The University of Alabama
Exhibitions and Events: Current Exhibitions
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Currently on Display

W.S. Hoole Library, Lobby
Artifacts of Ancestry

Lauren Cardon
December 2014-March 2015 

Archives offer a unique perspective on any given historical moment or narrative. Reading love letters between a husband and wife separated by war, perusing journals of homeopathic remedies, or looking at sheet music and album covers from the past – these glimpses of personal and cultural history offer researchers a depth and complexity difficult to capture in secondary materials. The holdings of the University of Alabama’s Division of Special Collections present personalized snapshots of history, whether in the marginalia of a colonist’s personal Bible, the journal and records of a general store owner, or the property photographs taken by a local farmer.

During Fall 2014, I asked my students from three sections of English 103: Advanced Composition to research their family histories. This project had three primary learning objectives: to familiarize students with the process of archival research; to conduct research using a range of sources; and to synthesize this material to create a narrative situated within a larger context.

Most students began with genealogical websites like or, where they traced their roots deep into the American colonial past, to Mexico, or across the ocean to Europe and the Middle East. Students then began to use other methods: consulting scholarly materials for historical context; reading the histories of towns and cities; recovering their families’ passenger manifests and pictures of steamships in the Ellis Island archives; talking to their relatives about family stories; and viewing the archival materials in the Division of Special Collections at both the A.S. Williams III Americana Collection and the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library.

The selected displays featured in this exhibition demonstrate exceptionally well-researched, engaging family histories as well as innovative incorporations of archival materials. The students whose works are featured have made some remarkable discoveries. They learned that their families have been employed in an impressive range of trades and professions, from farming to mining to working on railroads during westward expansion. Some served in the military; some gained international recognition in the fine arts; some were business entrepreneurs, religious leaders, or physicians. Many have landmarks, buildings, roads, or even cities named after them. The artifacts they have selected offer a direct emotional connection between the students and the world of their ancestors.


Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, Pearce Lobby
A North Alabama Clergyman's Passion for History: Preserving Black History through Words and Images

Martha Bace
February 2015-April 2015

Highlighting the collections of Rev. Wylheme Ragland of Decatur, Alabama,  A North Alabama Clergyman’s Passion for History: Preserving Black History through Words and Images features cookbooks, scrapbooks, diaries, funeral worship bulletins, letters, and photographs from the Schaudies, Banks, and Ragland families. Their generous gift illustrates the everyday lives of African Americans living and working in the post-Civil War South through a wide variety of materials that will provide unique research opportunities for students and faculty. The beginning of this exhibition is timed to coincide Black History Month. 


W.S. Hoole Library, Reading Room
The Kate Ragsdale Memorial Miniature Book Collection

Amy Chen
June 2014-March 2015

The Kate Ragsdale Memorial Miniature Book Collection contains ninety-six books from eleven countries, including Austria, France, Great Britain, Israel, the Soviet Union, and the United States. The Bible in miniature: or a Concise History of the Old & New Testaments [sic], published in 1780, is the oldest book in the collection. A wide variety of American presses are represented. Additionally, a series of miniature editions of Shakespeare’s plays can be found. The Memorial Miniature Book Collection was created to recognize Kate Ragsdale’s life and career following her death in 2013. Ragsdale earned a BA from Sweet Briar College and a MLS from The University of Alabama. She began her career as a Program Coordinator in the College of Business and Commerce before joining the Libraries administration team as a planning officer in 1987. Ragsdale managed construction and renovation projects, including the building of Mary Harmon Bryant Hall and the Library Annex, during her over twenty years of service at the Capstone. Ragsdale frequently served as an officer in organizations such as the Alabama Library Association, the Special Libraries Association, and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). In 2004, she received the UA Library Leadership Award for faculty. In 2012, she won the UA School of Library and Information Studies Alumni Award.


Mary Harmon Bryant Hall, First Floor Lobby
Centennial Reflections: A Digital Exhibition

Kate Matheny
January-March 2015

In August 1914, when the major European powers mobilized for fighting, the United States attempted to remain neutral. The central question they asked themselves: should we intervene in something that isn't our fight? In February 1917, when the Germans resumed submarine warfare against neutral vessels, including ships from America, President Woodrow Wilson felt the country had little choice -- the fight had come to them. The United States' involvement may have been short lived, but form million Americans were mobilized for the conflict, in addition to countless volnteers working outside the armed forces. The digital exhibition tells the stories of four men: Valentine Oldshue, Civilian aid worker and journalist; Herbert Taylor, Jr., Major in the 37th Infantry Division; Alston Fitts, Captain and medical doctor; George Waring Huston, Lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne Division.