Topics: College of Sciences and Humanities, Immersive Learning

January 29, 2015

Ball State student working to create a new museum exhibit at the Carnegie Museum

Visitors to the Carnegie Museum of Montgomery County in Crawfordsville will soon learn that a small Indiana community once resembled a factory town that produced large amounts of wool, thanks to a new exhibit created by Ball State University students.

For the last year, student teams have worked on various projects. One team excavated the site of Yount’s Woolen Mill and Boarding House for five weeks last summer in present-day Yountsville, and a second team interpreted the artifacts for five weeks following the dig. A third team produced exhibit panels to interpret the information.

Yount’s Mill was a major employer in the middle and late 1800s. The community of immigrants from the British Isles brought their textile skills with them and worked in an industrial town similar to other factory towns in the United States at that time. The German owners of the factory brought their technical skills to western Indiana to create a community where entire families could be employed.

The exhibit was produced through an immersive learning experience under the direction of anthropology professor Mark Groover and history professor Ronald Morris.

"The students did some really interesting work to explore the common people who were at this site," Morris said. "The people who came here were similar to other immigrants of the time who worked in mill towns, but these people did not just pass through the community. They stayed to raise their families.

"It is interesting to see how families and single people made a life in Yountsville until those types of jobs disappeared. Once the jobs were gone, people who had spent most of their lives here left the county forever."

The exhibit panels show visitors the history of the mill and the era of its existence. In the video, viewers learn how students conducted their research. And artifacts from the era allow visitors see both textiles made in the factory and furniture similar to what would have been in the boarding house.

Morris said the exhibit tells the age-old story of industries dying off or opening new technologically advanced facilities, causing highly skilled workers to follow the jobs while aging physical plants and empty towns are left behind.

The project was supported by a Ball State Provost Immersive Learning Grant and completed in cooperation with the university's Building Better Communities Fellows.

Other projects created by immersive learning classes under Morris’ direction include the Battle of Perryville Phone App (2014), Indiana State Parks Phone App (2013), and Traces and Trails: Intersections of Wayne County" (2004).