SFA advanced photography students produced panoramic photos of the "Cornerstones of the Community: African American History in Eastern Texas," exhibit at the Stone Fort Museum. The images will allow visitors with disabilities to view photos of the second-floor exhibits downstairs.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas - A class of advanced photography students at Stephen F. Austin State University recently had the opportunity to practice their professional skills by photographing a current exhibit at the Stone Fort Museum located on campus.

The exhibit, "Cornerstones of the Community: African American History in Eastern Texas," showcases five years of research and effort gathering information concerning the African American community in Nacogdoches prior to 1900. Artifacts, collections and identifying objects such as quilts and tools are showcased throughout the museum on both the first and second floors.

The exhibit is designed to further visitors' understanding of African American roles in the development of the East Texas region by exemplifying the universal desire for freedom, faith and family.

To make the exhibit accessible to all museum visitors, including those with disabilities who may not be able to view the historic structure's second-floor displays, the advanced photography class documented the exhibit to help create an informative multimedia presentation. The presentation comprises a digital images and panoramic views of each room containing exhibit installations. Displayed on a large flat-screen TV located in the entry room of the museum, the visual presentation is about five minutes long and provides a virtual tour of each room.

A notebook containing detailed written descriptions also is provided, giving museum visitors access to the same information available for viewing on the second floor.

Carolyn Spears, museum director, said the presentation created by the students helped present the exhibit in a new way.

"The students' contributions have provided me, for the first time, panoramic images that present each room as a whole unit," Spears said, adding she is pleased the museum helped provide SFA students experience in their designated fields of study.

"We really have a lot of things we need to accomplish. To do that takes time, energy and talent. Our students are a great fit for that."

The project allowed the students involved a break from typical classroom instruction, as the assignment took about four class meetings to complete.

Josh Hart, a senior photojournalism major, was one of the students who photographed the various rooms of the exhibit.

"It was a great experience," Hart said. "It helped us grow professionally as students because we were working with a real deadline. It was different from anything we'd done before."

Greg Patterson, instructor of the participating photography class and lecturer in the SFA Department of Mass Communication, said he was pleased to lead his students in a new direction of learning.

"It's great for our students to realize that the skills they have are important and can add value to other people's lives," Patterson said. "This project allowed them to use their skills for a great purpose outside the classroom."

The exhibit, as well as the multimedia presentation, will be available for viewing through the end of May.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Further information can be found online at www.sfasu.edu/stonefort.