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Collection of Middle Eastern Artifacts Finds Home at BVU

Collection of Middle Eastern Artifacts Finds Home at BVU

Collection of Middle Eastern Artifacts Finds Home at BVU

Buena Vista University will hold a reception celebrating the Keith Carter Middle Eastern Collection from 2 - 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26 in the Art Gallery located in the Social Sciences and Art Hall.

The collection will be on exhibit in the Art Gallery from Jan. 22 - Feb. 23. A large part of the collection is also on permanent display throughout the Social Sciences and Art Hall.

The eclectic collection came to BVU in 2010. Featuring over 200 artifacts from the Middle East and around the world - including Libya, Malaysia, Bali, Kenya and India - it was donated by the late educator and philanthropist, Keith Carter of Newell.

Carter spent nearly 30 years teaching elementary students in Libya and Saudi Arabia. While abroad, Carter spent his days developing his own understanding of the countries in which he worked and traveled. Very early in his teaching career, Carter began collecting the objects of daily life and hospitality. Carter's extensive collection of artifacts at BVU includes coffee and water serving pots from Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria; an ashtray from India; rugs from Pakistan; brass giraffes sculpted from the spent shells of World War II from North Africa; and various other etchings, paintings, prints and textiles.

According to Tom and Doris Mohr of Ames, who met Carter while also teaching in Libya, Carter enjoyed sharing his findings and travel experiences with his students and colleagues.

"Keith was an avid traveler, but an educator first," says Tom. "He wanted everyone to have an appetite for world knowledge. All of the items Keith collected were representative of a particular region of the world, and he instilled into his students the importance of travel and learning about other countries and their cultures."

Upon his retirement in 1993, Carter brought his collection of artifacts back to Newell where he converted the top floor of his home into a museum known as the Keith Carter Arab Heritage House. Continuing with his dedication to education, Carter welcomed hundreds of school children and adult tour groups to visit the museum. He encouraged them to pick up and hold the artifacts, ask questions about what they were and where they had come from, and what the people there were like. Carter asked that visitors set aside their preconceived notions of others, Middle Easterners in particular, to look beyond political or religious divisions.

"There wasn't anything in Keith's collection that was too precious for children to pick up," says Doris. "He wanted nothing more than for students to learn the history behind each of his artifacts."

It was during Carter's retirement that he also began frequently visiting BVU and attending Academic and Cultural Events Series (ACES) events. In fall 2010, the process of donating his artifacts to BVU - in which Carter played an active role - began.

"Keith's artifacts are lucky to have found BVU because the people there are so interested in his collection and are able to perpetuate Keith's wishes pertaining to his collection," adds Doris, who was also a co-executor of Carter's estate. "Keith's artifacts are in good hands, and I know he would appreciate all that BVU has done with his collection."

In addition to giving a portion of his artifacts to BVU, Carter also donated pieces of the collection to the University of Northern Iowa, the Newell Historical Society, the Newell Public Library, and Luther College. Keith also supported the missions of the Buena Vista County Historical Society, the Newell Good Samaritan Center, the Newell-Fonda High School, Newell churches, and his alma mater, the University of Dubuque.