Visual media has become quite popular in the past decade with the development of smartphones and various social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Children and teenagers are quickly finding their way around the digital world. As a young college woman herself, Dean Holly Baumgartner found her way around the visual world after one visit to a flea market helped her to find a passion for old cameras.
“I think I was in my late teens, probably a freshman in college, and I had been at some massive flea market that some friends had dragged me to, and there was this old camera for five bucks,” Baumgartner said. “And I was like, ‘what can you do with that; you can’t use it, but it was really cool!”
“So I bought it, and then every time I saw an old camera, I would pick it up,” Baumgartner said.
“And then people found out that I like old cameras, and then people started donating their old cameras to me, and so now I have old cameras, stereoscopes, View-master viewers, even the talking View-master viewers.”
Dr. Holly Baumgartner, now The Getty College of Arts and Sciences Dean at Ohio Northern University, began to pick up old cameras whenever she found them. Eventually, friends began to donate their own cameras to her, contributing to the collection that is partially displayed in her office.
Her fascination with cameras stems from her own view on “perception and what we think of as the real or the authentic.”
“Cameras are slippery,” Baumgartner said. “I think anything where you’re view- ing something through another medium; I think they open up a different horizon and how to see and interpret the world.”
The Dean also alludes to the ancient Greeks adage: a picture is worth a thousand words.
“It’s just as true today with all the social media platforms–visual media–because people can share more than they can write by sharing a picture,” she said.
Baumgartner said her collection can represent this adage; however, she thinks of pictures as a “different kind of text,” calling visual text “potent.”
Only a small portion of her camera collection is displayed in her office in Dukes. Other nooks and crannies are filled with action figures and superhero collectibles.
The Dean’s collection of super- hero figures can be traced back
to her love for science fiction and fantasy writing. She said she liked how “[superheroes] represent all that is best and all that is worst in humanity.”
“They’re kind of safe spaces to question and to test our boundary,” she said. “I truly believe science fiction drives science, so we imagine in science fiction way ahead, and science strives to make it so.”
Baumgartner also appreciates how female superheroes can em- power young women.
“The first three Star Wars movies were a revelation at the time; although the stories, the mythologies, are so much older than that. I just loved being a kid and seeing this princess that the boys are going to liberate from prison and then she ends up saving them.”
Students enrolled in The Getty College of Arts and Sciences come from a variety of majors and minors and a variety of cultural backgrounds. Dr. Baumgartner’s love for old cameras and super- heroes shows she has a variety of passions and interests.
One day, Baumgartner hopes to have cleaned up many files that currently sit on her shelves and leave little room for cameras to be displayed. Her desk is covered with paperwork—just one of the many “perks” of being a dean. But she hopes students aren’t discouraged and instead stop by to visit and view her collections. She is always willing to meet with students.
“I will always be wading through paperwork,” Baumgartner said. “I think people are getting more comfortable with the way it is now. It’s a little messier than it’s been in the past. That’s who I am. I’m putting my stamp on it.”