Student takes part in curating Wallace Center exhibit

Student Spotlight
Claire Popoli, third-year museum studies major

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“The Stories They Tell” exhibit is currently on display in The Wallace Center.

Claire Popoli, a third-year museum studies student, was one of a handful of students who helped to curate “The Stories They Tell” exhibition in collaboration with RIT Archive Collections. Away from the classroom, Popoli, from Rochester, N.Y., enjoys spending time with her pets, practicing her ceramics skills and compulsively rearranging her apartment.

“The Stories They Tell” is on display on the first floor of The Wallace Center through fall of 2017.

Question: What brought you to RIT?
Answer: RIT is actually the third college that I've attended. I spent a few years after high school at an art school in San Francisco and then came home and started taking classes at Monroe Community College. I learned about their 2+2 program with RIT, and it seemed like a good fit.

Q: What factors led to your decision to major in museum studies?
A: The program here seemed to be really practical and versatile. As I mentioned, I studied at an art school for three years before realizing that I didn't want to be a traditional artist but would still love to have a career that would allow me to be close to art.

Q: What is your favorite part about working with RIT Archive Collections?
A: I think that my favorite part is the very fact that I actually get to work with the Archives as a student. It’s not just having access to do my own research but also the fact that as a museum studies major, I am able to participate in curating exhibitions that engage the public.

Q: What is the concept behind “The Stories They Tell,” and when did you begin working on it?
A: I began working on the exhibition in the fall of 2016 as part of Juilee Decker’s cultural informatics class. The cases that my fellow classmates and I curated are actually the third installment of an ongoing exhibition, which features alumni who have left their marks at RIT.

Q: What was your specific contribution to the exhibit, and how long did it take for it to come together?
A: I curated a case about an incredible woman named June Johnson. June was a star athlete on RIT’s fencing team in the late ’50s and was the first woman to be inducted into RIT’s Sports Hall of Fame in the 1970s! The process itself was pretty fast, I think it took around six weeks.

Q: Why is this exhibit important to RIT, and how did this experience help shape your interests in museum studies?
A: The experience opened my eyes to the possibility of becoming an archivist. I found the process of interpreting materials and curating an exhibit that tells a story other people can draw connections with to be really rewarding. I think that “The Stories They Tell” is an important exhibit because it amplifies some of the many microhistories of our university. It makes a point to honor RIT alumni who have helped shape the community and culture here, as well as in the real world.

Q: What are your plans following your graduation from RIT?
A: Right after graduation, I hope to move straight on to graduate school for library and information science. I’ll hopefully end up someplace that is warm year round.

Lauren Peace compiles “Student Spotlight” for University News. Contact her at with suggestions.