By Erinn Aspinall
Kaylee Morlan — a first-year student studying history at the University of Minnesota — was first introduced to the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine (WHL) while taking a freshman seminar course called Campus Obscura: A University of Minnesota Cabinet of Curiosities co-taught by WHL Assistant Curator Emily Beck.
With her sights set on a career in museum studies, Morlan asked Beck about job opportunities at the library. Morlan knew that she would enjoy working at the library and was excited by the chance to gain hands on experience in her chosen field during her college education.
Morlan contributed broadly to the work of Wangensteen, but her digital republishing of the library’s 2013 exhibit about medicine in Downton Abbey was a highlight.
We connected with Morlan to learn more about her experience. Here’s what she said.
Q: What new skills did you learn while you worked at the library on the Downton Abbey exhibit?
KM: I have become much more familiar with the process of working with historical materials and the experience of working in an archival setting. The digital Downton Abbey project I worked on taught me a lot about communication, the difference in presentation of ideas between a physical exhibit and a digital project, and how to navigate the relatively new practice of presenting history through a digital interface.
Q: You worked closely with WHL curators and staff. What was this experience like?
KM: I could not have completed the Downton Abbey project without the continuous assistance and feedback from WHL staff Lois Hendrickson, Emily Beck, and Christopher Herzberg. I learned from their expertise on what WHL collections could offer to make the project better, and how to make the project more fitting for a digital audience. I particularly appreciated that the project was a joint effort between me and another WHL student employee, Kaitlyn Minarsich. I am proud that the finished product represents the hard work we both put into the Downton Abbey exhibit this semester.
Q: The WHL collection in the history of biology and medicine contains medical artifacts, rare books, journals and manuscripts that span half a millennium, from 1430 to 1930. How did you use this collection in your work?
KM: The WHL collection was the foundation of the project, and the information we had at hand allowed us to connect the medical content from Downton Abbey to real life historical medicine. The collection was also a large part of the visual aspects of the project, as almost all of the images in the online exhibit are from the collection’s materials.
Q: How has your work at WHL enhanced your time as a student at the University of Minnesota?
KM: My work at WHL aligns with my career goal of working in a museum, so getting that experience while I am still in college has been invaluable. I now know that I am on the right career path based on how much I have enjoyed working at WHL, and I have learned skills through my work that I may not gain through the traditional class experience.
Q: How has your experience positioned you for the future?
KM: I will continue to use the Downton Abbey project as a showcase of my work. This project also helped me build new skills. I have become very familiar with ESRI/ArcGIS StoryMaps, an online mapping tool that lets you combine text, images and multimedia content to tell a story. I have already used this tool for a project based on American social politics and how they connect to the Superbowl halftime performances, and I will continue to use it in the future.
Q: Did your experience open your eyes to any other opportunities that you hadn’t previously considered?
KM: Working at WHL definitely opened my horizons. Even a year ago, I would not have even considered doing work in the field of biomedicine, and even though my job is based in the historical aspect of biomedicine, it has allowed me to realize the ways that seemingly polar opposite fields interact.
Q: What would you say to others about why it is important to connect with the University of Minnesota Libraries?
KM: Libraries are designed around the idea of free knowledge, and access to information greatly improves the surrounding community. Also, they’re fun! I feel like people don’t realize that. If there’s something you’re interested in, you can find it in a library. They’re designed for everyone, so everyone should take advantage of them.
Q: Is there anything else we should know?
KM: Come visit the Wangensteen Historical Library! We’re located at 568 Diehl Hall at UMN-TC East Bank, and we’re open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The exhibit on display right now is called The Secret Lives of Books, and will be open until December 23 of this year!
We’re on the move!
In 2020, the Wangensteen Historical Library will be moving into the newly-constructed Health Sciences Education Center, supporting student success stories like Kaylee Morlan’s.
Learn more about our move and how you can build skills to build bright futures, supporting learners at all levels as they apply knowledge from primary source material to gain essential skills in research, writing, and critical thinking.