University Hall, the first building at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is the main focus of a new exhibit recently opened by University Libraries.
The exhibit, called “The Heart of Campus,” is part of the university’s N150 celebrations and will be open through the end of 2019. Traci Robison, the libraries’ photographs and exhibits specialist, said the exhibit was inspired by a model of University Hall that the class of 1897 gifted to the university in 1949.
Until recently, UNL’s Facilities Maintenance and Operations housed the piece. Now, the model is displayed in Love Library South Room S218, where the rest of the exhibit also sits. Robison said she chose S218 as the exhibit’s location because many students frequent the room as a study place.
“[I was] focusing a lot on the student experience around University Hall,” she said. “I wanted to make it something that would be interesting for [students] to compare their experience with experience of students in the past.”
Robison said she tried to pick out parts of history that were educational but also interesting.
“I like to think of kind of a slice of life,” she said. “… think, that was just one moment in 1894 that we can look back on.”
Erin Colonna, the libraries’ graphic designer, put together a timeline in the hallway outside S218 to supplement the exhibit. She said she took information from a timeline on the university’s website, as well as from a book of UNL history by Kay Logan-Peters, the libraries’ digital arts coordinator.
Colonna said she included photos from the library’s history, as well as of student experiences, history of campus buildings and other large university milestones.
“I think people connect with images,” she said. “Not to say that you can’t talk about it and still pull something from that, but different people are connected differently. Since I'm such a visual person, I wanted to have that up on the wall.”
Robison said viewers only have so long to absorb the exhibit’s information. She said compared to text, people can get a lot from an image in a short period of time. Colonna said if students want more information about any one date, they can visit Archives and Special Collections in the basement of Love Library South.
“It went through probably five or six iterations before we got to where it is now,” she said. “Part of the challenge was there was so much information and how to organize it. I can only work with so much money to put it up as well. And then on top of it, how do you make it visually interesting?”
Colonna said the timeline is still evolving because the archives do not have as much documentation for recent events. Robison said they are always looking for photo and artifact donations from student groups so they can continue documenting UNL’s history.
In addition to the displays, the libraries will continue their talk series “The History and Future of the Libraries” throughout next fall. Archives is also tweeting historic photos and information daily on its Twitter account throughout 2019 as part of the #N150Tour.
Robison and Colonna agreed it’s important for the UNL community to know its history and be able to connect with it.
“How is that similar today, but how much has it changed?” Robison said. “I think anyone can connect to history in that way. I find the human part of history so interesting, that experience. And that's something everyone has.”