Show and Tell

By Jan Senn and Doug Foxgrover

Since Carleton was founded in 1866, faculty and staff members have embraced technological advances to incorporate words and images into their teaching. To track our progress, we present here a few vintage objects that Doug Foxgrover, communications and training coordinator, gathered from academic departments for “Showing and Telling Since 1866,” a talk he gave recently for the Perlman Teaching and Learning Center about objects and images professors have used to enhance their teaching.  

“Fortunately, like me, many Carleton faculty members never threw anything away,” says Foxgrover. Although some of the objects are relics of the past, others are still used in campus classrooms—as effective now as they were back in the day.





Object: Map of lower Mississippi River early stream channels

In use at Carleton: 1938 to present
“The geology department was established in the 1930s, and most of the oldest maps we have were purchased in that era,” says Tim Vick, retired technical director in geology, who worked at Carleton from 1975 to 2011.  

Used for: This color map of Mississippi River stream channels, which shows how the river has moved over time (1765–1932), is part of a set that Mary Savina ’72, the Charles L. Denison Professor of Geology, still uses in a geomorphology class. “Students read Mark Twain’s Life on the Mississippi, an account of his career as an apprentice steamboat pilot before the Civil War, traveling between Cairo, Illinois, and New Orleans,” says Savina, who has taught at Carleton since 1978. “We use this map to locate some of the places he talks about and to see the channel changes. These and other maps of varying ages enable us to work out the history of channel change, as well as the history of flood and erosion protection for the past 250 years or so.”

Still in use: “We continue to use old maps, reports, and papers for research and teaching,” says Savina. “In some cases, an old map is the only record of a landscape that’s now gone.”




instant movie projector

Object: Instant movie projector

In use at Carleton: 1966 to 1990s

Used for: This ’60s-era movie projector played an 8 mm film continuous loop cartridge that could be popped in and viewed repeatedly without having to be rewound.

Replaced: “Film loops provided the first convenient way of showing continuous motion over time by means of computer simulations,” says physics professor Bill Titus, who has been at Carleton since 1970 and teaches quantum mechanics, waves, and statistical mechanics courses. “For example, in quantum mechanics you’re interested in things like how a wave moves along an axis and bounces off a barrier. There’s no way you can see that whole effect with a series of still photos; a lot of interesting things are going on in between. Film loops also were a quick way to demonstrate things like water waves without having to set up all the experimental equipment in the classroom. We used film loops into the early 1990s, but they’ve been replaced by YouTube and other online resources.”





Object: Preserved specimen of a marine clam dissection

In use at Carleton: circa 1950 to present

Used for: This specimen has one shell removed to expose the entire animal and is dissected to show 18 internal structures, from mouth to anterior adductor. Retired biology professor Gary Wagenbach, who taught at Carleton from 1969 to 2008, used it in marine biology courses and to teach the biology of invertebrate animals.

Still in use: The biology department has a small collection of plant and animal specimens and models, but “with the advent of reliable systems for viewing live specimens, not to mention digital media, these are used far less than they once were,” says biology lab manager Shawn Galdeen.





In fall 2013 the Perlman Teaching Museum organized a Chalk Slam to acknowledge the original blackboards from the former Northfield Middle School that are still in place in Weitz Center classrooms. Artists and community members filled the boards with drawings, diagrams, and doodles.

Object: Blackboards

In use at Carleton: 1867 to present
Blackboards were introduced to the United States from Europe in 1801. And by 1867, when Carleton’s first classes were taught, most U.S. classrooms had one.

Used for: Before blackboards, teachers wrote problems on each student’s personal slate. Blackboards made it possible for teachers to communicate with everyone at once.

Still in use: Blackboards are found in most campus classrooms, although some have been supplemented with or replaced by whiteboards and monitors.




pea flower

Object: Papier-mâché model of a pea flower

In use at Carleton: circa 1905 to present

Used for: Botanist William Muir, who taught at Carleton from 1957 to 1984, likely used this early-
20th-century model, which comes apart to expose the plant’s reproductive function.

Still in use: Developmental biologist Susan Singer, the Laurence McKinley Gould Professor of the Natural Sciences, at Carleton since 1986, still uses this model in her lab. “Much like Gregor Mendel, students in my lab make crosses between pea plants to understand the genetic basis of flowering,” she says. “Despite the wonders of the digital world, the best way to get acquainted with the parts of the pea flower is to start with this beautiful larger-than-life model.”




biology chart

Object: Chart illustrating nervous tissue

In use at Carleton: circa 1918 to 1980

Used for: Before projectors, charts—which often reflected popular design styles of the period—were popular. This art nouveau–style chart was designed by French scientist and physicist Rémy Perrier and zoologist Casimir Cépède, who produced a series of educational materials in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Replaced: The biology department has about 50 illustrated charts, but “because they’re too fragile to be used regularly, we would only project digital images of them,” says lab manager Shawn Galdeen.

“I used some of the charts in intro labs until about 1980,” says John Tymoczko, the Towsley Professor of Biology, who has taught at Carleton since 1976. “After that, we moved away from strictly observational labs and started to do experimental labs, in which the chart, while useful, was not as important.”





Object: Delineascope and lantern slides

In use at Carleton: circa 1900s to 1950s

lantern slideUsed for: Carleton’s biology department used lantern slides—such as this one of a marginal wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis)—for courses in plant biology. The slides were made from hand-colored black-and-white photographs. In the late 1880s, kerosene-based magic lanterns projected the glass slides; by the first half of the 20th century, they had been replaced by electric glass slide projectors like this Spencer Delineascope.

“The slides are gorgeous and the projectors are quite powerful and bright,” says retired biology professor Gary Wagenbach. Wagenbach never used the slides, but he says botanist Harvey Stork—who taught at Carleton from 1920 to 1955 and helped develop the Arb in the 1920s—likely would have. “Stark had a collection of glass slides of wood and plants from his trips to the tropics and other places,” says Wagenbach.

Replaced: While the biology department has retained a large collection of glass slides and the Delineascope, they are seldom used these days.





Object: Stereoscope and stereographs

In use at Carleton: 2001 to present

Used for: Invented in Europe in the early 1800s, the stereoscope gained widespread use when handheld models were developed in the mid-1800s and became popular family entertainment until motion pictures replaced them in the 1930s.

Still in use: Although we have no evidence that stereoscopes were used in Carleton classes in the 19th or 20th centuries, art professor Linda Rossi uses this 1904 Monarch stereoscope and other early photographic devices today to help students reflect on the history of photographic devices. “The stereoscope’s 3D effect can reveal more information within the landscape photograph and is a strong introduction to Photoshop 3D techniques,” says Rossi, who has taught at Carleton since 2001. “Our culture is dominated by the photographic image, so it’s critical for students to understand how to interpret this ubiquitous influence on our lives.”




Williams Hall

Object: Plaster reproductions

In use at Carleton: 1911 to present

plaster reproductionUsed for: During the early 20th century, plaster reproductions of classical and contemporary statues were used to teach art history. The classics and art history departments owned many reproductions, including this cast of Orpheus, Eurydice, and Hermes made by Florentine master craftsman Pietro Caproni. Caproni made molds directly from masterpieces in European museums during the late 19th century.

Still in use: “I use plaster casts occasionally in my observational drawing and figure drawing classes,” says Dan Bruggeman, senior lecturer in art, at Carleton since 2002. “Live models can only sit for a limited amount of time. Drawing from casts gives students more time to define a full range of tone and shadow, and prepares them to draw more confidently when they encounter the real thing.”


  • August 25 2014 at 12:49 pm
    vicci jaffe

    Such a thoughtful presentation of various collections with a common theme.

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