Dozens of botanical wallcharts found covered in dust and hidden in storage in Martin Science Building have been given new life, thanks to a Randolph College pre-med major’s recently discovered passion for art.
Through an internship with the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College, Lydia Kirchner ’11 used the wallcharts to curate a new exhibition, Nature Perfected: The Art of Botanical Illustration, which opened in January and runs through July 31. “Some people don’t get the chance to do something like this, even in grad school,” Kirchner said. “It is a phenomenal opportunity.”
Kirchner decided to become a doctor when she was a child. Studying biology at Randolph was a natural fit. On a whim, she added an introductory art class during her first year because it fit into her schedule. That class sparked an interest that grew slowly during her college career. She has added an art history minor and plans to apply to graduate school for museum studies before entering medical school. “I never thought that an Art 101 class would lead me in this direction,” Kirchner said. “The interdisciplinary aspect of classes here is powerful. It’s helped me look at science and art through different perspectives. You start to see connections.”
The internship provided Kirchner with the chance to be in charge of her own exhibit—and merge her passions for biology and art. The wallcharts and prints featured in her exhibit were once used as teaching aids by science professors. The collection found in Martin Science Building was developed by Jung-Koch-Quentell in the 19th century and features nearly 40 beautifully illustrated botanical charts that are fabric-backed with wooden scroll endings. With the help of professors and staff members, Kirchner worked to clean and prepare the charts for exhibition. She also conducted research on the wallcharts and decided how the collection would be displayed.
While she was developing her skills and knowledge, Kirchner was also learning about herself, said Andrea Campbell, a Randolph art history professor. “Lydia is realizing that she not only loves art, science, and museum work, but I believe she has discovered a passion for research that leads to sharing new information with the public,” Campbell said. “Finding their passion and discovering how it relates to museum work is exactly the kind of outcome we hope the museum internships will have for our students.”
The experience has opened a whole new world to Kirchner, who is exploring ways she can use an art background in the medical field. “I had always looked at art as having this magical aspect to it, and science was more proven and theoretical,” she said. “I thought they were opposites. These wallcharts are examples of why that’s not true. Now, I understand that artists and scientists have a lot in common. You are looking at the same thing, but from a different perspective.”