Located right next to the Liberty Hall Museum is one of the newer installments to Kean University: the Liberty Hall Academic Center. The new academic center is the new home for Kean's Department of History on campus.
Built over the summer of 2019, students and faculty can now utilize research centers, archives, exhibits and classrooms specifically for history. Elizabeth Hyde, Ph.D., the department chair for the Department of History, says the space is exactly what the history department needed.
"[The building] is the realization of a concept that we've developed in the last two to three years, to provide the setting for the kind of teaching that we do here in the history department," Hyde said. "We encourage our undergraduate students to do original, primary source research in their courses."
A feature of the building that distinguishes Kean's history department from most undergraduate history programs in the state, is that Liberty Hall incorporates the academic, classroom space with archival space, where undergraduates can get a first hand look at the primary resources available to them.
"Students are getting to explore 18th, 19th, 20th century documents as they are learning about the past," said Hyde. "...[Students are] learning how to do critical thinking and analysis of a data set in historical documents to figure out what they can teach us about the past, and this building allows us to do that."
Additionally, a gallery exhibition space is located on the first floor of the building. Currently the exhibit displayed is Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, which explores the founding of the nation, of Kean University and of Liberty Hall. It uses documents from the Liberty Hall Museum, the Kean University archives and even the New Jersey state archives.
"The exhibitions will be rotating," said Hyde, "but this was the inaugural exhibit for the opening of the building."
The space is a means for both students and museum spectators to take advantage of accessible exhibits and historical artifacts. In this way, students and the community can find themselves surrounded by the history of the Kean family and the Livingston family, who lived in what is now Kean's Liberty Hall Museum.
Before Liberty Hall Academic Center was built, the Department of History used to be in Willis Hall, which is no longer a building on campus. After that, Townsend Hall housed the Department of History before finally relocating to Liberty Hall.
"What really is special about the building is that we can combine the archives with the classroom space, on a historic location," said Hyde.
For more information on on the Liberty Hall Museum call (908) 527-0400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.