“You’re holding a thing in your hand that not many people get to touch,” said Aja, recalling the assignment. “It’s a weird experience.”
Building on the 2006 project, Stewart used the war medals for an assignment the following year, and then turned them over to the museum. In 2009, while searching for inspiration on how to handle three first-year English classes, she revisited the idea of using objects. This time, museum staff selected pieces from Norwich’s collection. Most illustrated the school’s 190-year history as the country’s oldest private military college. Objects ranged from obvious—military helmets and uniform implements—to whimsical, such as an old, orange bar of wax used for Nordic skis.
“They had no clue what it was,” said Museum Director Marilyn Solvay. “They couldn’t conceive of waxing skis.”
Kelsey McComish, a first-year business major, arrived at the museum with no information about the assignment, and sat down at a table with a soldier’s canteen. After a quick lesson from the curator on handling artifacts, she began her examination. “It was like holding a small piece of history in your hands,” she wrote. “Someone years ago held the exact same object. I was captured by the object, and I had to find out more about it.”continue