“Haviland’s Girls: From Wayward to Womanly” is the title of a history display created by Adrian College students under the direction of Ray Lennard, local historian.
The display, which opened April 24 at the Adrian Mall in the former Fashion Bug location, tells the story of the Adrian Training School. Students completed the project as part of an experimental course, “History on Display,” which Lennard teaches.
Lennard, curator of the Thompson House Museum in Hudson and an AC graduate, said part of the class involved “the practice and procedure of putting together a display.” The training school was chosen in part, he said, because it had been recently acquired by the city of Adrian and there has been quite a bit of discussion on what it might be used for in the future.
‘This has only scratched the surface,” Lennard said. “There are lots of stories out there.”
One of the goals of the project, he said, was to encourage students to put their own stamp on the story. The 13 students went through local records, photographs, and even went to the state archives to learn more about the historic site. They toured the grounds and buildings to document the layout and study the architecture, all to make the display as authentic and historically correct as possible. Senior John Lang said he enjoyed learning about the training school. A resident since kindergarten, Lang commented that he didn’t know ATS existed.
“I had never even heard of the Adrian Training School and it was pretty much in my backyard,” he said. “Learning the history of the school and about the daily lives of these girls and boys was a very enjoyable experience.”
The students were invited to express their own creativity in accomplishing their goal to tell the story in a visual manner. The research and resulting display took most of the spring semester.
“It was something we made our own,” said Juliann Heidt, a senior Spanish major. “The local library was a good resource and finding pictures was easy, but some of the state records were sealed and statistics were hard to get.”
The project gave the students hands-on experience with making an exhibit, finding and researching “primary sources” and learning how to contact those sources, all skills museum curators would consider important.
“It’s a good experience if you want to do museum work, if it’s what you want to do,” said junior Adam Meier.
Several former employees of ATS were on hand for the premiere of the exhibit Thursday. Among them was Marilyn Hill, who worked there for 33 years in a variety of areas, including program manager and youth residential manager.
“It’s a wonderful that they did the research on this,” Hill said. “It’s a huge part of our community and an important part of history. It’s interesting to see what Ray Lennard has and what they were able to come up with.”
Margaret Beach, whose husband, Jack, spent 26 years teaching at ATS, was happy to have the chance to look at the photos and diagrams and read the history as told by the AC students.
“We have gotten some very positive feedback from the community,” said Tyler Josz, a senior at AC. “These people are full of stories.”
The exhibit will remain on display through May.