Column #2, Final Draft: Student Research

Last Thursday I was surprised to find myself more excited than nervous to talk in front of an audience. Student Research day at UNK had finally arrived; the day I had been preparing for, for over a year.

The title of my research project was, Restoring The Native American Spirit. My Great-Grandpa photographed Native Americans across Nebraska over 75 years ago. The photos were then stored by my Grandpa who took it upon himself to publish a book of the photos titled, Camera Man, Picture Woman.

When I heard about the Student Research Fellowship at UNK, I thought it would be a great opportunity to restore the photos. For as old as the photos were, I knew they  needed to be digitally rephotographed and restored. They had been water damaged, torn, scratched, and had become discolored over time.

I was accepted to be part of Student Research last year. My Grandpa and I were both so thrilled.

I took on the task of restoring the photos. The process was time consuming, but the final outcome was well worth it.

Sadly, my Grandpa passed away on January 7, 2013 and wasn’t able to see the final outcome of my research. He would have been so proud to see what had become of the original photos. With his passing, this project took on a much deeper meaning to me. I found it hard to work on the photos, knowing he wouldn’t get to see them when they were finished.

But I did it anyway. For him.

As I waited outside the room where I’d be presenting my research soon, I remember telling my mom, “I’m more excited than I am nervous.”

This was unusual for me. I’m not one to enjoy talking in front of large groups of people, but today seemed different. I was proud and excited to share my work with other people. I knew I was doing it for my Grandpa and Great-Grandpa and that made it all worth-while.

What else was unusual about that day was that two of the prints I had ordered were not supposed to be in for a few more days, but I received an email that morning saying they had arrived.

Just in time for my presentation.

I rushed to go pick them up, anxiously awaiting to see how they turned out. As I opened the box, I got tears in my eyes. The prints were beautiful. I felt like my Grandpa had a hand in their delivery that day. It was so perfect for them to arrive just in time for my presentation.

I displayed them at the front of the room so everyone could see them. I felt so proud to see the final 5 prints I had made all standing in a row. What’s more, these were not just small prints. I had them mounted on 16×20” mounting boards, which made them look even more attractive.

There is so much left to do with this project and many more photos I would like to restore. I plan to re-apply to be a part of Student Research for the next two semesters I have left before I graduate.

Applying for Student Research was one of the best decisions I made while being a student at UNK. It was good to be a part of something that meant a lot to me. I also gained a better knowledge of how to restore photos as well as the history of the photos and the Native Americans of Nebraska.

I’m proud of myself and I know my Grandpa and Great-Grandpa would be too.

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