Extinction in the Archive / Art + Confrontation in the Americas

Through January, we’re publishing year-in-review highlights from FY2020. Download a full PDF of this year’s Annual Report to read more!

Unexpected Evidence of Extinction in the Archive

Drawings of a lizard, fish, tern, and sea turtle

Materials in the exhibition documented processes of manmade extinction in various ways. Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications.

Students inspired by environmental humanities scholar Adrienne Ghaly’s course “Extinction in Literature and Culture” applied for a Wolfe Undergraduate Fellowship to curate and design an exhibition featuring their investigations into extinction in the Small Special Collections Library. With help from Exhibitions Coordinator Holly Robertson and Curator Molly Schwartzburg, “Extinction in the Archive” went on display in the library’s first floor gallery in fall 2019 and featured documentation of the effects of human activity on the extinction of plant and animal species in unexpected places in archival materials. For example, a menu offering of “stewed pigeons with green peas” at a dinner in honor of Charles Dickens’ visit to America was evidence of how the once-innumerable passenger pigeon was hunted and eaten into extinction. The exhibition also provided the backdrop for a grant-funded symposium, “Burning the Library of Life: Species Extinction and the Humanities.”

Art + Confrontation in the Americas

The Library welcomed an international symposium on “Art and Confrontation in the Americas” for two days of panel discussions on topics as varied as “Creative Interference: Artistic Activism in Times of Crisis” and “A Legacy Unbroken: The Story of Black Charlottesville.” Colombian artist Juan Manuel Echavarria spoke about his featured work, “Silencios,” which began when he photographed a blackboard inside a deserted Colombian schoolhouse with fading but still legible writing, “Lo bonito es estar vivo” (“The beautiful thing is to be alive”). Since then, Echavarria and collaborators have found more than 100 schools abandoned because of Colombia’s decades-long civil war and photographed more than 200 blackboards. The continuing work is part of Echevarria’s commitment to visualizing the invisible, rescuing memory, and trying to recompose the dismembered body of his country.

“Art and Confrontation in the Americas” was supported by units across the University, including the Institute of the Humanities & Global Cultures, the Arts Council, the Center for Global Inquiry & Innovation, the Page Barbour Lecture Series, the Americas Center, and the departments of Art, Religion, and Spanish, Italian & Portuguese. In the Library, the event was supported by Lucie Stylianopoulos and Miguel Valladares-Llata, with significant support from the Event and Finance teams.

Concrete wall with cursive letters a e i and u painted in colors

Image courtesy Juan Manuel Echavarria.

A green-tinted wall is cracked down the center, showing light coming through in the shape of lightening

Image courtesy Juan Manuel Echavarria.

A brightly painted wall with hammock and concrete floor

Image courtesy Juan Manuel Echavarria.

Concrete wall behind large pig. A leafless tree is nearby.

Image courtesy Juan Manuel Echavarria.

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