Written by Donna M. Bickford, Associate Director in the Office for Undergraduate Research
On April 29, I had the opportunity to attend part of the Ackland Art Museum’s Spring 2015 Student Showcase. The showcase highlighted work done by students in classes that used the Ackland’s collections as well as presentations from Ackland undergraduate interns.
Two students from the class presented. Claire Drysdale was interested in the relationship between magic and medicine in the modern era. She looked at a particular pocket watch in the Ackland’s collection. The Swiss-made watch is decorated with Koranic text and symbols. According to Drysdale, the protective qualities of the watch, which served as a talisman, derive from the Koranic scriptures inscribed on the watch. The owner of this watch was a wealthy, educated 19th century Indian man, leading Drysdale to hypothesize that traditional practices of magic coexisted with Western scientific practices at the time.
Allen Tirado looked at North African devotional book. The book is a Guide to Blessings and a collection of prayers to Muhammad. Interestingly enough, he discovered that there are two very similar books at UNC – one in the Ackland’s collection (circa 1769) and one in the rare books collection at Wilson Library (circa 1853). He examined at the differences and similarities between these handmade books, noting the extensive use of gold leaf in the illustrated manuscripts.
It was very exciting to see students in this first-year seminar present the results of their original research projects.