What's it like to host an exhibit with PROOF? We asked Joel Pruce, Assistant Professor at the University of Dayton, and a committee member at the university's Human Rights Center
Where was the exhibit located- who had access to it?
On the main floor of our library, our main research library…. in a highly visible space, where it [got] a great deal of foot traffic from faculty, staff, and students.
Folks just walking by, people who are on their way to the library for some other purpose, are brought in by the photographs… The very bold images of the individuals who are pictured in the Rescuers attracts people’s attention, draws them in to read the stories and learn more about the exhibit itself.
How does the exhibit fit into the Human Rights Center’s mission?
One of our key goals is to partner with non-governmental organizations… we take their diligent and excellent work and provide a platform for it.
We have an emphasis on media, and the role of media as an advocacy tool. The kind of storytelling that the exhibit embodies really expresses the way that information, and media, and stories can be utilized for advocacy. Central to the goals of the Rescuers itself…. is that by sharing stories, in this case, of ordinary people, who have acted extraordinarily in the face of mass atrocities and genocide…. How do we communicate, and translate, and interpret their stories for a broader, global audience?
The Rescuers provides us a really unique way of exploring the way storytelling and testimony can be used for advocacy. Sharing the story of the rescuers, first of all, sheds light on a very important role that individuals can play in the face of mass atrocities and genocide. That these great crimes and conflicts are not only about victims and perpetrators, that everyone in between has a role to play- and perhaps a moral obligation to act.
What has been the response from the people who viewed the exhibit?
We’ve had an excellent response from the university community since the exhibit opened... It provides us with an excellent opportunity to reach out to the uninitiated. You know, people who didn’t know that they would be experiencing these kinds of stories simply on a trip to the library…
Myself, and colleagues of mine who brought students to the exhibit, we found that the students were able to have a very profound experience, not only in a way that their vision of mass atrocities and genocide have been expanded… but more broadly considered the moral implications of being an “upstander,” which does not only correlate to very severe contexts of genocide, but being an upstander has to do with the moral obligation that we, as human beings, have to our local communities, and, quite frankly, many of the people that see our exhibit are probably never going to be in the context of mass atrocities and genocide. Yet how do they carry the message of the Rescuers into their ordinary life, into their daily life, into their professional life, both on this campus and beyond?
What do you hope the audience took away from the exhibit?
As a university based in the Midwest, in Ohio, being able to bring global stories to our community here, is an important thing that we believe the human rights center can do. To contextualize our students in the broader global community, is something we think that broadens their horizons, compels them to think of themselves…. in terms that bring them face to face with others’ experiences, experiences of those people they’ll never meet. If that experience can prompt greater thinking about global issues, about human rights, about human rights protection, then we’ve been successful.
The University of Dayton not only prides itself on its human rights education, but now its new emphasis on research and advocacy.
The Rescuers really magnifies many ongoing programs and projects we have here at the university… bringing together both our educational imperatives, as well as emphasis on the way that education and research can be a force for change and for human rights promotion.