My name is Courtney Tuck, and I graduated from the University of Saskatchewan last spring with a double-honours in History & CMRS. I am currently a graduate student at in the History Department here at the University of Saskatchewan, working with Dr. Angela Kalinowski on my Master’s thesis. My thesis will be looking at the practice of female gladiators in ancient Rome and how they would have been perceived by the spectators and contemporary society as a whole. While working on my undergraduate degree, I gained many research skills that have been a great benefit to me in my current studies. Here are some of the amazing research opportunities I was able to take advantage of during my undergraduate degree.
CMRS 401 – “Medieval Genres: Representing the Past in the Digital Age”
This CMRS capstone course was my introduction to the exciting and burgeoning world of the digital humanities. I learned about new ways to present research in a digital format to reach more people and hopefully create a broader impact. I learned how to use new tools like Omeka, which allows one to create on-line collections and exhibits. I also learned how to create a digital, interactive timeline using Timeline JS. For my CMRS 401 project, I taught myself how to use these tools and chose the theme of Renaissance artworks depicting the Biblical story of Judith and Holofernes. I used Omeka and Timeline JS to find interesting and interactive ways to present these artworks and find new ways to group, organize, and visualise these pieces. As a historian who uses material culture in her research, I knew I would use these tools in the future. It turned out I was right! I am currently using the Omeka platform to create an online catalogue for the Museum of Antiquities at the University of Saskatchewan. The project will soon branch out to include other plaster cast collections from around the world in the hope of being able to foster more communication and collaboration for these types of collections on an international scale. You can access the website I created for CMRS 401 here.
CMRS 402 – “Directed Research” – My Honours Thesis Titled: “The Imago in Public & Private Life: Ancient Roman Ancestor Masks & Their Function During the Republican Period”
This project allowed me the opportunity to explore what writing a thesis in graduate school would be like. It also afforded me the opportunity to explore ancient Roman social history, which I discovered to be my preferred area of concentration. I also honed my skills in working with ancient primary sources, both literary and artefactual. I practiced not only my research, but also my writing skills and had the opportunity to defend my work in front of a committee of faculty members. This was great preparation for my current work as a graduate student. I also ended up working under the supervision of Dr. Kalinowski, and it made me confident that she would be the best choice as an academic supervisor for the next step in my academic journey.
CMRS 403 – “Analysis and Public Exhibition of Cultural Artefacts”
This independent study course allows students to study the process of researching, designing and mounting an exhibit. As someone who hopes to have a future in museum work, I knew this course would be invaluable to me. The title of my exhibit and accompanying research paper was “Poison on the Palatine Hill: Poison during the Julio-Claudian Dynasty of Ancient Rome”. I looked at aspects of both gender and nationality in relation to those who were accused of plotting to poison members of the Imperial family. Murder by poison was particularly rampant during the Julio-Claudian Dynasty, which is why I chose that time period. This project was a massive undertaking, as I chose to include more than six stations within my exhibit. I borrowed coins from a numismatic enthusiast in Alberta with whom the Museum has a relationship; I commissioned a replica bust from my sister who just happens to be an amazing sculptor; I utilized pieces already in the Museum’s collection; and I fabricated both display and interactive pieces to be included as well. The accompanying research paper that went with this exhibit was, again supervised by my current academic supervisor, Dr. Kalinowski.
During the senior year of my undergraduate program, I was fortunate enough to be hired by Dr. Yin Liu to be a part of the SSHRC-funded Medieval Codes Project. Knowledge of the Classical world is always a benefit to any Medievalist, but I did feel as if I was a Classicist moonlighting as a Medievalist. I discovered branching out into a new realm of history was a great challenge for me. I was able to gain experience in accessing textual sources and approaching them in a new way. I was also able to gain more experience in the digital humanities. I learned how important research dissemination can be to a project and how to create and use a blog as a way to publish research findings to engage new types of readers. I also worked as part of a team, which was a great experience.
The Museum of Antiquities
The most impacting experience I gained during my time as an undergraduate was the four years I volunteered and worked at the Museum of Antiquities here at the University of Saskatchewan. During that time I held the positions of Education Coordinator, Community Outreach & Engagement Coordinator, and Assistant Curator. In being allowed to try on many different hats, I was able to find where my passion and talents lay. I was able to feel as though I made a great impact there with my work, and I was able to gain meaningful research, inter-personal, leadership, design and public speaking skills. I also found a supportive mentor in the Museum’s director, Dr. Tracene Harvey. I am currently able to continue my work with the Museum of Antiquities as a graduate student this semester under a graduate research fellowship. The work of this research fellowship is the aforementioned Omeka-based project. During the last four and a half years, the Museum of Antiquities has been my on-campus home away from home and has been the cornerstone of my educational experience at the University of Saskatchewan.
~ Courtney Tuck