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Arts & Culture

MTSU Student Wins Award for ‘Cornerstone of the Community’ Project

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With museum professionals looking on, an MTSU student has captured a statewide honor for her work on a museum project.

Graduate student Erica Bettross won an Award of Commendation for Best Educational Programming at the 2015 Tennessee Association of Museums Conference March 18 in Jackson, Tennessee.

Bettross created the educational materials for a project titled “Cornerstone of the Community,” an exhibit chronicling the history of the current location of Murfreesboro’s Center for the Arts.

“I was just so happy and proud of Erica for winning this award,” said Brenden Martin, an MTSU history professor who teaches museum studies within the Public History Program.

With donated artifacts from the public, Martin’s “Essentials of Museum Management” class created the exhibit and assembled it on the center’s first floor.

Bettross’ educational materials included manuals for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to use to obtain badges while visiting the center. The manuals, which feature lists of needed supplies and instructions on how to earn the badges, are available at the center.

In addition, Bettross designed a Trivial Pursuit-style scavenger hunt in which participants answered history-themed questions at several historic sites in the downtown area. By taking a required photo at each site, the knowledge acquired from answering the questions would become more ingrained.

“That was my attempt to keep our local community members who are invested in history coming in but also to reach a unique market with the tourists who want to explore the downtown,” Bettross said.

“The scavenger hunt also creates a larger historical awareness of other places in downtown, and that is one of the things I thought was very impressive about her work,” said Martin.

The lot at 110 W. College St. went through several incarnations, including a livery stable and a carpentry shop, until the federal government bought it for $1 in 1907 and built the post office, the city’s first federal building.

The post office was converted into the public library in 1963. After the library moved to its current downtown location, the building opened as The Center for the Arts in 1995.

Initially, Bettross, who wants a career as a museum educator, was reluctant to submit an award entry because she felt her contribution was just one small part of a larger project.

“To know that the educational components added that much to the exhibit really reminded me that nothing is too small for an exhibit,” Bettross said. “Every little detail can add and create a new experience for a visitor.”