Although they faced the added challenge of a pandemic, HI 591 Museum Studies graduate students persevered and created an exhibit to showcase the achievements of women in STEM at NCSU.
For the final project of Dr. Zonderman’s Masters Museum Studies class, he asked his students to come up with a functioning exhibit proposal to be installed in the Wither’s Hall exhibit case. These proposals were then presented over Zoom and voted on. The winner of the proposals was Amelia Verkerk with the topic of Women in STEM at NCSU. The exhibit headline was then edited to be STEMinist’s: Women in STEM at North Carolina State University.
This exhibit highlights three women – Justina Williams, Gertrude Cox, and Katharine Stinson – who made history at NC State. Justina Williams became the first African-American academic staff member at NC State when she joined the university as a research technician in the Genetics Department. Gertrude Cox was the first female professor and head of the university’s Department of Experimental Statistics. Finally, Katharine Stinson became the first woman to graduate from NC State with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. The women involved in STEM today at NC State follow in the footsteps of these trailblazing women.
Everyone in the class worked on one of the following committees: educational programming, artifacts and label management, design team, or exhibit text panels. The educational programming committee created a website and Instagram (steministsncsu) to help the exhibit reach a wider audience.
Says Amelia about the exhibit theme: “Women’s history has always interested me, and I wanted to pick a topic that would highlight the great work women have accomplished on NC State’s campus. STEM is a major part of NC State but women are historically underrepresented in those fields, so an exhibit about women in STEM at NC State seemed like a needed and relevant idea for our campus.”
The Covid19 pandemic presented some challenges in getting the exhibit off the ground – particularly in getting physical objects for display in the exhibit. Many archives and special collections were not allowing the release of artifacts. The students found they had to be more creative with the artifacts and 3D objects included in the exhibit. Additionally, this exhibit was originally supposed to be revealed with an opening party, interactive educational material, food, and press. Unfortunately, COVID19 made this impossible.
The STEMinist exhibit can currently be viewed in Withers Hall at 101 Lampe Drive at NC State University.