New exhibits at Wallace Library explore the fight for women’s right to vote and RIT’s past

Museum Studies student-created exhibits to retrace RIT history




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Sara May

Associate Archivist Jody Sidlauskas (left), RIT student Taylor Carpenter (center) and Associate Professor Juilee Decker are among those who helped create the new exhibit “The Stories They Tell” on display on the first floor of Wallace Library.

Three new exhibits at Rochester Institute of Technology’s Wallace Library explore historical artifacts from the university’s past as well as women’s fight for the right to vote in New York state. Two of the exhibits were curated by RIT Museum Studies students with support from the RIT Archives staff for their Cultural Informatics course taught by Associate Professor Juilee Decker. The third exhibit is a traveling collection touring throughout the region.

RIT Libraries will host an opening reception for all three exhibits from 3-5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16. The event is free and open to the public and light refreshments will be provided.

The exhibits on display include:

  • “The Stories They Tell” (1st floor), cultivated from the RIT Archive Collections and the RIT/NTID Deaf Studies Archive, shares information about the lives of RIT community members through documents, photographs, yearbooks, memorabilia and other items. This marks the fourth consecutive year the Museum Studies program has collaborated with the RIT Archives to create the exhibit.
  • “Because of Women Like Her” (2nd floor, Sunken Gallery) was created by the Rochester Regional Library Council to celebrate New York’s woman suffrage centennial. Featuring artifacts from Rochester’s cultural and educational institutions, the exhibition explores the role Rochesterians played in the women’s rights and woman suffrage movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries. A companion digital exhibit is available to view online, highlighting the contributions of figures from Kate Gleason to Haudenosaunee matriarchs.
  • SpiRITed (3rd floor, RIT Museum) traces the history of how school spirit has been displayed at RIT from the earliest days of the Mechanics Institute to modern times. RIT students taking the Cultural Informatics course researched, selected and designed the exhibit, which features vintage photographs, archival documents and memorabilia.

“I hope that from the exhibit, people are able to learn more about the history of some of the things that make RIT so great,” said Lizzy Carr, a second-year student from Northport, N.Y, with a double major in museum studies and digital humanities and social sciences. Carr was one of the students who helped curate the “SpiRITed” exhibit. “There’s a really interesting history to a lot of things we take for granted today, like the RIT Pep Band, RITchie, and the graphic mark, and it’s a shame that more people don’t know more about these parts of our school’s history.”

Taylor Carpenter, a second-year student from Westford, Mass. majoring in museum studies, helped create a portion of “The Stories They Tell.” She found working on the portion focused on Llenis Hillman, who attended RIT’s predecessor the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute (RAMI) from 1938 to 1940, to be an eye-opening experience.

“I personally got a glimpse into what college was like for someone 80 years ago,” said Carpenter. “Dr. Decker and I joked about how Llenis and I have a connection, as I found her to be very similar to myself, and it was fun trying to piece together her time at RAMI from the relatively small collection we have about her. I really used her experiences and photographs in conjunction with the project I’m doing for another class, Oral History, to get a great picture of what life was like for students who attended the downtown campus, and how they really didn’t have it all that different from us.”

Those interested in attending the opening reception are encouraged to RSVP at https://www.facebook.com/events/130194224413073/.