D.H. Hill Jr. Library celebrates 100 years of women attending NC State with the exhibit Dare and Do! Women's History at NC State. The exhibit was first unveiled in December and is expected to remain in the library’s exhibit space through the end of 2023.
Dare and Do! focuses on the accomplishments of women at NC State, from women’s presence on campus before Lucille Thomson, the first full-time female student who enrolled in 1921, to current female faculty, staff and students leaving their mark today.
The exhibit was curated by members of the University Libraries staff, including Kelly Arnold, a graduate student in public history, who compiled much of the exhibit’s primary sources from the University Archives. Arnold said her goal was to include as much information as possible about a wide variety of women.
“We didn't want it just to be the big names like Katherine Stinson and Mary Yarborough, who have things on campus already named after them,” Arnold said. “We wanted to include them, but we also really focused on making sure that women were included who weren't necessarily major firsts or major donors to the school. A lot of that came with photographs and oral histories and stuff like that, but also some smaller bios that I did to equally highlight those women.”
Henry Stover, a fourth-year studying art and design, was responsible for the design and layout of the exhibit. He said his intention was to make the exhibit different from previous ones done to celebrate women at NC State by using sources obtained by Arnold that haven’t previously been displayed.
“If there was a lot of material in the archives that Kelly found a lot of, like of one person who has all this stuff in the archives and we haven't talked about them, then we put that out there,” Stover said. “As the library's exhibit, we should show what's in the archives, that's sort of what makes our exhibit, we're the people telling that story so we should use the resources that we have.”
The 15 exhibit cases are primarily divided into categories such as “Student Government and Activism” and “Women in WWII.” In addition to short biographies, photos and primary sources, many of the cases also contain QR codes to scan, leading to more information relevant to the corresponding category. Some of this online information includes oral histories, which Arnold said were vital to her research.
“Oral histories played such a big role in all the research that I did; it would have been fantastic to actually have some of those playing,” Arnold said. “They have a lot of really good information and some stuff is just shocking. … Both from early students like Katherine Stinson, who was told ‘Girls don't do engineering’ and ‘Girls don't go here,’ ... but even stuff like Jackie Gonzalez talking about wanting to get ‘Dixie’ out of the alma mater in 2018, she had some pretty terrible stuff said to her for leading that charge.”
According to Arnold, one of the biggest challenges of making the exhibit was paring down information but also not wanting to leave too many women out.
“It was definitely something that was a little difficult to balance,” Arnold said. “I think I personally was of the opinion of, ‘Let's just put more in’ because I think even just the idea that there was this overwhelming history, I just think that's valuable in and of itself.”
Though there was a wealth of information for more well-known women, Stover also said it was difficult to find sources on NC State’s less-documented female figures.
“There were a lot of people that we just don't have photographs of and I wish that we did,” Stover said. “It's interesting how much history just isn't really there. There are some people who have a little bio about them, and it's like ‘This person sounds really important,’ and then you go to the archive website and there are no pictures.”
Stover, who also worked on the previous library exhibit for Technician’s 100th anniversary, said the layout is different from the timeline done previously partly due to the lack of information available on certain decades. However, he also said the different categories allow viewers to more easily learn about women whose interests fit their own.
“We wanted to have a lot of women from different backgrounds, different achievements,” Stover said. “Women in STEM are often recognized a lot lately and that's great, but we shouldn't not recognize women in humanities and other things even though they've traditionally been there more often already, those are still big achievements. … There's all kinds of people on campus and you're more likely to find somebody that you'll connect to personally with a larger sample of women included in the exhibit.”
According to Arnold, an accompanying Dare and Do!website is supposed to be up and running in March. Students can currently contribute to this website by submitting information on women they feel have played a significant role at NC State. The web form for these submissions can be found using the QR code on the exhibit’s “Breaking Barriers” case.
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