First offered at Colby College in 2014-2015, this humanities and civic engagement lab explores the complex relationship between human migration and photography. In addition to engaging with current scholarship on the subject, students have worked with photographs in Special Collections at Miller Library, the Waterville Historical Society, and the Colby College Museum of Art.
In the spring of 2015, students co-curated an exhibition of historical photographs at Special Collections that engaged with Maine’s immigration history, and specifically Waterville’s Franco-American community, attracting the attention of the local press and area residents. This led several Waterville families to donate their personal photograph collections to Colby—the very first collections of their kind at the college. In the spring of 2017, the class conducted research on those family photograph collections and presented it to the public. They also helped run a large-scale community event at the Waterville Public Library in which local residents were invited to digitize their family photographs on site and share their migration stories on video. You can learn more about that photo-sharing event by watching this video documentary created by Colby faculty member Erin Murphy.
Sponsored by Colby’s Center for the Arts and Humanities, humanities labs are innovative courses that promote experiential learning. They include hands-on observation, experimentation, and skill-building perspectives more commonly associated with the natural sciences. The civic engagement program at Colby also sponsors courses like “Photography and Migration,” which integrate community-based fieldwork.