Protest: UT Exhibit Highlights History

. July 30, 2019.

Six social justice movements and their local connections

Though current protest movements have largely moved off of college campuses and into the streets, that hasn’t stopped the University of Toledo Ward M. Canaday Center from returning protests to the University in their new exhibit “Protest: Activism and Social Change, 1845-2015.”

The new exhibit explores six significant social justice movements, including women’s rights, civil rights, disability rights, labor rights, student protest, and LGBTQ rights, through a wide range of materials, all from the University of Toledo archives.

Curator and University Archivist, Sara Mouch, states that the exhibit began when librarians realized the amount of material that the UT libraries had regarding these protest movements.

Combined with the fact that protest has been “very prevalent” with “so many marches in the last few years,” the revelation led Mouch and University librarians to choose the topic. Lauren White, manuscripts librarian, describes that they also chose to explore how protest has occurred not only through “public marches and protests,” but also “through art and writing, through service and scholarship.” “We tried to show that marches are not the only way,” says Mouch. The exhibit is “a little bit more visceral” and “less scholarly” than previous exhibits at the Canaday Center, and Mouch hopes that this will lead to more engagement by students and the public. The engagement is evident on a comment board outside the exhibi, filled with post-it notes from exhibit goers.

Social justice through a Toledo Lens

“We do try to emphasize the local side because that’s what we’re here for,” says Mouch and a lot of the material is locally based, showing the important role the Toledo community has played in the various movements. Librarian Tamara Jones says that the local material regarding disability rights “helps the public at large realize that Toledo played a major role in the treatment of mental illness” and “was a pioneer in getting away from the ward system that housed the ‘insane’, a term previously used to describe individuals with mental health issues.”

The exhibit shows photographs from the Toledo Auto-Lite strike of 1934, which left two workers dead. There are handwritten signs by the local chapter of Students for a Democratic Society protesting the Vietnam War, one of which reads “You can’t kill us all,” in response to the Kent State shootings. We learn that black student protests on UT’s campus after the shooting deaths of two black students at Jackson State College in 1970 just ten days after Kent State led to the establishment of the Black Studies program on campus. There are brochures from David’s House, which provided help for people living with AIDS in Toledo from 1988 to 2004. There are old newspaper articles about the Toledo Fair Housing Center, which, according to Jones, “was (one of) the first of its kind.”

Accompanying the exhibit is a wonderful full-color 54 page, free catalog, which includes images of the materials in the exhibit as well as six essays written by Jones, Mouch, and White detailing each of the six movements.

One idea Mouch wants people to take from the exhibit is that everyone can have a voice, and that voice is important regardless of who the injustice impacts: “It may not affect you directly in your day to day life but there are things going on that could impact you” and what really matters is that “it impacts somebody.” Jones wants people to leave with a feeling of deja vu, noting that “We are fighting all of these fights all over again and they will never be over.”

On view through December 16.
8:30am-4:30pm, Monday-Friday.
Ward M. Canaday Center,
on the fifth floor of the Carlson Library.

2801 W. Bancroft St.
419-530-4480 | | Free