When she becomes a Muskie alumna this year, Heather Giffen is proud to leave behind a significant piece of her work for her predecessors and future students to enjoy and learn from.
During the summer Giffen, a senior international affairs major at Muskingum College, worked with fellow Muskingum student Ryan Worbs and associate history professor Bil Kerrigan on a pictorial history book that has become close to their hearts.
Their efforts are showcased in "Muskingum College," a book that was released by Arcadia Publishing. This is one of the many editions in the Campus History Series detailing the backgrounds of colleges and universities across the country.
"I'm the fifth generation (in my family) to attend Muskingum College, and I have a deep history with the institution and the town," Giffen said. "This was meaningful to research. Now that I'm a graduating senior, it means even more."
The project began last January when Worbs, now a junior history major, started digging into the school's archives. By March he said he felt confident he and his colleagues had enough materials to put a book together.
Kerrigan had experiences in similar projects; he helped write the "Cambridge" history book and also worked with students on a "Salt Fork State Park" pictorial history book.
"At first I was reluctant (to take this on) because I had a lot on my plate; but these two students who I was approached by are very motivated and bright, and I knew they could do a good job," Kerrigan said. "We were able to get a summer fellowship (the Muskingum College Summer Muskie Fellow program), and things just fell together well. We started during the spring semester, and the students searched photos, scanned them, researched and put in long days throughout the summer organizing the book. We sent it out to the publisher at the end of the summer and got proofs back in October."
While Giffen credits Kerrigan for allowing them to have access to materials students wouldn't normally get to see, Kerrigan wanted to step out of the limelight.
"I tried to give them guidance, direction and suggestions," he said. "I let it be their project; they did the bulk of the work. I want to showcase the students as much as possible; they took the lead in this project and put a lot of hours and work into it."
"Working with him was great," Giffen said. "He just let us go and explore and talk to whoever."
Both Giffen and Worbs deeply appreciate the educational experience and being able to delve into the history of their school.
"I don't think undergrads usually get to work on projects like this, and Professor Kerrigan just let us loose," Worbs said. "We spent eight hours a day, five days a week scanning photos and piecing together the history. This was a neat opportunity, especially for me as a history major to have something published."
"I was surprised about the kinds of famous people who have walked these hills like former President (Warren G.) Harding, the impact of William Rainey Harper and the fact that a former college president met with Anwar Sadat is amazing," Giffen added.
All of the authors said putting together a pictorial history book rather than simply a text-filled book was a special way to unearth and share the background of one of Ohio's oldest private colleges.
"About 30 years ago a written history book was put out, but a pictorial history is a unique, engaging way to tell the history of the college through images," Worbs said.
"Some of the pictures we found were in such disrepair that we weren't able to use them," he continued. "But we were able to use a really striking photo, perhaps the oldest one of the college, we're estimating was taken in 1896. I'm happy we could save the image and use it in the book. Originally it was on a tiny card measuring one inch by one inch, but we were able to blow it up to share. I'm pleased with how everything turned out, and I hope Muskingum College alumni and friends appreciate it."
Kerrigan said he was also eager to delve deeper into what made Muskingum College the school it is today.
"One great thing about pictorial history is it's all around the country - in dusty file cabinets and drawers, there's a treasure trove," he said. "I think it's important to culture those and find the best images - to bring them out into the open and get them out of the dusty filing cabinets. This was a wonderful project and I'm proud of it. I think this is the best book we've done."