Dazzling Quilts and Magic Lanterns Shed Light on African American History

Geisel Library Exhibits Celebrate Black History Month

Two exhibits are being held in Geisel Library during winter quarter as part of UC San Diego’s Black History Month celebrations.

Stitching Memories: The Story of African American Quilting

The Dr. Clyde Jones quilt
by Norma Jones.

This exhibit, which showcases a variety of stunning quilts crafted by the San Diego People of Color Quilt Guild, traces the historical significance of quilts to African American women. For generations, African American women have expressed their lives and artistry through quilting. Before emancipation, when slave women were deprived of the opportunity to read or write, quilting provided women with a mechanism for creating permanent but unwritten records of events and experiences in their lives. While the quilting of diaries is no longer a cultural necessity, quilt making remains one of the most popular art forms among some African American communities, connecting women to their history and affirming their creative identity.

The exhibit, which will be on view through March 31 on the main floor in the west wing of Geisel Library, includes examples of “quilted photography” and art quilts, and challenges the commonly held misconception that African American quilts comprise only strip quilts, patchworks, or rustic creations that reflect what many scholars claim to be an African aesthetic. The Stitching Memories exhibit, sponsored by the Social Sciences & Humanities Library, also shows how quilts and quilting have threaded their way through poetry, politics, literature, and even children’s books.

Detail of quilt on display

Detail of quilt on display

Detail of a quilt by Vivian Townes

Close up of a quilt by Norma Jones

The Magic Lantern: Early Window to Africa and the African Diaspora

Magic lanterns dating back to the 19th century will be on display through February 29 in the UC San Diego Arts Library (lower level, west wing) in Geisel Library. The hand-painted glass magic lantern slides on display depict images of Africa and celebrate and raise awareness of the African diaspora.

According to Scott Paulson, outreach coordinator for the UC San Diego Arts Library and the owner of the magic lanterns on display, perhaps the earliest views Americans saw of Africa came in the form of magic lantern shows (hand-painted glass slides that were used in early gas-lamp-powered projectors). Magic lantern shows relayed news and views of far-away places pre-dating still photography and moving pictures. Even as early as the 1600s and 1700s, lively magic lantern shows employed early animation techniques, narration and live music to show the culture of other continents. As early photographic technology grew, the magic lantern's glass slides became even more valuable in relaying worldly experiences.

The exhibit, which is a collaboration between the Arts Library and the African & African-American Studies Research Center, is supplemented with library materials about the African diaspora and examines the role the magic lantern had in raising awareness of Africa and the African diaspora.

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating black history. For more information about UC San Diego’s Black History Month celebrations: http://blackhistorymonth.ucsd.edu/2012/

Magic Lantern from the late 1800s

Close up of lantern slide depicting the African diaspora

Exhibits & Events

So There Will Be No Forgetting: Images from the Spanish Civil War

  • Jan. 23 – May 11
  • Geisel Library exhibit
  • Geisel Library
  • Call (858) 534-2533 for more information

The Magic Lantern: Early Window on the African Diaspora

  • Feb. 1 – March 16
  • Black History Month exhibit
  • Geisel Library
  • Call (858) 534-8074 for more information

Stitching Memories: The Story of African American Quilting

  • Feb. 1 – March 31
  • Black History Month exhibit
  • Geisel Library
  • Call (858) 822-0450 for more information

Holocaust Living History Workshop "Witnessing History" Events

  • March 7 & March 12
  • Various times
  • Geisel Library, Seuss Room
  • Call (858) 534-7661 for more information
  • libraries.ucsd.edu/hlhw

Dr. Seuss Birthday Party

  • March 2, 12 p.m.
  • Geisel Library entrance
  • Call (858) 534-2533 for more information

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss

  • Feb. 23 – March 9
  • Geisel Library exhibit
  • Geisel Library
  • Call (858) 534-2533 for more information

Domain Editor

Dolores Davies

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