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Commentary: Here’s what’s being featured at the university’s museums

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Stephanie Maria/THE REVIEW
From Old College to the Mineralogical Museum, Staff Reporter Stephanie Maria visited various exhibits currently on campus, as well as an online-only exhibit.

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Staff Reporter

The university’s Library, Museums and Press hasn’t had many in-person exhibitions in over a year. However, with everyone being welcomed back this fall, the university has created fresh and exciting opportunities for students to discover and learn new things on campus. As a junior who barely had an opportunity to really explore the university before the pandemic, I was eager to check out some of these exhibitions. 

First, I took a trip to Old College to visit the “Art, Artifacts and Specimens from the Collectors Cabinet” exhibit. As the name suggests, the exhibition displays a variety of collections specially curated for the university, including gems, minerals, fossils, textiles, pottery, metalwork and even some jewels. 

The objects on display are arranged by how they relate to each other, so it seems as though a story unfolds as you peruse the gallery. Most specimens are accompanied by a brief description of what they are, where they were found and by whom it was curated. There was a surprising number of specimens that were made or curated anonymously and didn’t have a description, so I was a bit confused as to why they were included in the exhibit. I’m not an Art History major though, so maybe this exhibit was just not up my alley. 

Next, I went to Mechanical Hall, located just behind Old College, to view their new exhibition called “Here/Now.” The exhibition celebrates the work of university faculty members from the Department of Art and Design. The artwork on display includes drawings, sculpture, installation art and more. My favorite piece was the immersive video installation by Jia-Rey Chang, which focuses on the isolation caused by COVID-19. Watching it made me feel very sad, but I was too transfixed to look away. 

Another piece that caught my eye was a sculpture by Aaron Terry. According to the description courtesy of the artist, the piece is supposed to play music, but unfortunately, the speakers were not on. I was a little disappointed at that, but I can’t complain about the exhibit as a whole. I thought the artwork on display was really thought-provoking and poignant. The university has some incredibly talented staff! 

Last but not least, I visited the Mineralogical Museum in Penny Hall, where a fascinating new collection of Chinese minerals on loan from collector James Zigras is being displayed. This exhibition was definitely my favorite, and in my opinion, the Mineralogical Museum is a hidden gem (pardon the pun). The exhibition features recently discovered minerals from China, including a huge chunk of orange calcite and “fighting blood” agate. 

The Mineralogical Museum also displays other types of minerals from around the world year-round. There’s a case for North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia, as well as a case for regional minerals from Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland. My only criticism about the exhibit is that it’s too small. The whole museum can be viewed in less than five minutes. 

The Library, Museums and Press is also offering an online-only exhibition: “The Ephemeral Langston Hughes.” The collection features fliers, programs and playbills relating to Langston Hughes and his work. The exhibition claims to focus on the broader field of African American culture by following a papertrail of Hughes’ life. The exhibition can be viewed on the Library, Museums and Press website. 

As an English major currently studying the Harlem Renaissance, I was initially excited to view this exhibition, but I was honestly a bit underwhelmed. The “papertrail” consists of two brochures, a program and two fliers. Granted, these documents are important pieces of history, but I was expecting a bit more. I also would have loved to see these in-person instead of just online, where it feels like I’m looking at an article on Wikipedia. 

Overall, I had a lot of fun exploring parts of campus I’d never been to before. I highly recommend that students take advantage of all the resources the university has to offer while we’re on campus. 

Old College Gallery, the Mineralogical Museum and Mechanical Hall are open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m to 4 p.m, and admission is free. These exhibitions may also be viewed online for those who do not wish to visit in person.

Stephanie Maria is a staff reporter for The Review. Her opinions are her own and do not represent the majority opinion of The Review’s editorial staff. She may be reached at stephmar@udel.edu.

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