SEEK Fellow – “Observation Experiment” Exhibition Team
PhD student in the Department of History
Parts of the exhibition “Observation Experiment” were created by a group of doctoral students called the SEEK Fellows. The SEEK (Sharing Expertise and Exploring Knowledge) Fellowship is provided by the Michigan State University Graduate School and its purpose is to help doctoral students discover ways to communicate knowledge to broader audiences.
Learn More About Ramya
Ramya Swayamprakash is originally from India. She grew up in Bombay but says she has no sense of home because the longest she has lived in one place in the last 20 years, is Michigan. Ramya is a doctoral student in the Department of History and studies how dredging in the lower Detroit River between the U.S. Civil War and the end of the Great Depression raised questions about territory, sovereignty, and general discontent amongst Americans and Canadians. In so doing, she shows how this seemingly innocuous process and its product, subaqueous infrastructure, was part of a larger process to dramatically alter the Great Lakes as a whole, thus challenging the trope of the lakes being ‘natural.’
As a historian of the environment, my observations are of the past, often looking for how ideas about nature, estimation, accuracy, and development are embodied in infrastructure creation. As a trained urban designer, I have long observed drawings to try and discern what they can tell us about the people who drew them and ideas they represent.
What interested you in working on the “Observation Experiment” exhibition at the MSU Museum?
I happened to see the call for applications a couple of days before the deadline and thought it sounded fascinating. As an environmental historian, I have long been interested in how human beings interact with the environment and vice-versa. In the last few years I have become more interested in understanding how and when human observe change, especially when thinking about larger geological processes because our only frame of reference is human time. The premise of the Observe exhibition drew me in because I would be able to explore how, when, and why humans observe what they do.
What has been your favorite part of working on the exhibition?
All of it has been such an immense learning experience. I am so grateful for this opportunity. I am really enjoying working on the two exhibits I have proposed because it is helping me get a better sense of the archeological collections on campus as well as the Beal experiment. It has been a dream to work with the MSU Museum. Not only is everyone so knowledgeable, they have all been extremely helpful and supportive.
What do you do in your free time?
I am a single parent in addition to being a grad student, so I don’t know the last time I had some free time. I do enjoy activities with my child now as a means to decompress, like photography, reading, and long walks/hikes. When there isn’t snow on the ground, I enjoy running outdoors.
What is your dream job?
I firmly believe that my scholarship must live in and serve communities. So, in an ideal world, I would like to be in a faculty position where I can bring varied experiences to the classroom and support learners achieve their potential whilst also working closely with local communities to empower and enable them to make better sense of their past. Because unless we do that, I am not sure how we will have a better chance at making a better, more inclusive, and sustainable future.