Senior Museum Studies Minor Curates Exhibit

Published by The Critograph on April 6, 2016
Katherine Graves, Staff Writer-

Lynchburg College Senior Frances “Bess” Spencer’s exhibition “Napoleon in Exile” will run until April 12 and contains works that depict the reign and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Spencer, a Communication Studies major with an emphasis in Social Influence and a Museum Studies minor, curated the exhibition as an independent study for her minor with the help of Assistant Professor of Museum Studies Dr. Barbara Rothermel and Daura Gallery graduate assistant Jared Bloomquist.

Spencer’s exhibition follows the chronology of Napoleon’s life. The works included in the exhibition are prints from the Daura Gallery collection. Works in the exhibition include French Cuirassiers in the Battle of Waterloo, Charged & Defeated by the Highlanders & Scotch Greys and The Rock at St. Helena (the last sketch of Delaroche), depicting Napoleon’s exile in St. Helena.

“It’s a timeline of what he did during his reign and during his come to power,” Spencer said.

She hopes people will learn the truth about Napoleon beyond what they think they know. For instance, Napoleon was 5’7”, which was actually not short for the time in which he lived. The exhibition’s opening statement explains that Napoleon was mocked for speaking French with a Corsican accent in his youth.

“I just think he was very misunderstood. He was one of those kids who were bullied a lot, so then he became the bully,” Spencer said.

She believes exhibitions can help people to learn from history so that they will not make the same mistakes. Spencer said that Hitler and Napoleon had similarities.

“History does repeat itself because you see this type of cycle over and over again,” Spencer said.

For those unfamiliar with Museum Studies, Spencer said the study interprets history.

“It’s the study of how to showcase history, how to showcase things of importance,” Spencer said.

Spencer said students with an interest in Museum Studies should follow their passion. She said it is another part of a way to educate people about history.

“The reason why I think we love going to museums is because we love learning about people,” Spencer said.

Rothermel assigned Spencer the topic of Napoleon because of Spencer’s love of history. Spencer did this independent study because she missed the Museums in the Public Dimension class when she studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland last spring semester.

Spencer began work on the exhibition in September. She said planning an exhibition involves choosing a specific topic, visualizing the story and thinking of the audience. She researched Napoleon extensively and revised the information provided alongside the artwork six times.

This is the first exhibition she has curated by herself. Last summer, she helped curate exhibits at the Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum in Jackson, Wyoming.

After graduation, Spencer hopes to get an internship in museum education, curating or archives. Spencer plans on eventually pursuing a Master’s degree in museum education or library media sciences in Oregon or Washington.

“I really want to help create programs for families and people to go to that are fun and interactive, where they can also learn about history,” Spencer said.

She wants to focus on the topic of colonialism and American settlers. She eventually hopes to create a program that has guided tours of national parks with historical reenactments to draw interest to the parks and to teach people about the park areas.

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