The nine of us graduate students in UNC Greensboro’s Public History program who contributed a panel to the Guantanamo Public Memory Project last year were very excited to roll up our sleeves and return this year to work on our supplement to the traveling exhibit. In anticipation of its arrival in December, we have launched a project called GTMO & GSO, an initiative funded by the North Carolina Humanities Council through a grant that we wrote as a class last spring. The goal of GTMO & GSO is to connect the complex history of the American naval base (GTMO) in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the different yet equally intricate histories of our local community of Greensboro (GSO), North Carolina, using parallels in conflicts and tensions between a place that seems a world away and our own lives to show the immediate personal relevance of our subject matter.
In pursuing the project this semester, we split our work into three phases. We just finished the first, which we referred to as Preliminary Development.
I’m proud of all that we were able to accomplish during Preliminary Development. We have big ideas, including a series of speaker panels on immigration, detainment, and cold war Cuba, accompanied by Cuban refreshments and music; a voting station at the entrance and exit of the exhibit that will help us gauge how visitors change their perspectives during their time in the exhibit; flipbooks that highlight local connections to the GTMO story; and a reading program that connects younger audiences in an age-appropriate way to universal themes (such as immigration, perseverance, persecution, hope, and how the international affects the interpersonal).
We began our work this semester by organizing ourselves into smaller groups of three for efficiency; first, in committees focusing on separate spheres of our plans (exhibit supplement, cultural events, etc.), and then in administrative teams (logistics, budget and publicity). Each person is on a committee and a team, which not only means that we all get to dabble in different areas but also that information can be shared quickly.
We have gotten a lot of items checked off our to-do list, more than can be featured in a single blog post. We decided upon a design theme for our print and social media platforms, booked most of the speakers for the panels, examined children’s literature for the reading program, and researched supplemental text and images. We’ve gotten through challenges like nonresponsive contacts, miscommunications, and have even gone back to the drawing board a couple of times to reevaluate what exactly we’re trying to do and how best we should do it. While there have been some bumps and detours along the road, as we begin our next phase we’re still energized and very much looking forward to further developing our ideas and, eventually, the opening of our exhibit.
Posted by Megan Coker – Museum Studies student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.