ComArtSci and MSU Museum Elevate Honors Option with Fusion of PR and History

The Department of Advertising + Public Relations at Michigan State University, in collaboration with the MSU Museum, is proud to announce its continued collaboration on an Honors Option project for undergraduate students during the Spring 2024 semester. Similar to the Honors Option offered in Spring 2023 where students inventoried the extensive Wineberg Packaging collection, this semester’s project for the PR 260 (Principles of Public Relations) course blended learning about public relations with museum exhibition work and historical materials preservation, offering students a hands-on educational experience.A class of college students at the MSU Museum assisting with collections items in a turn of the century general store.

Leading this initiative are Dr. Ed Timke, Assistant Professor in Advertising + PR, and Lynne Swanson, Collections Manager of Cultural Collections at the MSU Museum. They guided five Honors students—Ainsleigh Kubicki, Ella Mott, Tatum Fettig, Maisie Dufour, and Megan Mato—in the meaningful task of helping decommission the Crossroads General Store Exhibit, which has been a fixture of the MSU Museum since the 1960s.

These Honors College students undertook the responsibility of photographing, cataloging, sorting, and packing up many of the exhibit’s artifacts. Their efforts helped determine which items would be retained by the Museum’s Cultural Collections and which would be sent to other units on campus for teaching, research, and exhibition purposes. This process not only deepened the students’ understanding of museum exhibitions and the history of advertising, but it also allowed them to apply and enhance their public relations skills by brainstorming strategies on how to communicate the significance of material culture studies of advertising and consumerism. Below are quotes from students about what they learned from this experience as well as how they see this Honors Option helping them in their personal and professional development.

Collaborative Honors Option projects like this provide a comprehensive platform for students to immerse themselves in material culture and preservation while honing their public relations and outreach capabilities. Additionally, this work highlights the importance of storytelling and preservation in both historical and contemporary settings, equipping students for various career avenues.

As Dr. Timke continues to conduct research in material culture, he will keep collaborating with the MSU Museum to deliver experiential learning opportunities for students to see how various disciplines can come together to preserve and share histories of advertising and public relations.
Dr. Ed Timke


Ainsleigh Kubicki
What I’ve learned: One really interesting thing I learned about during this honors option is how different medicine and other supplies were years ago compared to now. For example, there was white led paint stored in the museum that may be illegal now, but was perfectly legal years ago. Or, there were certain medicines that were thought to treat diseases back then, but have now been disproven.

A fun item: During this honors option, I saw tons of incredibly interesting packaging designs. Especially concerning metal tea boxes. The designs tended to be very bright, fun, and intricate. As a graphic design minor, it was interesting to see the differences in how product packages are designed today vs years ago.

How this honors option is different from other honors options: This honors option has been incredibly different than my other ones. Normal ones include essays, slide shows, and projects; but this honors option has been interactive and fun!

How this honors option will help us in the future: This honors option has helped me to further look for the little details in objects, has helped me to gain new skills to organize and catalog more efficiently, and has helped me to connect different faucets of public relations to real life scenarios.

Ella Mott

  1. With this H option I learned a lot about museums and the preservation of historical items. I learned how much care it takes to handle these items and the great amounts of history behind each and every item. I also learned how much time and dedication it takes to run a museum like this one. I even learned a lot about the importance of preserving historical items and learning a lot from them.
  2. An item that I found specifically interesting and think it would be very interesting to share is the old medicine that is on display here. I found it so interesting to see how much we have developed in the medical field since then. Some of the things being sold as medicine are mind blowing to me knowing what we know today.
  3. This honors option is definitely very different than the other h options i’ve done. It is very interactive and much more exciting and interesting than simply writing a paper or doing a project. I feel like a learned a lot more being hands on with the museum and all of the items we’ve worked with than if I had just written a paper about it.
  4. I will definitely use this h option in the future. Its interesting that helping at a museum and PR actually go hand in hand quite well. As someone who will use PR on my career this is definitely a learning experience for me how I can incorporate PR into things that I didn’t expect. It shows how Pr is everywhere and in everything. I also now value the importance of organizing and preservation much more.

Tatum Fettig

  1. This experience taught me a lot about preservation of historic materials. I really enjoyed getting to visit the central services building where the MSU Museum keeps a lot of collections. I also thought it was interesting how well kept the items were in the central services building, where they keep the rooms at a specific temperature and humidity for preservation.
  2. I think the most interesting items were items that were from Michigan. I enjoyed seeing things that were produced in places like Battle Creek and Grand Rapids, and things that had Michigan or great lakes on the packaging. I also was interested by the different types of medicine we encountered. Seeing these items for ailments I’ve never heard of demonstrated how much the pharmaceutical industry has changed over time.
  3. I really enjoyed doing this honors option. It was great to do something different from writing an essay, and getting to work with my peers each week. We had the opportunity to learn a lot from Lynne, who works at the museum, about historic material preservation, cataloguing items, and the different museum exhibitions.
  4. I enjoyed getting to learn about how to promote museums and historic materials through Public Relations. I also learned a lot about preservation and museum systems. This project also helped me to develop my organization and communication skills, because we had to make sure we were always on the same page as a group in order to work efficiently.

Maisie Dufour (Public Relations Major, Business Minor)
Over the past few weeks looking at different items in the MSU museum general store collection I found it extremely interesting how packaging has changed since the items in the store were really for sale. I loved looking at familiar brands and how they’ve changed from then to now. 

My personal favorite item was a tin of lip balm that the brand actually still uses the same packaging to this day.

In the past for honors options I’ve done papers and slide shows and this is the first time I’ve done a hands on project and actually worked face to face with my classmates and my professor so this was interesting in the sense that I actually interacted with others and also because I got to go into the MSU museum.

It would be awesome for the museum to advertise more around campus what they have going on and what different exhibits and experiences could be used to play into research and honors options similar to this one.

Megan Mato (Marketing Major)
-Through this project I learned a lot about how museums work and operate. I did not know about the cataloging system for items that are not on display anymore or about the building where all of the old items are stored. 

-My favorite item I saw was a tube of ointment. It was in really good condition and had a cool orange floral wrapper. It looked like something you would find in a store today.

-This H option was really fun and hands on. I enjoyed being able to look through all of these products and see what products they were using back in the 1960s.

-Going into the future, this experience has taught me a lot about organization and documentation. I will be able to use these skills to make sure that any projects I take on in the future are well planned out and properly documented.


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