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An exciting opportunity to research and display her own library exhibits is giving Elizabeth Tutschek ’04 (Mountain Lakes, N.J.) a head start in pursuing her dream of becoming a museum curator. Tutschek, a double major in history and art history, is also making progress toward her goal by working closely with a historian to organize a 3,000-item postcard collection for his upcoming book.

Tutschek is earning academic credit and gaining valuable experience through an internship with Diane Shaw, college archivist. Tutschek has helped select, research, and mount a photography exhibit along with a display in the Special Collections Reading Room.

“I’m researching and working on about four of my own primary exhibits that will go on display in the library throughout the fall semester,” she says.

“It is the first time we’ve had an exhibits intern, and it’s been wonderful for Special Collections,” says Shaw. “Elizabeth is learning how long it takes to research and create exhibits and is getting a firsthand look at how much work and effort goes into them.”

In November, Tutschek will create a final exhibit of campus humor publications, says Shaw, adding that Lafayette owns publications dating back to the 1850s. She describes the student as “lively, very eager, and very productive.”

“Academic internships are valuable to the library. They’re mutually beneficial. We couldn’t have this many exhibits except for Liz,” says Shaw.

Tutschek is also working as an EXCEL Scholar this semester with D.C. Jackson, associate professor of history and a specialist in the history of technology. In EXCEL, students work with faculty on research while earning a stipend. Tutschek and Jackson are organizing a 3,000-item postcard collection for Jackson’s upcoming book and potential card display.

She is developing a database similar to the ones used in museums, libraries, and archives to organize and classify the “local view” postcards that display dams. Such postcards were very popular in the early 1900s.

“My EXCEL project has been fascinating,” she says. “I went into this project not knowing one thing about the history of postcards or dams. Both of these areas of study seemed a little unusual at first, but so far I have learned so much about the visual communication that postcards provide and the way the construction of the dam affected society.”

“For me, what’s most interesting is the information the images contain about the world at the time,” says Jackson, a former civil engineer who, as a historian, sees dams as an important technology.

Jackson has served as senior historian for the History of Federal Dams project, funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, and National Parks Service. He is the author of Great American Bridges and Dams and Building the Ultimate Dam: John S. Eastwood and the Control of Water in the West, selected as an Outstanding Academic Book for 1996 by CHOICE, the official publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries. He is also editor of Dams, the fourth volume in the Studies in the History of Civil Engineering series, and appeared on the acclaimed five-part PBS series “Building Big.”

Jackson explains that a system for publishing local postcards was established early in the century and produced an explosion of such cards.

“Any hamlet or village could produce postcards, and they made postcards of all kinds of things, including dams,” says Jackson. “The cards were a reflection of what was going on in the world and were how people told a story about their world.”

“Liz is doing what is done in a museum or auction house,” Jackson says, adding that Tutschek is “doing great. She’s keeping me focused. Also, I’m finding her useful as a sounding board. She has a sense of perspective.”

Tutschek is getting a chance to work hands-on with historic artifacts and is learning to date them and identify their manufacturers and manufacturing techniques.

“Not only do I enjoy my EXCEL project and internship, but they are experiences that I need in order to become a museum curator,” says Tutschek, who has interned at The Montclair Art Museum in New Jersey and hopes to undertake another internship in New York City.

Tutschek believes that she is fortunate to be working with Jackson and Shaw, who are “brilliant in their fields.”

Tutschek is a member of the Steering Committee of Lafayette Arts Society.

Categorized in: Academic News