By Katherine McClellan
If you walk into the Carroll Science Building on the Baylor campus between now and Dec. 14, 2018, you’ll likely notice some new display cases on the left side of the lobby. Inside the cases are nine different typewriters, in excellent condition, manufactured between the years 1908 and 2017. All but one of the machines are owned by senior professional writing major Gillian Colvin of Dallas.
Colvin, who is also pursuing a minor in museum studies, is seeking to build bridges between Baylor’s Mayborn Museum and the Baylor campus.
“I often find that students either don’t know what the Mayborn Museum is or they’re not too interested in it,” Colvin said. “Part of the Mayborn’s strategic goal is to have a more widespread on-campus presence. I wanted to help facilitate that as a sort of liaison between campus and the Mayborn.”
About a year ago, Colvin had the idea for a typewriter exhibition. She believed that an on-campus “pop-up” exhibit — an exhibit that is temporary and usually smaller and less formal than a typical museum exhibit — was just what the Mayborn needed to begin to make inroads with students.
As a museum studies minor, Colvin spends a lot of time at the Mayborn. The museum’s director, Charles Walter, is Colvin’s mentor and has encouraged her to see her dream of a typewriter exhibition come to fruition. Because of their relationship, Colvin felt comfortable enough pitching her vision to Walter and the Mayborn’s managers of facilities and exhibits.
“[Walter] really has been my biggest cheerleader in creating this exhibit,” Colvin said. “He said, ‘Whatever you want to do, we’ll make it happen. If this is your dream, we’ll help you do it.’”
Colvin knew that any questions she had she could take to Walter and his team at the Mayborn.
“When I have questions or when I’m confused about something,” Colvin said, “I can email Mr. Walter, and he’ll help me, or he’ll direct me to someone who can help me.” With the Mayborn’s generosity, Colvin obtained display cases for her artifacts, and her exhibit, titled “Typewriter Truths,” was born.
The exhibit now on display is a labor of love, and is primarily self-created. Colvin arranged the typewriters in the cases, added supplemental materials such as photos, books and vintage paper products, wrote explanatory text for each typewriter and then created graphics to display the text. In some cases, her text describing a certain machine appears as a typed piece of paper emerging from its roller.
“One day I decided I wanted one,” Colvin said. “I didn’t start out thinking I would turn one typewriter into a collection of typewriters.” She looked for her first typewriter for about a year with no success.
“I finally found one in Colorado last Thanksgiving break in this dusty antique shop. After I bought that one, I thought, ‘It’d be really cool to have another one, and another one, and another one,’” she said.
Colvin studies each of her typewriters intently. She observes how they’ve changed over time, researches the different brands, and notes the different shapes and weights and how these details affect the machines. Her desire is to preserve the past, and Colvin seeks out these historical machines, eager to tap into their histories.
“Typewriter Truths” will be on display in the Carroll Science Building during normal building hours until Dec. 14, 2018. For more information on the exhibit, visit the Typewriter Truths website.
UPDATE: The Baylor Lariat has now done a video news report on the Typewriter Truths exhibit that features an interview with Gillian Colvin.
All photos by Katherine McClellan, copyright 2018