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Image from U of M Archives & Special Collections.

A university belongs to its students

May 26, 2015 — 

A new exhibition of images representing over 100 years of campus life will make you reconsider the history of the U of M in terms of the student experience. Co-curated by U of M librarian Kyle Feenstra and library assistant Margaret Janczak, with assistance of U of M Archives & Special Collections, the exhibit is divided into three timeframes — all subtitled A Visual History of the Student Experience. You can visit these rare photographs, publications and artifacts from Archives & Special Collections on the main floor of Elizabeth Dafoe Library.

Students at the Fort Garry campus’s Manitoba Agricultural College and Home Economics buildings, erected in the early 1900s; medical students watching as a cadaver is dissected below in an operating theatre at the Bannatyne campus; photos of U of M recruits training to serve in the First and Second World Wars — and the fallen; increasingly politically-aware students listening to a young David Suzuki speaking at the annual Festival of Life and Learning in the new University Centre, added during the 1970s: these are just a few of the fascinating images on display.

 

The First Forty Years

 

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Between Two Wars

 

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Showcasing the student experience spanning from the university’s conception to the 1980s, the exhibit structure is based on the well-known J.M. Bumstead book, The University of Manitoba: An Illustrated History, notes Feenstra. “The exhibit features photos from three major periods university history: from the formation of the founding colleges to the First World War, the inter-war period, and the establishment of a modern institution. Each series of images invites you to explore how campus life has changed over the years, and how the student experience has been affected by external forces.”

Not only does the exhibit shed light on changing realities of the student experience, it also highlights the breadth of U of M archival materials.

Says Feenstra, who is also the history liaison librarian for Elizabeth Dafoe Library, “We have really great archival collections up on the third floor, but unfortunately it’s not a space that many students visit. We are hoping that the exhibit will encourage more students to use and explore the archives.

Part of the idea with A Visual History of the Student Experience, he notes, was to bring the Archives collections down to the students.

 

Building the Modern Institution

 

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“We decided to focus on the student experience because [students] are an essential part of the university itself, but also because the displays are in the library, which is packed with students most of the time. We see Dafoe Library as a place on campus where students can feel comfortable to study and meet with their friends. I think that is important.

“We also felt it was valuable to give students the opportunity to see how things have changed in their institution and allow them to have the opportunity to reflect on the place where they study, their relationship to it, and how students in the past have had similar or different experiences.”

The exhibition may be remounted in the fall with opportunities for student engagement, he adds.

 

A Visual History of the Student Experience has been curated by Kyle Feenstra and Margaret Janczak, with assistance of University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections. The exhibit will be on display until June 16, 2015.

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