University of Miami Libraries University Archives’ exhibition, Southern Suns and Sky Blue Water, is on display through January 2014 at the Otto G. Richter Library, and features photographs, fanfare, memorabilia, and publications that reflect student life at the University during the 1960s, 1980s, and early 2000s.
“There is a vibrant history here at UM,” says Koichi Tasa, University archivist and the exhibition’s lead curator. He notes that the exhibition’s title, the first line of the University’s Alma Mater, alludes to the timeless backdrop that unifies University athletics, student activities, and campus events across many generations.
Among the exhibition’s ’60s generation mementos is a vintage photograph of soul music pioneer Ray Charles performing at the UM Homecoming Concert in 1963, just two years after the University officially desegregated the campus. Research Services Supervisor Marcia Heath, a curator of the exhibition, said that Charles’s performance was a catalyst in raising morale among the student body during the racially charged period.
“These materials really show us where we’re coming from…how far we’ve come,” she said, also referring to the transformation in the University’s physical campus. One 1962 photograph of the Richter Library shows the completion of the main floors and stacks addition, which earned a design award by Florida Architect in 1964. The library now houses a print collection of more than four million volumes.
The exhibition, also curated by Education and Outreach Librarian William Jacobs and Special Collections Research Assistant Steve Hersh, includes IBIS yearbook spreads chronicling the evolution of traditions like Carni Gras, where students in the ’60s and ’80s strutted in high gear to embrace the Carnival spirit.
The exhibition even houses traditional fanfare such as a dink, once-required headgear freshmen sported until Miami’s first touchdown, and then tossed into the air. “Like the world, the University is changing daily,” said Cynthia Cochran, director of alumni programs. “The opportunity to visit some artifacts from those periods only enriches [alumni’s] visit back to campus, for some of whom it has been 50 years.”
Since he started at the University Archives in 2007, Tasa has worked closely with the UM Alumni Association. In 2010 artist Jacobina Trump created a mural at the Alumni Center, inspired by collection materials, conveying an unchanging horizon over the many generations to walk the campus. Like the exhibition, it also bears the words Southern Suns and Sky Blue Water. “Those words hit home for us all,” Tasa said.