The Main Library Gallery’s current exhibition, Rising Together | Protest in Print, features a few historic examples of protest from Special Collections at the University of Iowa Libraries. Along with these pieces, such as Thomas Paine’s famous 1776 pamphlet entitled Common Sense (x-Collection 973.3 P14c), more contemporary expressions of protest are also present. One of these books was created right here at the University of Iowa. In 2010, members of the Combat Paper Project visited the University of Iowa Center for the Book for a week-long residency. Julia Leonard, co-curator of the exhibition, was there.
“There are a number of works [in the exhibit] that I find to be moving and beautiful examples of how print and artistic expression can address social and political issues,” she said. “They can contribute to affecting change, and also provide a ‘snapshot’ of concerns facing particular moments. A piece of personal significance is Paper Soldiers.” (x-Collection N7433.38.C653 P37)
The Combat Paper Project, founded in 2007, “transforms military uniforms into handmade paper.” Their website states: “We believe in this simple yet enduring premise that the plant fiber in rags can be transformed into paper. A uniform worn through military service carries with it stories and experiences that are deeply imbued in the woven threads. Creating paper and artwork from these fibers carries these same qualities. We have found that all of us are connected to the military in a myriad of ways. When these connections are discovered and shared it can open a deeper understanding between people and expand our collective beliefs about military service and war.”
“With us for a week, Combat Paper veterans, local veterans, and UICB faculty and students made paper from military uniforms belonging to participants, printed poetry, prose and images addressing conflict, and produced a collaborative edition,” said Leonard. “During a time when we as a country were confronting the decisions that took us to war, the project brought people from various places and viewpoints together through the sharing of ideas and making of artwork.” The edition was then bound by the UI Center for the Book and added to Special Collections at the University of Iowa Libraries.
Julia Leonard shared more about the experience of working with the Combat Paper Project in this short video:
Rising Together | Protest in Print is on display in the University of Iowa Libraries’ Main Library Gallery until January 3, 2020. Access to the Gallery is through the Main Library’s North Lobby, and is always free for the campus community and the general public. Visit lib.uiowa.edu/gallery to check open hours.
This exhibition was curated by Julia Leonard, Associate Professor at the University of Iowa Center for the Book and at the School of Library and Information Science; and Kalmia Strong, Creative Coordinator at the University of Iowa Libraries and Program Director at Public Space One, a nonprofit arts organization in Iowa City. Art pieces from Rising Together: An Exhibition of Artists’ Books, Prints and Zines with a Social Conscience, a traveling exhibit from the College Book Art Association, also feature heavily in the Main Library Gallery alongside Special Collections items. Stay tuned for additional behind the scenes videos from the curators!