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Students Developing Early Stages Of ‘Penn State Museum’ Concept

The history of Penn State is perhaps more prominent now than ever before, as demonstrated by this semester’s inaugural Penn State History course offering. The Nittany Valley Society is currently working with BlueWhiteTV on a documentary about The Phyrst to commemorate its 50-year anniversary. And a few student leaders are working on concepts for a Penn State Museum they hope to see to fruition.

Junior Nick Karafilis is leading the charge for his Penn State Museum brainchild. Over the past few months, he’s recruited a team of eight other passionate Penn Staters to help develop the idea. With no shortage of accolades himself, Karafilis recruited students from other organizations he’s involved in, from Lion Ambassadors to Thespians to UPUA and within the Schreyer Honors College.

“I had just completed my first semester in Lion Ambassadors, we cleaned out our Singing Lions closet which had lots of old pictures and whatnot in it, I was in the process of applying to an internship at the Smithsonian Institution, and I was watching a lot of American Pickers on the history channel,” Karafilis said. “Needless to say, I had history on the brain. And once [the Penn State Museum concept] popped into my head, I reached out to a small group of friends and personal advisers and they were all very enthusiastic and intrigued by the idea.”

Eventually, the group would like to sponsor a brick-and-mortar Penn State Museum “solely dedicated to the collection, conservation, and display of artifacts related to Penn State’s history.” But those working on the project realize this is a lofty goal and one that’ll take years of work alongside the Penn State community to accomplish.

Their priority for this school year is to become a registered organization through Student Affairs and to organize Display Days to showcase pop-up exhibits coinciding with other university events. They also plan to begin collecting artifacts and mementos to grow the museum’s collection.

“As the Disney Imagineers say, we’re in the “blue sky” phase right now: Anything is possible, but it’s only the very beginning,” Karafilis emphasized. “I’m confident that we’ll be able to convince and work alongside Penn State entities and the university community to see the benefit of uniting our individual resources and pieces of history into a consolidated place that tells a complete story.”

To help get the project off the ground, they’ve created a Kickstarter campaign to fund the Penn State Museum. At time of publishing, the campaign had received $160 of its $300 starting goal, with 25 days left to donate.

“As Penn State students, we know pride when we see it — and we hope that our passion for the rich history and culture of our university is enough to encourage you to invest in preserving our shared experiences,” the campaign reads. “WE ARE Penn State, and it’s time we show the world — in real, tangible places and relics — what that truly means.”

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About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa was the managing editor of Onward State from 2017-2019. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.

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