Student Curated Exhibits Featured in Special Collections

News item published on: 2020-10-15 15:59:00

University Libraries’ Special Collections is currently displaying exhibits curated by three Southern Miss students in McCain Library and Archives. This year’s exhibits feature the work of a music history/marketing undergraduate, a history graduate student, and an English licensure undergraduate.

Teacher, Composer, Collaborator: An Examination of Southern Miss Composer Emeritus Luigi Zaninelli, curated by dual music history and marketing undergraduate student Jay “Starnes” Dees, examines the life and achievements of USM’s emeritus composer-in-residence, Luigi Zaninelli. Zaninelli’s worldwide renown as a composer often overshadows his contributions to the University as a professor and friend to his students and colleagues alike. This exhibit features manuscripts, scores, concert programs, and photos that show that Maestro Zaninelli’s dedication to his art was one of the driving factors that helped bring USM to the world stage as one of the top music programs in the United States.

Madge Burney: Champion of the Lost Cause, curated by history masters and public history student Billy Don Loper, analyzes the many efforts local organizer Madge Burney made to preserve the Lost Cause of the Confederacy. The Lost Cause argues that the south fought the American Civil War out of a sense of moral righteousness and often downplays the role of slavery. This exhibit features letters, postcards, and pamphlets that show how involved Burney was in preserving this cause and furthering the power of white supremacy in Mississippi.

Multiculturalism in Children’s Books: A Problematic Past and A Hopeful Future, curated by undergraduate English licensure major Abigail Jordon, explores the topic of race in children’s literature and examines the racial implications of these texts. Racism is pervasive and woven into the fabric of our society, and many children’s books were written with this discriminatory mindset especially during the 20th century. This purpose of this exhibit is to display a range of picture books from various authors and show how each handled the topic of race. Many of the titles display racial ideologies through words and illustrations. However, there exists a complexity within the books that attempt to be inclusive but adhere to racial stereotypes. Overall, this exhibit exists to create a dialogue about race, the need of representation in children’s literature, and the power of diversity and inclusion.

Special Collections student curator program provides students the opportunity to curate mini exhibits featuring materials from the collections. Students learn how to select items for display, install the materials, write label and exhibit text, and publicize the exhibit.

In lieu of an exhibit opening, the curators participated in a gallery talk about their exhibits. Click here to view the video.

The exhibits will be on display on the third floor of McCain Library and Archives in room 305 through March 2021. If you have questions about the program or the exhibits on display, contact Jennifer Brannock at or 601.266.4347 or .

Click here to apply to be a 2021 student curator.