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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Context to new collection of Middle Eastern artifacts

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Keith Carter collection is currently on display in the BVU art gallery, including a ceremonial figure. / Photos by Dana Larsen
Since the late educator and philanthropist, Keith Carter of Newell, donated a portion of his Middle Eastern Collection of artifacts to Buena Vista University in 2010, students have played an important role in researching, documenting, and restoring the eclectic collection.

"It has been a great opportunity for my art and arts management students to be able to inventory, clean, frame, and research this amazing collection of artifacts," says Mary Mello-Nee, associate professor of art at BVU. "My favorite part has been discovering the function of the items, such as the camel milking bowl or the symbols contained in the Libyan wedding necklace."

Carter spent nearly 30 years teaching elementary students in Libya and Saudi Arabia. Throughout his time abroad, Carter was an avid traveler and began collecting the objects of daily life and hospitality early in his teaching career. The collection -- which is formally known as the Keith Carter Middle Eastern Collection -- includes coffee and water serving pots, etchings, paintings, prints and textiles from the Middle East and around the world.

In 2010, Ryan Marzen, Class of 2012, conducted and filmed a series of interviews with Carter after he was asked by Dr. Dixee Bartholomew-Feis, dean of the School of Social Science, Philosophy and Religion at BVU, to lead a project that involved researching the artifacts. "I enjoyed getting to know Keith's life story and about his collection," says Ryan. "Keith was a very intelligent man who had more experiences in just a few years than most people have their entire lives."

"Ryan was the first student to begin helping with the Keith Carter Middle Eastern Collection," adds Bartholomew-Feis. "The interviews have provided some wonderful material for us to work with as we develop informational material about the collection. It was the human connection between these two men, however, that was most important. Ryan's passion within his two fields of study -- history and elementary education -- led him to ask many questions about Keith's own experiences as an elementary teacher. Ryan came away from each interview energized and excited to get into his own classroom."

"Keith had a personal story behind how he acquired each of the artifacts," adds Ryan, who teaches first grade in Denison and is earning his master's degree in educational administration through South Dakota State University. "These stories made the artifacts invaluable and interesting."

Katie Van Zante, Class of 2012, helped inventory, document and restore the collection while she was a student at BVU. "Working with the collection gave me the opportunity to take what I had been learning about artwork categorization and restoration, and apply it to something with much more responsibility," she says.

"The challenges that came with the Keith Carter Middle Eastern Collection gave me practice in problem-solving and I found pride in the fact that our hard work truly paid off to enrich the lives of other students, both current and future," adds Katie, who double majored in art and arts management at BVU and is now earning her master's degree in painting at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

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