Agents of Change: Celebrating Innovation at UH’s Centennial, A Collaborative Exhibit

By Mary Manning

Graduate students in Dr. Monica Perales’s Research in Public History class search University of Houston archival records for exhibit items. These boxes represent a mere fraction of the physical and digital materials students considered over two semesters. Shown left to right, Stephon Boykin, Rahil Asgari, and Alec Story. Photo courtesy of Monica Perales.

In the fall of 2020, the Center for Public History (CPH), Houston Public Media (HPM), and UH Libraries embarked upon an exciting three-year project, 100 Years of Stories: Documenting a Century at the University of Houston (UH), leading up to the university’s centennial. Funded by UH friend and patron Carey C. Shuart, the project features a collaborative approach to storytelling in which the UH Libraries played a vital research support role in the project’s goal of collecting, sharing, and preserving the stories of the university’s people and institutions that have defined our city and the region.

Lynn Eusan and Gene Locke, leaders of the student organization AABL, whose 10 Demands, presented to UH in February 7, 1969, called for the creation of an African American Studies Program, which University administrators began making plans to establish that same year. Courtesy of UH Libraries Digital Collections

Work on the project began in 2020 just as the country entered the pandemic lockdown. During this phase, the UH Libraries supported CPH’s Houston History magazine staff and students as they researched and outlined stories about UH students, alumni, faculty, administrators, and institutions for ten video, television, and radio spots produced by HPM, under the program title 100 Years of Houston. UH Libraries Special Collections provided virtual research assistance and trained CPH researchers to use the archival finding aid databases, Digital Collections, and Audio Video Repository. With the reading room closed to in-person visits, UH Special Collections staff provided the students with digitized research materials for their outlines and assisted HPM’s manager for Media Production, Fujio Watanabe, in finding additional visual content for the videos.

During the project’s second phase, the student researchers switched their focus to creating 100 Years of Stories content that would appear in the Houston History magazine over the next two years. Classes resumed on campus, and Dr. Debbie Harwell, the magazine’s editor, taught undergraduate courses, in which students learned to conduct oral histories and write public-focused, academically researched articles. Special Collections staff supported the effort by providing instruction on conducting research in the archives and welcomed students back into the reading room. The Special Collections staff also provided digitized images that students selected to illustrate their published works.

In 2023, 100 Years of Stories entered its third year and its final phase, culminating with a student-created exhibition in the UH MD Anderson Library.

The Roy G. Cullen Memorial Building was the first building completed at UH’s permanent campus site in 1939. Designed by architects Alfred C. Finn and Lamar Cato, the building is believed to be the first constructed with air conditioning on a U.S. higher education campus. It is pictured here with the Reflection Pool in the foreground. Photo courtesy of UH Libraries Digital Collections, ark:/84475/do2252j7646.

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Check out the Center for Public History’s 100 Years of Story page to learn about our mission

The 100 Years of Houston films created by Houston Public Media tell stories of the impact of the University of Houston students, Alumni, faculty, and administrators on the community over the past century.

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