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ECU to open "Gallery Without Walls" on Internet

(July 14, 1997)   —   One of the most extensive collections of African art in the Southeastern United States has found its way to East Carolina University, thanks to a gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.

Among plans for the collection is the creation of a "gallery without walls," an interactive display that will provide access to the art objects via the Internet, according to Michael Dorsey, the dean of the School of Art.

The collection -- numbering nearly 1,000 items -- consists primarily of functional and ceremonial pieces from the western and southern regions of Africa. Unique examples of fetish figures and a rare type of double-faced helmet mask/headdress are part of the collection, along with ceremonial masks, animal headdresses, figures, weapons and instruments.

The quality of the pieces is exceptional," said Dorsey. "This collection is the quality of one that you would see in the Smithsonian."

Dorsey said the donor decided to give the sizable collection to ECU after seeing how the university handled the African art donated by Dr. James W. Lankton, a Winston-Salem physician, in 1995. Lankton's 150 -piece collection is from the Kuba kingdom in central Zaire.

"As with the Lankton collection, we plan to use these pieces to teach, to further our curriculum," Dorsey said. "This isn't just about art. We want people to be able to learn more about African culture -- the region's history, societal issues, even music -- from these art objects."

In order to teach as many people as possible, and to bring the school's two extensive African art collections together for viewing and study, Dorsey and his colleagues devised the gallery without walls in cooperation with the university's Computing and Information Systems office.

W. Wayne Godwin, a School of Art faculty member who teaches computer-aided design, will direct the gallery without walls. Plans for this interactive exhibit include rotating objects and information screens targeted to different views.

"In this way, we can attract an elementary school students and an African art scholars to the same exhibit. They can each 'click on' what they're interested in," Dorsey said.

Dorsey said this collection and the gallery without walls will create new opportunities for ECU, art patrons and scholars. "The possibilities only start with this exhibit.


 


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