MIHumanities Neighborhoods: Visiting our Partners in Lansing

by | May 17, 2023 | Blog, Blog: General Humanities

Michigan Humanities started monthly blog posts at the end of 2020 as a way to connect with our community while our programming and events moved to a virtual format. The monthly blog was coordinated by Jennifer Sierra, Michigan Humanities’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator, who is writing to you now. Through these blogs, we’re able to learn more about the work of our partners in their own communities and neighborhoods. We want to continue to uplift the work of our partners and shed a brighter light into their neighborhoods. We have created a new blog series called “MIHumanities Neighborhoods” where we hope to highlight different towns and neighborhoods in Michigan providing a glimpse into how the humanities are experienced across our state.

Our first featured location is Lansing, Michigan’s Capital City! Michigan Humanities’ staff took a field trip in April to visit two humanities sites with current programming and events open to the public. It can be rare that we can go out as a team to visit partners, so that in itself is a reason to celebrate!

We first visited the Sounds of Religion exhibit at the MSU Museum. This exhibit is free and open to the public through June, 2023. In this Smithsonian exhibition, participants can listen to different sound recordings belonging to diverse religions and religious gatherings in the U.S. while encouraging the listener to encounter and connect with what religion can sound like in this country. This is done through interactive QR codes that allow visitors to animate sounds of religion away from specific religious settings and expectations. The only expectation is to listen.

We found this exhibit to be such a calming and humbling way to connect with differences embodied in this country. While some of us had never experienced drumming sessions at an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Timket celebration or participated in a Shabbat, we were able to acknowledge and create proximity with these celebrations, events, and demonstrations. And, just to add to this reflective experience, we were lucky to be joined by groups of pre-school aged children attending the exhibit and visiting the museum with their teachers! We were inspired to see how Michigan children are already experiencing the humanities and engaging with big humanities questions like how to interact and value differences in our everyday lives.

The second site we visited was By the Yard, a panoramic photography exhibit at the Library of Michigan. We were lucky to have Bill Castanier, the president of the Historical Society of Greater Lansing and Karla Barber, both co-curators of the exhibit, guide us through the more than 50 panoramic photographs showcased in the exhibit. Jacob McCormick is also a co-curator of the exhibit, but unfortunately we were not able to meet him that day. The panoramic photographs available in the exhibit helped us historicize our state. The exhibit reminds us how technologies are such powerful tools for creating narratives of time, place, and people. Through the exhibit we realized how little credit we give to panoramic technologies today. As Bill told us, panoramic cameras constituted a revolutionary and very popular technology in the 1900s-1940s, much ingenuity and skill went into taking these photographs. As well, access to this technology and the printed photographs acted as signifiers of wealth and power given their price and capacity for depicting prosperity. This exhibit is welcoming visitors until the first week of June. Michigan Humanities also hopes to bring this exhibit to different neighborhoods in our state soon.

We thank you for engaging with this recount and hope to bring you many more!

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