From left: Kerri Inglis, Kaipo Wahinepio and Alana Kanahele

Black History Month at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo is filled with events, movies, performances, and exhibits that focus on the contributions of African Americans throughout American history. This month there is a featured exhibit at the Edwin H. Mookini Library—this exhibit was curated by students at UH Hilo.

Black history cannot be confined to just an exhibit, performance, presentation, or written work. The acknowledgement of how African Americans have contributed to the history of the United States is important and vital to fully comprehending history in its entirety. African Americans have been instrumental in American history, Hawaiian history and world history.

Black History Month exhibit in Mookini Library
Mookini Library.

Kerri Inglis, associate professor and chair of the UH Hilo history department, was asked to organized the Black History Month Exhibit for 2017 that is being presented for the month of February.

Students Kaipo Wahinepio and Alana Kanahele were selected to help curate and produce this exhibit. Wahinepio, a history major, and Kanahele, a Hawaiian studies major, both say they learned more than they expected to during the curation process. Both were responsible for research, display arrangement and setup along with the written descriptions provided for each historical black figure represented.

Inglis says her goal by having students create the exhibit is to go beyond just relational job experience and technical skills—she wanted them to learn how to present history to a targeted audience.

“I wanted them to think about whose story to present, how to present it, how do we get the attention of the public, what kind of exhibit would be appropriate,” says Inglis. “Do we want one where you just walk by or some other kind that involves more outreach like social media or stimulated word of mouth?”

History comes alive with applied learning experience

Student involvement with applied learning activities around campus allow for the opportunity to learn things that cannot be taught in the classroom. It pulls together classroom education and real life experiences, correlating them to future careers, which is essential for student success.

There are courses offered by the history department here at UH Hilo that help teach students how to communicate history in a public forum. The course—Public History of Hawaiʻi—discusses more than Hawaiian history. It highlights and brings attention to how Hawaiian history is presented to the public. Courses like this go beyond the books and articles and hones the educational lens on analyzing the how as opposed to just the what, which is enlightening.

The Black History Month Exhibit is Wahinepio and Kanahele’s first exhibit, however both express an overwhelming willingness to learn the different aspects of curating along with partaking in another exhibit.

Read the UH Hilo Stories article for full story.

—A UH Hilo Stories article written by Anne Rivera, a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor, and photos by Zoe Coffman