Professor builds exhibit in historic downtown Hillsdale

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Fincher started the project as a hobby during the pandemic.
College student | Sean Callaghan

Assistant Professor of Classics Joshua Fincher worked hard to recreate an 1890 Hillsdale miniature model.

“A model is what allows people to see what was there and see everything together,” he said.

The story of the miniature display began with Fincher hunting for a hobby in December 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said he wanted something different from teaching the classics, but which also included his love for 19th century architecture.

“It was something that felt like fun and it was a way for me to learn more about Hillsdale,” he said.

Fincher also said he wanted the project to help educate and inform people about the city’s architectural history.

“The model provides the opportunity to present Hillsdale in a way that people can interact with when a large party is gone,” he said.

Hillsdale Historical Society member Joanne Miller also garnered a lot of attention when it was exhibited at the county fair.

As for the interest that the village generated at the fair, I can say it was a wonderful draw, ”Miller said in an email. “In three dimensions, he brought to life many images that people had seen of old Hillsdale. Many visitors glanced past the storefront, then stopped dead and spent quite a bit of time finding specific buildings. We can’t wait to see how much he added next summer. ”

Fincher contrasted the difference in which the model presents the architectural history of the city compared to the photographs.

“Historical information on architecture is conveyed through photographs and photographs are generally limited in what they represent,” he said. “You might see a building or two buildings. It’s hard for people to get an idea of ​​how all the buildings in a block interact with each other.

Fincher said he wanted the model to give a full view of the city, rather than a 2D view as seen in most photographs. Only a handful of the original buildings from 1890 remain today, he said.

Fincher gave the example of HJ Gelzer’s current furniture store, which was originally an opera house with two other floors before their eventual demolition.

“Small buildings are just as important as main buildings in thinking about how a city or an architectural ensemble works together,” said Fincher.

The project also offers a different kind of challenge for Fincher who spends his weekends working on the model.

“It’s a different way of thinking. It still makes sense, it’s still complex, but it’s fun. You have to solve and use geometry, ”he said. “You have to think well in advance about how you are going to build a certain building. ”

In addition to Fincher’s desire to educate, he also wants the model to be an inspiration to locals and students, he said.

“I really hope that the people who own these buildings or who live here hopefully take pride in them, fix them and try to restore the decorative elements that have been lost,” he said.

Mitchell Research Center volunteer Carol Lackey said she also appreciates Fincher’s work, given her extensive knowledge of the city’s architecture.

“Her attention to detail, as well as her enthusiasm is indeed eye-catching,” she said in an email. “Its ability to build on such a small but precise scale is fascinating! “

Lackey also said she liked the way the project provides an opportunity for both the college and the city to work together.

“I believe that this project contributes to bringing the college and the city closer! said Laquais.


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