By Benjamin Pontz ’20, Staff Writer
Since February 10, members of the Gettysburg Anti-Capitalist Collective (GACC) have maintained a display in Musselman Library that features cardboard boxes stacked in the shape of a wall that have pieces of paper affixed to the sides with information on various events of the Trump administration.
Although the library staff initially considered whether the display complied with the campus posting policy, Robin Wagner, Dean of the Library, now says the display is a “student curated exhibit.”
Until last Monday, when two staff members of The Gettysburgian interviewed Wagner and Natalie Hinton, the Director of User Services for the library, a sign was affixed to the bricks behind the display that said “THIS IS THE WALL THAT TRUMP IS BUILDING,” without any identification as to whom was behind the display. That sign has since been removed, and there is now a small stand adjacent to the display that identifies GACC as the creator of the exhibit.
Dean Wagner emphasized that the display is supposed to contain “strictly factual information,” and that members of GACC have used government websites, CNN, and The New York Times to compile the vignettes that appear on the sides of the boxes.
As of Friday, February 17, there were eight vignettes depicting various events of the Trump administration including the Senate confirmation of cabinet appointments, executive orders of the Trump administration, and military raids executed by U.S. special forces. To date, no new vignettes have appeared in the display beyond the original eight.
Kelly DiGeronimo ‘17, a student employee of the library, originally proposed the idea on behalf of GACC to the library’s staff. Two reporters posed several questions to DiGeronimo including how the idea was formulated, whether she was concerned with the potentially divisive nature of the “wall” imagery for a “strictly factual” display, how topics are chosen for the display, and how often the display would be updated.
On behalf of GACC, DiGeronimo provided a response to the inquiry, which stated, in part: “The piece is designed as a succinct and informative structure which provides basic information about actions taken by our current executive branch, which includes but is not limited to the President as well as the members of his cabinet. The growth rate and eventual size of this display thus depends on the actions of the executive … The metaphorical meaning of walls of all kinds are of particular interest to the United States at this time, and we encourage all members of our community to ponder its significance.”
An email alias, GACCDisplay2017@gettysburg.edu has been established to field inquiries and suggestions for the display.
While neither Dean Wagner nor Ms. Hinton could recall a previous display of political news in the library, they did state that other student curated exhibits have been displayed in the library, and that the placement of such exhibits depends on available floor space. For example, as part of the college’s “Year of Food,” students put together an exhibit as part of a Globalization Studies course in the fall. Typically, library exhibits are curated by staff members. Dean Wagner anticipates that this exhibit will remain for the remainder of February before the library will clear its floor space for various spring events.
With respect to this exhibit, Dean Wagner says that the library always aims to help students understand all kinds of information, and that this display was just an extension of that goal.
“If the display conveys factual, current events news, we want to help people understand it,” she said, later elaborating that the library communicates information through a variety of mediums. “We use books, websites, magazines, social media, etc. to share information; we can use the sides of cardboard boxes too. We reuse everything around here.”
An accompanying article offers a fact check of the statements on the sides of the boxes.
Editor-in-Chief Jamie Welch contributed to this report.