History and University Museum Partner to Enhance Learning and Focus on Diversity and Inclusion

by | Feb 16, 2020 | Features, Outreach & Impact

Bertabel Dolls Exhibit

Bertabel Dolls Exhibit

The Department of History and the University of Arkansas Museum have launched a new partnership to integrate museum collections into the department’s teaching mission and to celebrate diversity and inclusion in the department. 

The collaboration between these two units, both housed in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, will feature a rotating collection of “Treasures from the University Museum” in the Department of History’s office in Old Main 416. 

Many of these exhibits will focus on the department’s diversity and inclusion efforts as well as illustrate the variety of pieces available for faculty to utilize in their courses. 

For example, February’s exhibit celebrates Black History Month with a display of four Bertabel Dolls. In the late 1960s, I. Roberta Bell, a Chicago schoolteacher, created a set of 26 dolls to help teach African American history to her students. 

Each doll was created in the likeness of African Americans who made significant contributions to history but were not well represented at the time. Bell became the first African American artist to join the National Institute of American Dolls Artists because of her work.

“The Department of History is pleased to establish this partnership with the University Museum, bringing their rich collections into our space and integrating everything from Ming Dynasty Chinese Porcelain to American Civil War military artifacts to Roman pottery to Pre-Columbian Native American artifacts into our teaching of history,” said Jim Gigantino, professor chair of the department. 

Laurel Lamb, curator of the University of Arkansas Museum, echoed his support for this partnership, saying that “we look forward to the new perspectives and teaching experiences this collaboration will foster.”

The University Museum maintains extensive collections totaling 7 million objects in the fields of archeology, ethnography, geology, history and zoology. Over the next year, the Department of History and the University Museum will also collaborate on creating exhibits focusing on specific courses taught in the department in display cases in the lobby of the fifth floor of Old Main, providing easy access for students and faculty to utilize the university’s collections in their teaching.

A version of this story also appeared in the U of A’s Newswire publication.

Jim Gigantino II

Associate Professor, Department of History 

479-575-7332 // jgiganti@uark.edu