War and activism clash in WOU exhibits

The diverse nature of conflict and rebellion is on display at two of Western Oregon University’s Hamersly Library art exhibit spaces for several weeks.

The Boycott exhibit is housed in the second floor and the Great War display is on the third floor of the building.

Jerrie Lee Parpart, the library’s archives and exhibits coordinator, said the two exhibits further the university’s mission of broadening student exposure to different forms of art and history and to inspire discussion.

“Boycott!” is subtitled, “Posters from Historical & Contemporary Boycott Movements” and consists of 58 historical signs representing social, political and consumer boycotts against various companies, countries, organizations and persons.

“Both of them (the WOU installations) are poster exhibits,” Parpart said. The Boycott posters were ones used for economic boycotts against entities such as city transit company of Montgomery, Alabama; Del Monte, WalMart and Nike corporations — even the state of Colorado.

The six-week traveling exhibit, she said, is sponsored by the American Friends (Quaker) Service Committee, who, Parpart said, has “a strong tradition of being the social watchdog for the world.”

The “Reverberations of the Great War” exhibit was chosen in part to mark the 100th anniversary last year of the beginning of World War I. The exhibit, sponsored by the Library of Congress, will be in place on the third floor of the Hamersly Library through March 20.

“We own this exhibit,” Parpart said. “There are about 16 posters on different topics related to World War I.”

The Library of Congress posters offer information about various aspects of the war and contemporary life during the conflict, broken up into “units” explaining events such as, “The Assassination at Sarajevo,” “New Ways to Make War” and “A World Restructured by War.”

Featured are photos of some of the era’s iconic writers such as William Butler Yeats, Ernest Hemingway and Wilfred Owen, along with excerpts of their stories and poems of the war.

Parpart said the war exhibit was augmented with historical objects from the collection of WOU professors Henry and Chloë Hughes. The Hugheses donated for the exhibit a field utility bag, a German Iron Cross medal, an (unused) German Victory Chalice and other items from their grandfathers’ World War I-era collections.

Reproductions of “The Soldier’s Norm,” the yearbook published at Oregon Normal College (WOU) during the Great War years, are also on display.

Parpart said continuing to produce such exhibits is a challenge, though the goal of exhibits on each floor of the library three times each year (for a total of 12 per year) has been met on a regular basis.

“The exhibits have a bit of funding,” she said, “but archives are completely by donation. In terms of upkeep or preservation, we have no funding for that.”

Geoff Parks is a freelance writer. Reach him at (503) 510-7392 or gaparks@comcast.net

If you go

Both exhbits are at the Hamersly Library at Western Oregon University, 345 N. Monmouth Ave., Monmouth.

“Boycott! The Art of Economic Activism”; second-floor gallery; through mid-February.

Reverberations of the Great War; third-floor galleries; through March.


Statesman Journal
by Geoff Parks