Occasionally, a museum has the opportunity to bring its exhibits to life.
This was the case for the University Museum in Sutton Hall on the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus Monday when one of the individuals featured in the current exhibition joined the project director for a tour of it.
Barbara Hafer, Indiana resident and long-time Pennsylvania political figure, joined Patricia Ulbrich, the In Sisterhood and Building Bridges project director, for a reception and guided tour of the project.
The reception and tour was sponsored by the Federation of Democratic Women.
The In Sisterhood and Building Bridges exhibition features 39 men and women who helped contribute to the western Pennsylvania civil and women’s rights movements.
The exhibition is sponsored by the IUP Women’s Studies program and runs through March 15.
“It’s just exciting to have representation of the women’s movement on campus,” said Bill Double, exhibit coordinator for IUP, “and it’s been supported by the university women’s organization here. We’re thrilled to be able to house it.”
Hafer, who originally started her career as a nurse and created one of the first rape response centers in the nation in the 1960s, walked with Ulbrich through each of the six rooms of the exhibition. The exhibition features current photographs of those who were active during the rights movements in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Also featured are photographs of events from the specific eras, documents, political buttons and other personally made items that reflected the changing of the times.
“I think it’s important to the women in labor, reproductive freedoms, all these things are part of our history,” Hafer said. “And it’s forever now.
“Pat has done a terrific job.”
The In Sisterhood project is the culmination of a project started by Ulbrich to document the stories of the people who lived through the different movements of those decades. Each individual was interviewed and recorded on audio or video, and each recording was then transcribed. All of the oral histories, transcripts and documents people have shared will go to the University of Pittsburgh archive.
“I’ve been negotiating with them about what that’s going to look like,” Ulbrich said, “and we think all of the transcripts will be available online. So anyone anywhere in the world who’s interested in learning about this can access an oral history.
“And then if they want, if they have a film project they’re working on, they can actually go to the archive and watch the video. And if they want, they can get permission to use excerpts from the video.”
While the exhibit features 39 individuals, Ulbrich is hoping to add an additional 15 by the end of the project’s completion at the end of 2013. She is currently seeking funding in order to finish.
“This is so important, I think, not only for us to observe, but all these women have been activists, and men too,” Hafer said. “And very often it’s never recorded, the things that we’ve done. So it’s lost to history. So when we pass away, our children may not know or understand.
“So this is so important, not only for those of us that have participated in it, but all of us who have been involved as activists and feminists for our children and grandchildren.”
Ulbrich said she believes it was important to have someone who lived the events she was exhibiting to help her walk through the reception.
“Well, first of all, (Hafer) knows all these people,” Ulbrich said. “She lived in Pittsburgh at the time and was very involved, and has an in-depth knowledge of all this and can correct me whenever I say something wrong. Or add something I might not think that people here might be interested in. She knows people here and what they are interested in. And sometimes I skimmed over things, but she could ask me to address something.”
Hafer said she felt honored to be part of the project.
“It’s historic,” she said. “As you go on in your life, you do all kinds of things. Mine was just a continuum — starting off as a nurse and ending up as a public figure. But it’s very exciting and gratifying. I know all these people that are women, and as I said, I think it’s wonderful to have it documented, living forever.”
The University Museum is located in Sutton Hall, room 111. It’s open Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 2 to 6:30 p.m., Thursday from noon to 7:30 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.