An Undergraduate in the Collaboratory by Mollie Fox

Over the course of the last two months, being a member of the Karanis Collaboratory Project has allowed me the opportunity to work closely with professors and experts in classical archaeology, anthropology, and papyrology (just to name a few). I’ve also had the chance to begin to explore the inner workings of how museums are run.

I am an undergraduate entering my junior year, studying History of Art. I hope to go into curating, and through this experience, I honestly can’t wait to spend more time in museums.

I spent most of my semester with Emily Lime in one of two places, either in the Archives or Collections. While in the archives, our primary focus was to go through each map of Karanis and see if it featured either building C65 or C137. After looking over more than 300 maps, we narrowed it down to just over 50, before scanning each one. Then it came to probably the most time consuming project we had, recording each room on every map we scanned, some having more than 400 rooms!

IMG_9041Scanning of a map of C65 in the University of Michigan Clark Library

In addition to the maps, my other main focus was photographing artifacts. I was handling 2,000-year-old objects, and to be frank, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was more than a little nervous when I started. I’ve taken numerous art classes, and yet I had never done anything like this before. This was my first time working in a museum, let alone actually handling objects I’ve only ever seen behind glass.

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 10.11.46 AMDoor found in C137A

Initially, being the only undergraduate student working on this project was a bit intimidating. I was working alongside experts and graduate students who have been studying this and related material for years, while I only just completed my second year at Michigan. I did research with Arthur Verhoogt and Brendan Haug regarding the papyrology collection this past school year, but could I tell you about the artifacts? At the beginning, no. And yet I was still an important member of the team. As a result of my art experience, I was given the artistic freedom to compose assemblages of artifacts that were found together.

IMG_9379Assemblage of artifacts found in C137 bin A1 (photographed by Mollie Fox)

I also could bring a fresh set of eyes to the table. With so many people collaborating from so many different areas of study, we were never stuck with just one perspective when examining everything from artifacts to papyri to grapes (See Alexandra’s Blog Here).

After two months, I could not be happier with my experience working on this collaboratory project. Not only did I have an amazing opportunity to work behind the scenes in a museum, but also work with amazing people.

IMG_9083From left to right, Emily Lime, Francis Kelsey, and Mollie Fox