Life + Arts

Houston history treasured at MD Anderson Library


Tomkins-Walsh chose to place the archive along the walls of the first floor of the library to inspire students to study the city that they live in. | Carol Cao/The Cougar

Special Collections opened “Houston History: Archives, Magazine and Oral History” this week, displaying UH students and grads as city historians. The exhibit will run June 12 through Dec. 18. in the MD Anderson Library.

“I created the exhibit to show the University that we’re all connected, we’re all promoting student success and stimulating research,” said Teresa Tomkins-Walsh, archivist and historian of the UH Special Collections and curator of the exhibit.

She said she intended to make a point about who Houstonians are.

“They are helpers, givers and supporters,” Tomkins-Walsh said.

As part of the Welcome Wilson Houston History Collaborative, the installation masses archives of magazines — all publications composed by UH students and graduates, who serve as the scribes of history. Along with audio archives and a touchscreen with interviews of Houstonians.

The headlines depict a variety of narratives and topics and, in turn, the diversity of the city and the students’ interests: “Houston’s Graffiti Culture;” “Covering Katrina from New Orleans to Houston;” and “The Rise of Gay Political Activism in Houston.”

“There’s a breath of coverage from these students, (who are) either representing their community or going in and exploring their community,” Tomkins-Walsh said.

An alumna of the History master’s program, Jenna Leventhal now fondly reflected on her article, “Shattered Lives, New Beginnings: Holocaust Survivors Rebuilding in Houston.”

A sample of it sits underneath the “Promoting Student Success” section of the exhibit after a visit to the Houston Holocaust Museum piqued her interest in this subject.

“Individuals focus mostly on the pre­-war and during-the-­war experience (of Holocaust victims) and talk about post­war — but not as in depth,” Leventhal said.

With the aid of the Museum, she connected with local Holocaust survivors to discuss their settlement in Houston.

“I would hope that folks would be able to learn a little bit about the role of the community in Houston in welcoming new immigrants as individuals have come here from a variety of background and experiences,” Leventhal said. “And there’s a lot of interesting moments about how the community welcomed and shaped the re-settlement and rebirth for many of these individual who came here for a new start.”

Tomkins-Walsh hopes that other students who pass by the glass casings will notice the articles, which line the walls in places that students walk by every day, and become inspired to study Houston.

“A lot of times (students) write a research paper and (they’re) like, ‘Oh, what am I going to write about?’ and they don’t know that they can write about their own community,” Tomkins-Walsh said.

Students can visit the exhibit on the first floor of the MD Anderson Library between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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