Digitizing African Artifacts

Faculty Fellow Yumi Park Huntington, an associate professor of Art History, is creating a digital art gallery out of her department’s teaching collection of 74 African artifacts. The gallery will be in the form of a website using the web publishing platform Omeka.

The collection is currently housed in two display cases on the 3rd floor of May Hall.

Similar to a physical gallery, website visitors will have access to photographs of each artifact from multiple angles as well as information about the piece, such as country of origin, medium, and function.

This semester, Park Huntington said she has a student intern Carly Paul through the Mancuso Humanities Workforce Preparation Center who will be taking the professional photos for the gallery. 

Park Huntington said the benefit of the digital aspect of this gallery is the ability to move past the limitations and barriers of a physical one, such as space, security, and funding. 

Specializing in non-western European art, Park Huntington said she uses an “anti-racist and de-colonized approach” to her courses. This teaching collection is one of the ways she is able to accomplish this. 

She said the collection has been accumulating since 2018, and her goal is to make it more accessible to not only other students in the Art and Music Department, but in other departments and courses through FSU as well. 

Since President F. Javier Cevallos declared FSU an anti-racist institution, Park Huntington said she is consistently thinking of ways to improve the department’s inclusivity and diversity. 

Even beyond the university, she said she hopes this collection being openly accessible will benefit teachers in the MetroWest K-12 system who are looking to teach non-western European art, but have not previously had the resources.  

Park Huntington added, “It's my major challenge and test - how can I be more anti-racist? How can I be more focused on anti-racist curriculum and de-colonize the way you're thinking?” 

She said the inclusion of these teaching resources may seem small, but said “small recognitions and realizations helps [students] to be more inclusive and ready to be diversified.

 “That is the first step to being anti-racist,” she said.

Carly Paul, communication, media, and performance major

Carly Paul, a communication, media, and performance major, is the student intern for Faculty Fellow Yumi Park Huntington’s digital humanities project creating a digital gallery for the Music and Art Department’s teaching collection of African artifacts.

Paul will be taking the photos for the digital gallery. 

For her, photography is a hobby and she plans to apply to law school following her time at FSU.

She said she has enjoyed photography her entire life with her earliest memory being the practice of lining up her stuffed animals to take their photos with a slide phone.

“It was really low quality, but I kind of recognize now that I was doing something with that,” Paul said.

She said she got her first digital camera in middle school, but did not get serious about the hobby until high school where she took her first photography class and learned both digital and film.

Paul’s photography has appeared in multiple galleries, including FSU’s recent “Juried Student Exhibition” in the Mazmanian Gallery.

She said after taking the Introduction to Black and White Photography course, the professor, Leslie Starobin, heard about the internship and thought Paul would be a good fit.

Park Huntington then reached out to Paul, they had a Zoom meeting, and Paul was chosen as the intern for the Spring 2022 Semester.

Paul said she did not know much about the art at the start of the internship, “but I know it's a lot of West African art, which is very interesting to look at.”

She added, “I'm Haitian, but we came from West Africa ancestrally. So it's kind of nice to know, like, ‘Oh, this is what my people would have been doing.’ So culturally, it has a bit of significance.”

Paul said the digital form of the gallery is important for making these artifacts more accessible to the public.

“Students that might be studying from home doing virtual classes - they still get to experience that,” she added.

Paul said initially upon accepting the internship, she had concerns about where the artifacts had come from. 

“I know sometimes it can be shady, like how certain artifacts came to wherever they are,” she said, explaining that’s been the case in some museums where artifacts “were taken without permission.

“But I'd like to note that she indicated that it was not like that,” Paul said. “There was a private collector that was buying things and then they donated to Framingham State. So it's not anything extra insidious, which I appreciate.”

Paul said working with Park Huntington has been great, adding, “She's very friendly. She's very nice.”

She said given that she works two other jobs, she often does not have time to eat before coming to the internship.

Paul said Park Huntington has provided her with food on those occasions, adding how Park Huntington has a love trying various cultural foods.

She said Park Huntington has stipend for her classes, in which her students are able to purchase food from local cultural restaurants.

“Framingham has a lot of different cultural restaurants like Thai, Brazilian, Japanese - all these things that people would be lucky to have the chance to try,” Paul said. “And usually they can’t just because it's not affordable. So she's making an effort to make that achievable for people, which I appreciate and I know her students must appreciate it.”