Shields Library hosts new exhibit for Davis centennial

ALEXA FONTANILLA / AGGIE

New showcase provides opportunity for students to learn about city’s history

A new exhibit recently opened at Peter J. Shields Library to celebrate the upcoming centennial of the City of Davis. The showcase, titled “Davis 1917-2017: Celebrating 100 Years of Community,” features material from more than 15 separate collections and will be on display until June 18.

Sara Gunasekara, a public services and archives specialist at the Shields Library, said that the project provides a lot of historical background pertaining to the founding of Davis, which was incorporated as a city on March 28, 1917. The previous year, a large fire had struck the downtown business district, creating a need for redevelopment.

“So one of the key things was that there was a fire in downtown Davis in November of 1916,” Gunasekara said. “It hadn’t yet been incorporated, there was talk of incorporation in 1911 and then in the spring of 1916 they had started talking about incorporating again but hadn’t really gotten their feet under them.”

The exhibit, which is free and open to the public during normal library hours, includes unique photographs and personal papers which document the city’s 100-year history.

Jessica Nusbaum, the associate director of communications and marketing for the library, said that much of the material provided from the library’s Special Collections has been well received.

“One of the things that’s cool about Special Collections here at the UC Davis library is that we have some stuff that no one else has,” Nusbaum said. “So even the city was like, ‘oh you guys have good pictures from the fire? Can we have those ‘cause we wanna help tell that story that was so integral to the founding of the city, too.’ So there’s some really unique pieces here at Special Collections that go beyond even what the city itself has and we’re really proud to help tell the local history story that way.”

The library’s online page includes further material on the exhibit as well as links and information for the multiple collections from which the materials were gathered.

Stacy Winton, a media and communications officer for the City of Davis, said that Davis has been thankful for the exhibit.

“With our utmost gratitude, we thank UC Davis’ Special Collections staff for creating an impressive exhibit of the City’s history over the past 100 years,” Winton said via email.

For Gunasekara, working on the exhibit presented a fulfilling experience to examine the history of both UC Davis and the City of Davis.

“I think for me, it was just a really enjoyable exhibit to work on,” Gunasekara said. “They’re all fun but for me, it was such a large story to tell about the history. Of course I couldn’t tell the entire minutiae of the history, but I greatly enjoyed working on it and learning more about the town I come to work in everyday.”

Nusbaum said that the exhibit will be open long enough for students and their families to visit through Spring 2017. As students continue to visit, Gunasekara hopes that they can understand the value in what the library has been able to gather through its many exhibits.

“Having exhibits like this out that I think people can really connect with is also a way to educate students about all of the amazing resources that Special Collections has here at the library,” Nusbaum said. “And without the exhibits, people might not have a way to find out that there are all these historic materials here at the library. You know, people may not know that the library is a repository for that kind of storytelling of the history of the campus and the history of the local community if we didn’t do things like this.”

Written by: Ivan Valenzuela — campus@theaggie.org