Curator Molly Schwartzburg Discusses Opening “100 Objects” Exhibition as History Erupts On-Grounds

In a Washington Post article about the Library’s bicentennial exhibition, “The University of Virginia in 100 Objects,” Special Collections curator Molly Schwartzburg talks about the challenges of delving into UVA’s past 200 years at a time when white supremacists were adding a new chapter to University history.

The change in atmosphere on-Gorunds, Schwartzburg says, was palpable after white supremacists had paraded around the Lawn on the night of August 11, wielding torches and chanting racist slogans.  “The university’s entire history has shifted after that event … I felt it happen.” When the exhibition opened after being delayed for security reasons, Schwartzburg “felt like these things didn’t mean the same thing—and the bicentennial didn’t mean the same things it meant on Aug. 10.”

A charred cross from the Library’s collection—set ablaze in 1956 in the yard of a faculty member’s wife who was an active supporter of school integration—was to go on display in the exhibition. However, with the community in shock after the demonstrations and ensuing violence, a decision was made to leave the case empty with an accompanying explanation and images of the counterprotests.

After the torchlight march, several people contacted Schwartzburg and asked that torches discarded by the racists be added to the Library’s collection—to become as much a part of UVA’s history as the charred cross.

Read more about the Library’s exhibition “The University of Virginia in 100 Objects: A Bicentennial exhibition celebrating the history of the University” in the article “As U-Va. marks its bicentennial, a collection of objects tells its complicated history” (Washington Post, 10/6/2017).

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