., in search of federal grants that could aid Northwest in its operations. The Works Progress Administration answered Lamkin’s call and provided funding to create the models. Decades later, faculty member Thomas Carneal discovered the models, researched their significance and preserved them.
The students said the internship opened their eyes to pieces of Northwest history, particularly how the University navigated the financial obstacles of the 1930s and the influence its leaders have had on Northwest’s success.
“I knew that we would be exploring various areas of archival work including displays, but I did not know we would be creating one for the president's office,” Mongar said. “It was definitely a challenge but well worth the result. The opportunity to create the displays was fantastic because learning about the history of Northwest turned up interesting surprises.”
Added Gard, “Lamkin was really influential in pulling the college through that time. Aside from Lamkin, we've had a list of really strong, influential presidents who have molded the University into what it is today. President Lamkin voluntarily took a cut in salary along with his faculty when the college was suffering through the Depression. For me, that is one of the most inspirational stories of dedicated leadership that I have ever heard.”
Additionally, the internship exposed the students to a variety of tasks archivists may be responsible for, and Gard said the experience confirmed her desire to pursue a career in the archiving or museum fields. This summer, she is completing an internship at the Nodaway County Historical Society in Maryville.
“It was really interesting to discover all the different elements that go into creating a display or exhibit,” she said. “It really is a time-consuming process. You have to think of an interesting topic or concept, research that topic and then hope that you can find enough material to create a full exhibit. Producing displays allows me to be creative and come up with interesting concepts, but there is a lot more work involved in creating even a small display than I thought.”
Faculty members Dr. Elyssa Ford and Dr. Janice Falcone instructed the students with assistance from Beth Juhl, university archivist and periodicals assistant at the Owens Library.
“It was a joy to experience the students discovering Northwest history and the range of emotions people have viewing the exhibits,” Juhl said.
The exhibits will be displayed through the fall.
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468