Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives

Current Exhibits

New Digital Exhibit Curated by Natalie Branson (M.A. in History with a concentration in Museum Studies)

Thu, 07 May 2020 13:58:00 +0000

Natalie Branson, a second-year graduate student working on an M.A. in History with a concentration in Museum Studies, researched and developed an online exhibit focused on the work of the Women's Association for the Betterment of Public Schoolhouses, an organization of women advocating for public education in North Carolina in the first quarter of the 20th century.

You can see Natalie's wonderful exhibit here: We also asked Natalie to write a reflection of her time working on this project. You can find that reflection below.

Natalie's work is reflective of the outstanding caliber of students we have at UNC Greensboro. She demonstrated curiosity, self-motivation, and determination - even when the COVID-19 pandemic make everything more chaotic. We in SCUA are always excited for the opportunity to work with our undergraduate and graduate students and to guide them in their research and learning. We thank Natalie for her excellent work this semester!


A Reflection on My Capstone Experience 
by Natalie Branson, M.A. in History with concentration in Museum Studies Candidate, 2020

My capstone project has been one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Creating my exhibit with the University Archives has allowed me to take control of a project, from start to finish, for the first time as a public historian. I was empowered to tackle challenges on my own, to determine the narrative that I wanted to tell, and to design the exhibit around what I found to be important. When I began this project in August of 2019, I had never worked in an archive, digitized materials, or created a digital exhibit. Now, in April of 2020, I have gained new skills and experience in archival work, curation, and content creation.

When I met with Erin in August, I was handed the Women’s Betterment Association Collection from the University Archives and given the instructions to create a digital exhibit for the University’s website. The original plan for my exhibit was to tell the story of the Women’s Association for the Betterment of Public Schoolhouses (WABPS), the subject and source of the collection I was digitizing. It was my understanding that the WABPS were an organization created by and for women who were interested in improving the state of public education in North Carolina. As I continued searching through the documents from the WABPS, I found that the organization was nothing like I had expected. This ultimately changed the course of my exhibit, as I continued to discover new and conflicting information. To begin, the reach of the WABPS was far beyond what I had presumed. The original 200 women who began the WABPS in Greensboro quickly disseminated into nearly 100 Local and County Associations, with over 1,000 members, spread across North Carolina. In addition, I found the organization to be more radical that I expected, in that they allowed men to pay to be involved in the WABPS but their “honorary” membership afforded them no vote in the Association’s elections and no say in the purpose or direction of the WABPS. Sue Hollowell, the president of the State Association in Greensboro, at one point quipped about the men’s “honorary” membership, “taxation without representation, if you please.” While they were radical in some regards, they were more predictable in others.

The WABPS operated between 1902 and 1918, in the heart of the Jim Crow South. While I worked to craft the narrative of my exhibit, I grappled with interpreting the implicit prejudice in the Association’s documents. I learned early on that the organization was exclusive to white women (and later white men), as it was stated explicitly in the WABPS Constitution. I was content, at that point, to make that fact clear in the exhibit and move on; however, as I continued through the documents, the narrative continued to become more complicated. I could find no official documents from the Association that stated explicitly that the WABPS excluded black schools from their work, as I had originally assumed. More often than not, their language was vague, using phrases such as “all of God’s children” and “every child” to describe those affected by their work. By December, I was once again ready to write off their language as having implicit prejudice; I had no evidence that the WABPS worked with or for black children.

 When I returned to the archives after winter break, I found reports from the presidents of several County Associations which I hadn’t seen before. Mary Taylor Moore, the recording secretary for the State Association in Greensboro, created them to have a better understanding of the work that the County Associations were doing. The question that intrigued me the most asked, “How many schools in your county have been affected by the work of the Association?” In many cases, the response was just a number: “nine” or “two.” However, some responses were more specific. Some responders used the qualifier “white” to describe the schools affected, but a few responded that “colored” schools in their county had been affected by the Association’s work as well. This was surprising to me, as it was the first time that I had evidence of “Betterment work” in black schools.

After this discovery, I added two new pages to my digital exhibit: “Race and Education” and “Gender in the Progressive Era.” The former expanded the discussion (raised on the first page) on North Carolina Governor Charles Aycock and his racist education policies at the turn of the century. It also introduced the organization’s complicated relationship with race and the difficulties of interpreting historical documents. The latter page, “Gender in the Progressive Era,” addressed the question: how radical were they really? The women certainly had progressive methods of running their organization, but their original goal of “beautifying” school houses and grounds seemed superficial, fitting within the traditional gender roles prescribed to them. The women were challenging the male-dominated sphere of public school administration but they subscribed to contemporaneous notions about class and race.

When the text was written and the photos, documents, and metadata were entered into Omeka, my digital exhibit finally came together. Luckily, Erin Lawrimore (my supervisor and University Archivist) and I had decided to front-load my work for this semester so the project was wrapping up just as COVID-19 shut everything down.

This process has taught me a great deal about public history. Most importantly, I have come to trust my own instincts and accept not having an answer. In the past, I have mulled over a problem and tried my best to solve it despite knowing that there was no good solution. Rather than accept that and move on, I would find a way to avoid addressing the problem altogether. After my capstone experience, I have found a new appreciation for accepting that I don’t have all the answers; I only have what is presented to me. It is not my place to decide what the women of the WABPS were thinking or what they meant in their documents, I can only disseminate that information within the social and political context that I understand.

As I reflect on my work over the last eight months, I believe that nothing summarizes it better than the evolution of my project title. In September, I titled my project, “The Women’s Betterment Association: A Digital Exploration of a Radical Group of Women.” The exhibit was going to present the radical and inspiring story of the WABPS; how the “Betterment workers” of North Carolina challenged the status quo. When I presented at the Digital Humanities Collaborative Institute in March, however, I titled my project, “A Complicated Group of Women: A Digital Exploration of the Women’s Association for the Betterment of Public Schoolhouses.” My exhibit now tells the story of the incredible work that these women did, the lengths they went to in order to achieve their goals, and the standard they set for public schools in North Carolina. It also tells the story of a racist and elitist governor, the poor state of North Carolina’s public schools at the turn of the century, and how segregation and systemic oppression left black students behind. The women of the WABPS were not radical, but they were not conservative: they were complicated, and I had to accept that. I accepted that I did not know the extent to which they were involved in improving black schools or the extent to which they embraced the (white) feminist movement. The narrative of my exhibit changed between September and April, but only for the better. I challenged myself with new questions to try to answer and a new story to tell the public, and I am incredibly grateful to have experienced this process.

New Exhibit Shines Flashbulb on Arnold Doren, Photographer and UNC Greensboro Professor

Mon, 19 Aug 2019 20:38:00 +0000

A new exhibit on the first floor of Jackson Library shines a spotlight on American and international lives during Woodstock, the Sturgis motorcycle rally, the Greensboro Massacre, and street and landscape scenes from Beijing.

Arnold Doren, undated.
Located in the three exhibit cases by the reference desk on the first floor, the exhibit is created using reproductions from the Arnold Doren Papers. The Doren Papers includes photographs, slides, negatives, and digital photographs from Doren’s long career as a photographer. The collection also contains Doren’s personal papers, including some of his teaching materials. The collection’s materials date from the late 1960s to the early 2000s. The materials on display are a small sample of some of Doren’s photographs, showing the range of subjects he captured during his long career.

Arnold T. Doren (1935-2003) was born on July 29, 1935, in Chicago, Illinois, to Hy and Rose Dorenfield. Doren eventually changed his name from Dorenfield to Doren.

Doren’s interest in photography began when he was a teenager, photographing local life and high school athletics. Doren went on to serve in the Korean War as a Navy journalist in the Public Information Office. After his time in the military, he attended the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he received his Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees. While at RIT, Doren studied photography under famous photographers Minor White and Ralph Hattersley.

Doren discovered his passion for art photography while working in New York City as an assistant to photographers Irwin Blumenthal, Irving Penn, and Alan Vogel. His work in New York him to travel both in the United States and internationally. Doren’s photography often focused on documenting people – he photographed portraits, major social events, or everyday life in towns and cities.

Crowd at the Woodstock Festival, 1969.
His travels eventually led him to a commune in Woodstock, leading to his famous photographs of the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and Jimi Hendrix’s closing performance. A major piece of the exhibit, the Woodstock photographs were selected to mark the festival's 50th anniversary in 2019.

Doren spent a significant amount of time traveling across the country photographing his series of “Americana Faces.” This series included photographs of Native Americans, various roadside cultures, and individuals across the country. A Greensboro Daily News article in 1979 suggested that “the photographs in this series all could have been taken 40-50 years ago.” Doren strived to capture a historical America by photographing its people, scenery, and cultures.

In 1978, Doren joined the faculty of UNC Greensboro as an assistance professor of photography. In 1984, he became an associate professor of photography in the Art Department. He continued to travel and photograph lifestyles, including people and events in Greensboro. In 1998, Doren received a Fullbright-Hayes grant, which allowed him to travel across China to photograph the country and its people.

New Internationally recognized, Doren’s photography has been displayed in galleries across the world. Doren remained at UNC Greensboro until his retirement in 2002. In 2003, Doren passed away in his home. Special Collections and University Archives received the collection in 2009.

Visit Special Collections and University Archives at the Martha Blakeney Hodges Reading Room on the second floor of Jackson Library if you want to learn more!

New Exhibit!: "UNC Greensboro Back to the Future: The Story of the 1960s"

Fri, 15 Mar 2019 12:42:00 +0000

On March 14, 2019, more than thirty people stopped by Hodges Reading Room for an open house event to celebrate our new student-curated exhibit "UNC Greensboro Back to the Future: The Story of the 1960s." Student curators provided visitors with personalized tours of the exhibit and provided reflections on their experiences researching campus history.

This exhibit was curated by graduate student Erin Blackledge with assistant from undergraduate students Alexis Castorena and Malory Cedeno. Sarah Colonna, Associate Faculty Chair for Grogan College, and Erin Lawrimore, University Archivist and Associate Professor, served as grant coordinators and faculty advisors for the exhibit. Student curator stipends were funded through a grant from the UNC Greensboro Interdisciplinary Collaboration Committee.

"UNC Greensboro Back to the Future" is available for viewing in Hodges Reading Room through June 2019. Hodges Reading Room is on the second floor of Jackson Library. The exhibit is open Monday through Friday between 9am and 5pm.

By combining reflections and poems from current undergraduate students from Grogan Residential College with primary sources from the 1960s, "UNC Greensboro Back to the Future" explores the enormous social changes that arose during this momentous decade and demonstrates how UNCG students today reflect on its past. Topics explored include campus desegregation, civil rights movements, and the transformation from Woman's College to UNCG.

This exhibit is part of UNC Greensboro's year-long celebration "The '60s: Exploring the Limits." You can learn more about the campus's upcoming events and activities to examine and understand this decade at

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