On Purpose: Portrait of Heritage Studies & Public History

To commemorate our 150th anniversary in 2018, the College of Liberal Arts commissioned 60 photographs taken by Xavier Tavera. Departments and programs partnered with Tavera to envision their images and to write the narratives that accompany each photograph. View On Purpose: Portrait of the Liberal Arts.

Photo of Noah Barth

I entered the Master’s in Heritage Studies and Public History program with a background in studying queer and fetish histories and communities, which I continue to study to this day. Almost halfway through my degree, I realized I was facing similar struggles as the people I was studying. I was selecting how I showed up in my personal life based on how I might be perceived professionally or academically. I quickly realized that this dynamic only replicated the oppression that queer and transgender people face, where being one’s full self in a work environment comes second to “professionalism.” 

As I work on Calling to Question: 150 Years of Liberal Arts Education at the University of Minnesota, I am looking specifically for those unique and perhaps deviant personal stories that CLA is composed of but that are nevertheless hidden in a shroud of bureaucracy. This exhibit is planned for the spring 2019 in Andersen Library, and while I’m looking to prove that people like me have and always will exist in these hegemonic entities, I know it’s more than just about me. The exhibit is intended to show how people who may have always felt at odds in the College of Liberal Arts have called it into question for being not what it says it is, or questioning where it can be better and more equitable.

No story is unbiased. My interpretation of the past will be a unique one, filtered through my own life experience. I think learning how to interrogate my own perspective while also valuing it is a balance that a liberal education helps maintain. I am grateful that I am able to show up as my whole self and realize the power in my experiences among the faculty and students of the Heritage Studies and Public History program. That is what makes it so special and what will make the Calling to Question exhibit so outstanding.

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