TCL exhibit offers look at educational collection

The Technical College of the Lowcountry has amassed hundreds of donated objects, ranging from art to furniture to scientific equipment, that the faculty can draw on to help them teach. This collection can help students learn about art, science, history, architecture and a host of other disciplines. Now, the public can learn from it, as well.

The Teaching Collection will be on display Thursday and Friday at the TCL New River Campus in Bluffton. Visitors can see paintings of Argentine artist Calman Shemi, vintage kimono dresses, antique tools and World War I era posters, among other artifacts.

A replica of the father of microbiology Antonie van Leeuwenhoek's first microscope has been used in science classes to give students an idea of how early biologists worked and how far their field has progressed.

The college has spent the past year soliciting donations to the collection, evaluating objects on a case-by-case basis on how it can add to students' educational experience. The college hopes to have 1,000 pieces within the next 1,000 days.

"We're not just looking for quantity, but quality pieces that can round out the collection," said Dianne Garnett, executive director of the TCL Foundation, a nonprofit fundraising organization that supports the college and oversees the collection.

Owners of a local fine arts management company, Larry Heichel and Charles McCracken, are in charge of maintaining and acquiring the pieces. The foundation keeps the collection on campus -- some of it hanging on walls, other pieces stored away.

By gathering the pieces and showcasing them to the public, the foundation can demonstrate what's collected and what's still needed.

"We're very pleased with what we've received," Garnett said. "This is a time to acknowledge those who have given these pieces to us."

McCracken, an accredited appraiser, said the objects can give students insight into a particular era, drawing comparisons from past to present. A collection of chairs may not seem that exciting, but examining them closer can reveal a reflection of the times. For example, the American Streamline office chair from 1939 has a fireproof aluminum design which reflects an interest in practicality and technology at the time, McCracken said.

"We create these objects," he said. "In turn, they define us. They tell us who we are."