The Ohio University Libraries and the Center for International Studies (CIS) will present a World Languages and Costumes exhibit, which will open with a reception on March 30 from 1:00-2:00 p.m. on the first floor of Alden Library. The collaborative exhibit will feature costumes, textiles and accessories highlighting cultures from around the world, as well as posters with information on world languages.
The exhibit will be a celebration of the rich diversity that can be found on OHIO’s Athens campus, and will open during Ohio University’s International Week, which was celebrated on campus as early as 1969. This year, it will run from March 29-April 5.
Pittaya “Fon” Paladroi-Shane, the World Languages coordinator for the Center for International Studies, is one of the curators of the exhibit. She said the display will showcase fashion from all over the world, which is an important part of different cultures.
In addition, the display will promote the world languages offered at OHIO, such as Akan (an African language spoken in Ghana), Arabic (the official language of Egypt, among other countries), Hindi (widely spoken in India) and several others. Paladroi-Shane, who is also the Thai lecturer, said the instruction in these courses often goes beyond just the language.
“[With the exhibit] we wanted to share that when we teach language at Ohio University, we also focus on teaching culture,” she said. “When we teach in a classroom, I think we go deeper than just food, dance and music–we even focus on body language. And we also focus on things like perspectives and gestures.”
Costumes, she said, are a very tangible way to represent culture. Fabrics and accessories often display symbols and patterns with deep, nuanced meanings that can display the values, customs and heritage of different groups of people.
“[For] research libraries like us, bringing in different perspectives is an important part of what we do,” said Jeff Ferrier, curator of the Center for International Collections at the Libraries and head of the Southeast Asia Collections, “because you have different views and different historical accounts written by people in their own countries, in their own language…it really gives a great richness to the collections we have here, which is quite important.”
Paladroi-Shane said that the exhibit would most likely appeal to people interested in art, design, art history, fashion, language and international studies, but that the general public would likely be interested in the costumes and languages, as well. Ferrier agreed, and said that he hopes the exhibit will help students and community members realize that the Libraries is engaged with the wider conversation of diversity at the University.
The Center for International Collections (CIC) and CIS have collaborated on many projects in the past, as the Center for International Collections directly supports the research and curriculum of the Center for International Studies.
“Given that the CIC is very rich in materials,” Paladroi-Shane said. “[They have] all these beautiful, wonderful collections and textiles. I thought this project would be great if we collaborated.”
In addition to the textiles that will be provided by the Libraries, many staff and students are providing their own personal belongings for display. There will be a wide variety of objects on display, representing as many cultures present at OHIO as possible, coming from faculty and staff who have spent time abroad, or international students whose cultural experiences add to the diversity of Ohio University.
Because many of the objects will be personal belongings, the exhibit will only be on full display during International Week, but part of the exhibit will remain open to the public on the first floor of Alden Library until August 2020. Paladroi-Shane said that it would remain on display until August because she and her team want to send a message to incoming international students that their cultures are celebrated and appreciated at OHIO, but that all students, incoming or returning, would be able to find something interesting in the display.
“I believe this exhibit will be something that is quite intriguing,” Paladroi-Shane said, “and [can] be informative and educational at the same time. In addition to viewing various costumes, the audience will learn the terms for different parts of the costumes and the history of those terms.”
Light refreshments will be served at the opening of the exhibit on March 30, from 1:00-2:00 on the first floor of Alden Library. To request accommodations for the event contact Jen Harvey.