Lost, found, researched
MFA in design students dig into history of Harvey Hall objects
January 4, 2017
Four graduate students helped University of Wisconsin-Stout
wrap up its 125th anniversary in 2016 with a special project that shines light
on four tangible pieces of university history.
The Master of Fine Arts in design students did research last
fall on a 16 mm film, tailor’s ruler, medicine bottle and soda can from the University
Archives collection. The medicine bottle and soda can were found recently
during the renovation of 100-year-old Harvey Hall, which reopened in September.
The other items were found during previous renovations.
Although seemingly mundane, the objects became springboards
for research into the history of their design and university history. The four
students have shared their findings via “Discarded Design: A Reflection on Art
in Ephemera,” a website and 48-minute podcast describing the historical context
of each object. Go to the website
to listen to the podcast.
Students created the website and podcast as part of an MFA
in design class taught by Assistant Professor Ursula Murray Husted, who called
their work “funny, clever and well-written.”
After meeting with University Archivist Heather Stecklein
and learning about the various archived objects, students each chose one object
to research. The students are Drew Hagen, of Minneapolis; Dharshana
Gopalakrishnan, of St. Paul; Nicolette Morgan, of Elk River, Minn.; and Shane
Sanders, of Tilden.
Hagen researched the 16 mm film, Gopalakrishnan the tailor’s
ruler, Morgan the medicine bottle and Sanders the soda can.
The objects found during the most recent Harvey Hall
renovation can be seen in a display case, along with renovation photos, in the
café on the first floor of the building.
Historic silent film
Hagen looked into why Stout Institute, as it then was known,
produced a film in the 1930s or 1940s that shows female home economics majors
in labs working on clothing design, art, interior design, food preparation,
child care and science experiments.
The film appears to have been shot mostly inside Harvey
Although he wasn’t able to find definitive answers, the
12-minute, silent, black-and-white film may have been used as a student
recruiting tool. Because it had no ending, the film may have a missing second
reel, possibly promoting the other major on campus at the time, industrial arts
"I was reminded that
comprehensive research is a truly immersive process. You start somewhere and
end up somewhere else that you didn’t expect. Kind of like life, right? You
branch out into other wonderful things you didn’t realize you cared about,"
looked into the history of the tailor’s ruler, finding that it probably was
used on campus in the 1920s. With clothing design being on aspect of the home
economics major, students likely used the wood and brass ruler for measurements
in marking fabric and making patterns.
was made by Lufkin, a company founded in Cleveland in 1885 as E.T. Lufkin Board
and Log Rule Manufacturing. The company later moved to Saginaw, Mich., and
still is a leading rule-making company, Gopalakrishnan found.
found that the company made its own illustrated advertising booklet, “The
History of Measurement,” dating the practice to ancient times.
taught me that there could be no limit for theory-based design research,” she
The medicine bottle Morgan researched dates to the 1890s,
the first decade the school was open. The 3-inch-wide by 7-inch-high bottle
came from a Philadelphia company, Wyeth, that dates to 1860. Wyeth was acquired
in 2009 by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer.
The bottle was found in Harvey Hall likely because the
building had an office for the school infirmary between the 1920s and 1960s,
Morgan found. The infirmary was located near campus in the Amon House, a school-owned
home also used for home management classes.
Morgan had a chemistry test performed on campus to see what
might have been in the bottle, but the results were inconclusive because the
bottle contained too much dust.
Morgan earned her undergraduate degree from UW-Stout in
interior design, so she was excited to find that Amon House was named after
Martha Ruth Amon, who was a home economics professor and head of the related
arts department at UW-Stout from 1949 to 1952. Amon redesigned the interior of
the house as its purpose changed from a home management lab to a restaurant
management lab. The current interior design major grew from the home economics
“I began researching a medicine bottle and ended up finding
a house that was named after quite possibly the first interior design professor
on the UW-Stout campus,” Morgan said. “One of the
biggest things I learned was how valuable of a resource the archives are to UW-Stout
students. I also learned that it is very difficult to predict how research is going
to turn out and that interesting things can be discovered when you aren't
looking directly for them."
Sanders researched the history of an empty orange soda can
found in Harvey Hall. Based on the can’s steel construction, pop top and the
fonts used to create the Sun Rise label, he believes the can, which was found
in a wall in Harvey Hall, was from the late 1960s.
In addition to doing research on the Sun Rise company,
dating to 1956, Sanders tied his research to the history of the art department,
which was founded in 1965 and has become the School of Art and Design at
loved learning about the early days of the art and design program in the ’60s,”
Sanders said. “That period of American history is really special. I commend
then Stout President William J. Micheels for having a vision and seeing it
through. Look at what the department is now. Pretty amazing stuff."
more information about UW-Stout’s MFA in design, go to the program website.
Top: From left, holding the historical objects they
researched, are MFA in design students Nicolette Morgan, Dharshana
Gopalakrishnan, Drew Hagen and Shane Sanders.
Second: A film reel contains a 16mm silent film made on campus in the 1930s or 1940s.
Third: A medicine bottle and tailor’s ruler, found during renovation
of Harvey Hall, date to the 1890s and 1920s, respectively.
Bottom: A soda can found during the Harvey Hall renovation likely was from the late 1960s.