Thursday, February 7, 2008

Student-Curated Exhibition Opens at the Custom House

Chestertown, MD — The C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience at Washington College announces the opening of a new photo exhibition, "Architect of Democracy: Photographs from the Career of Senator Birch Bayh." Curated by Washington College junior Jasper Colt, the exhibition blends historic images from Senator Bayh's storied career with recollections taken from an oral history interview Colt conducted earlier this year.

Senator Bayh, one of the nation's most influential progressive legislators, is soon to be one of Washington College's most illustrious alumni. On February 22, 2008, the college will award him the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in recognition of his lifelong commitment to opening the doors of opportunity to all people, particularly minorities and members of marginalized groups. Senator Bayh has been a Senior Fellow at the C.V. Starr Center since 2006; Architect of Democracy constitutes the Center's own gesture to honor a distinguished American and valued member of the Washington College community, and to mark Senator Bayh's 80th birthday, which he celebrated in January.

Throughout his 18 years in the U.S. Senate (1963-81), Senator Bayh championed civil rights and education. He authored Title IX of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which prohibited gender-based discrimination in schools receiving federal funding, and served as a co-sponsor of both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As chairman of the Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments, he also drafted the 25th and 26th Amendments, which created a more democratic procedure for Presidential succession and lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, respectively. To this day, Senator Bayh remains the only person since the Founding Fathers to have drafted more than one amendment to the Constitution. The exhibition includes striking images of many powerful historic moments, including the fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment and the aftermath of the 1970 shootings at Jackson State College. Most of the photographs are from Senator Bayh's papers at Indiana University Bloomington.

At Washington College, Senator Bayh recently led the Senatorial Colloquy on American History and Politics, which featured a series of public conversations between distinguished current and former members of the United States Senate. He and his guests—Senators Gary Hart, Paul Laxalt, Dale Bumpers, and Richard Lugar—shared recollections of their experiences in public life and offered reflections on challenges confronting the nation. The Colloquy also included a series of student seminars in which 16 undergraduates discussed issues such as civil rights and electoral reform in a small-group setting with Senator Bayh.

Exhibition curator Jasper Colt '09, a history major and member of the 2007 Colloquy, drew upon his knowledge of photography to oversee the design and installation of the exhibition. A budding oral historian, Colt also devised a creative way to weave the images together with Senator Bayh's own words. "I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from and interview such an influential politician and genuinely kindhearted person as Senator Bayh," he said. "The experience has inspired me both as a student of history and as a citizen."

Colt, an aspiring educator who hopes to someday teach at both the secondary and collegiate level, is currently a Student Associate at the Starr Center, where he assists with Center events and pursues his own research projects. "I'd predict that this exhibition is only the first of many creative avenues Jasper will find to share history with others," said Jill Ogline, the Center's associate director. "His passion for authentic voices will make him an influential and memorable teacher. We're pleased to be able to support his work."

Established in 2000 with a grant from the New York-based Starr Foundation, the C.V. Starr Center explores our nation's history—and particularly the legacy of its Founding era—in innovative ways. Through educational programs, scholarship, and public outreach, and especially by supporting and fostering the art of written history, the Starr Center seeks to bridge the divide between past and present, and between the academic world and the public at large. From its base in the circa-1746 Custom House along Chestertown's colonial waterfront, the Center also serves as a portal onto a world of opportunities for Washington College students. Its guiding principle is that now more than ever, a wider understanding of our shared past is fundamental to the continuing success of America's democratic experiment.

Architect of Democracy will remain on display at the Custom House through March 7th. The building is open to the public during normal business hours. Please contact the Starr Center's Jenifer Endicott at 410-810-7161 or with any questions about viewing the exhibit.

February 7, 2008

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