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Murphy Hunn

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Hampshire Student Murphy Hunn Bridges History and Craft through Metalworking

We sat down (virtually) with second-year Div II student Murphy Hunn 18F to learn more about his academic work and his proposed Div III project—building a historically accurate suit of metal armor.

Murphy Hunn
Murphy Hunn photograph by Garrett Schoonover

We sat down (virtually) with second-year Div II student Murphy Hunn 18F to learn more about his academic work and his proposed Div III project—building a historically accurate suit of metal armor.

What drew you to Hampshire? And metalworking?

In high school, I got really into history, and then, making armor in my backyard. I didn’t love school, so this was something else to do that was more active than sitting in class, and that's really what brought me to Hampshire. This school really respects craft. They understand that there's work outside of only sitting and thinking. It’s not that those things aren’t important, but Hampshire really values the practice of art as well.

For your Div II project, you designed and built a bascinet. (The term “bascinet” describes a number of helmets used in Europe during the 14th and 15th centuries). Why bascinets?

I think creating armor poses interesting design questions. More than just the craft side of things, it's about building a product that conforms to the human body and needs to afford as much freedom of movement as possible while still offering protection. I feel that with art, I am never done. But with armor, you need it to work. And if it works, it’s complete.

Beyond the craft and art of building the armor, what do you see as the goal of this project?

There isn't a lot of historical documentation on the process of armoring. So I'd like to try and bridge the gap between the academic history and the more craft-oriented side of it. Also, you can't really handle historical objects very often, and especially with arms and armor, there aren’t that many pieces lying around that museums are comfortable with people handling. So, I'd like to make work for museums that are historically accurate and maybe bridge the gap.

What classes and professors have most influenced your work so far?

I've been working closely with applied design professor Donna Cohn. She's my chair, and she is great! I took classes on the craft of history and public history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, both of which heavily influenced my work. I've also been a teaching assistant for a couple of Donna's classes. There are a lot of first-year students who don't have any experience in the metal shop or any of the tools there, and it's been really cool to help the next generation of Hampshire metalwork students learn the craft. And of course, Hampshire’s Center for Design is my favorite place on campus.

Speaking of first-year students, what’s one essential piece of advice you would give to someone new to Hampshire?

Try everything your first year! I tried to take a course in every building on campus to branch out. I'm also a fan of just seeing people around campus. There's so much on campus, more than you’d expect, so you have to explore and poke around to find it all.

bascinet Murphy Hunn bascinet bascinet
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