Introduction

Promoting Social Justice?

Using Public History to Complicate the University’s Narrative

Welcome to the companion website for the exhibition curated by the students in Professor Elizabeth Drummond’s HIST 2910 Telling History in Public course – a historical methods course taught through the lens of public history – in the Department of History at Loyola Marymount University during the fall 2019 semester. The exhibition will be on display in the gallery of the Department of Archives & Special Collections at the William H. Hannon Library during the spring 2020 semester.

Public history examines the public uses of the past, including how communities remember, interpret, and present their histories and how those historical narratives shape understandings of identity and the present. Public historians often focus on “difficult histories,” where official narratives are complicated by historical investigation. As practice, public history refers to how historians craft and present complex historical narratives for broad audiences, including in museum exhibitions.

For this exhibition, students explored the history of their own university. Loyola Marymount University focuses on the “promotion of justice” as a core aspect of its identity and mission and as a guiding principle for all members of the university community. An examination of LMU history shows that the university has often taken noble and principled stances on social justice issues. But there have also been some issues where students’ and the university’s understandings of justice have not always aligned. The “Promoting Social Justice?” exhibition seeks to complicate the LMU narrative, by showcasing how LMU has sought to define itself in relation to important social justice issues, including highlighting commonalities and differences between students and administrators. By grappling with our own history, we can better live our mission in the present and future.

This companion website includes a digital version of the exhibition (organized chronologically rather than thematically, as in the gallery, and including the students’ audio guides). It also includes student essays based on their artifacts. Please contact Professor Elizabeth Drummond with any questions about the course or this website.