UNCG hosts national traveling exhibit on mass incarceration
Parsons and grad students work with local organizations to develop programming
UNCG will host States of Incarceration, the first national traveling multimedia exhibition and coordinated public dialogue on mass incarceration, from Nov. 8 through Dec. 15 at the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in downtown Greensboro.
The exhibition is organized and produced by The New School’s Humanities Action Lab (HAL), a national hub where the humanities and design generate curricula and public engagement with social issues.
The HAL coalition comprises 20 university partners across the country, including UNCG, Arizona State University, Brown University and Duke University, among others. Over the past two years, each university worked to develop a section of the exhibition that focuses on an issue of incarceration that is unique to its community.
Led by Dr. Anne Parsons, museum studies students in UNCG’s history graduate program investigated North Carolina chain gangs in the 1920s and worked with the International Civil Rights Center & Museum to develop public programming.
“Mass incarceration is one of the biggest civil rights issues of our time,” Parsons said. “This national exhibition creates a space for the public to learn and discuss the history and future of incarceration in the United States.”
UNCG students began researching and developing content for the exhibition in August of 2015.
Their primary research sources were letters written by chain gang prisoners to their families and state government officials.
For master’s student Sonya Laney, the project was an opportunity to gain valuable, real-world experience in her field.
“It’s an incredible opportunity – I love that our program is so hands-on,” Laney said. “I’m excited to go to future employers and show them how I applied concepts and theories we learned in the classroom to this national project.”
The exhibition, designed by design firm Matter Practice, opened in New York City in April. The Greensboro showing is free and open to the public Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Guided tours – led by individuals directly affected by incarceration and student curators – are available for a fee. An opening reception and open mic night will be held on Friday, Nov. 11, at the museum.
To register for the opening reception and other States of Incarceration events throughout November and December, visit go.uncg.edu/incarceration.
UNCG’s participation in the national project is sponsored by the Gayle Fripp Public History Fund, the College of Arts & Sciences, the Department of History, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Open Society Foundation.
Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications
Photography courtesy of Chris Hyun Choi