Mari Sandoz exhibit on East Campus through Sept. 7

"Crafting a Nebraskan Character" shows until Sept. 7 on the 2nd floor of the Human Sciences Building on East Campus.

Mari Sandoz exhibit on East Campus through Sept. 7

24 May 2018     By Brad Stauffer

An exhibition of historical clothing and other personal items once owned by Nebraska author Mari Sandoz is available for viewing through Sept. 7 on the second floor of the Human Sciences Building on East Campus at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. “Mari Sandoz: Crafting a Nebraskan Character” is hosted by the Department of Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design in the College of Education and Human Sciences and is a partnership between the students of the TMFD graduate seminar, “Museums: Theory and Practice,” and the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society.
Sandoz is recognized as one of the foremost writers on the American West, focusing on pioneer life and the Plains Indians. Her blunt and realistic descriptions of frontier life shocked many readers in the 1930s. Sandoz used her character development skills to fashion her own persona, carefully constructing an identity to enhance her position as a serious researcher and writer. Dying her hair red, lying about her age and erasing a divorce from her life history were all part of building her identity as a writer. Fashion choice was another tool she used to craft her character.

“She has a fairly distinctive sense of style,” said Claire Nicholas, assistant professor in Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design. “For example, she loved the color brown. Through analysis and study of the objects from the Society’s collection, our students were able to find clues about the person. Her letters were also helpful in informing our interpretation of the garments and other objects that we studied.”

For students in the seminar, the project was a unique, hands-on learning experience to research, design and install an exhibition of historical objects. It was an opportunity to collaborate with a real-world organization to create a product that matters to the public. Heritage Society board member Jamison Wyatt worked closely with the class to access the collection, locate valuable resources, and construct the overarching theme of the exhibition. The Society also supported the exhibition in the form of the Mari Sandoz Research Award.
Students also learned more about an iconic Nebraska woman who paved the way for other women.

“In that time period, women had to fight hard to be taken seriously,” said Katie Francisco, a TMFD graduate student who participated in the project. “As a writer, she turned herself into a character, using her writing skills to build her persona. That was very cool.”

The exhibit is available for viewing by the public from 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for holidays, through Sept. 7.

Crafting a Nebraskan Character coincides with a series of special events hosted by the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society June 4-15, culminating with the dedication of a historical marker at 4 p.m., June 15 on the Lincoln Mall (1226 J Street). The marker commemorates the location where Sandoz wrote “Old Jules,” her first published novel. Information on this event and others is available at

College of Education and Human Sciences
Textiles, Merchandising & Fashion Design