Collection of Middle Eastern Artifacts at BVU Available to Check Out

Collection of Middle Eastern Artifacts at BVU Available to Check Out

Collection of Middle Eastern Artifacts at BVU Available to Check Out
Fifth graders from Alta Elementary with artifacts from the Keith Carter Middle Eastern Collection. Foreground from left: Ali Barrera, Josie Henrichs, Gabe Ayala, Estevan Rodriguez. Back: Brooklyn Ridgway, Josie Hansen, Daniel Langner.

A new program has been implemented at Buena Vista University that enables area teachers to check out a select number of artifacts from the Keith Carter Middle Eastern Collection.

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

Dr. Dixee Bartholomew-Feis, dean of the School of Social Science, Philosophy and Religion at BVU, played an instrumental role in developing the program, which is officially referred to as "Experiencing the Middle East and Beyond Through Artifacts:The Keith Carter Collection."

"There are so many stereotypes surrounding the Middle East," says Bartholomew-Feis. "This program is one way to break through those stereotypes. The artifacts within the teaching kit provide a way for children to become better acquainted with the Middle Eastern culture, and to think about a shared humanity across cultures."

Carter spent nearly 30 years teaching elementary students in Libya and Saudi Arabia. Throughout his time abroad, Carter was an avid traveler and began collecting the objects of daily life and hospitality early in his teaching career.

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 children and adult tour groups to visit the museum and encouraged them to pick up and hold the artifacts and ask questions about what they were and where they had come from.

"The check-out program fulfills Keith's philosophy that there are no artifacts that are too precious to be picked up, and in doing so, children develop a deeper appreciation of the artifacts and their origins," says Bartholomew-Feis.

Rory Payne, who teaches fifth grade at Alta Elementary School, was the first instructor to check out the teaching kit and implement the artifacts into the curriculum.

"The artifacts gave students something concrete to look at and touch instead of simply discussing the items," says Payne. "Many students may never travel to these countries, and if they can explore other avenues of studying them other than books, a greater sense of understanding and empathy might develop for people in other cultures."

Several artifacts from the collection made up the pilot kit including a perpetual calendar from India, a wood bowl and funnel from Saudi Arabia used to milk camels, a lunch box from India, a donkey saddle bag from Libya, and a camel saddle from Egypt. Also included were photographs, a CNN video clip about a modern camel dairy farm and the growing popularity of products made with camel's milk, a map of the Middle East, and an informational sheet on camels.

Anne Reiva, a sophomore history major from Sioux City, helped research the items included in the teaching kit. "I tried to find relevant information about the artifacts that would attach a human element to them," she says. "I loved digging around for information on the items and the role they played in the lives of people who owned them. It became a learning experience for me as well as for the children we were making the teaching box for."

In the future, Bartholomew-Feis plans to have multiple teaching kits available to check out and to have a list of artifacts that teachers can choose from to determine which items are included within their kit.

"The idea of seeing something and touching it to see how it works is always better for learners than just reading about it and depending on a teacher's description of it," adds Payne. "For example, my students were fascinated by the brass lunch box from India. They loved taking it apart and figuring out what foods could have gone in each compartment. There is no way a book or a description from me could have come remotely close to teaching them about this than actually taking it apart themselves."