Foreign trinkets, photo collages, and historical clippings furnish the multimedia Peace Corps exhibit now open in the UCSB Davidson Library. The display is presented—by the library, Santa Barbara Peace Corps Association, and the Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Ethics, Religion, and Public Life—in homage to the agency’s 50th anniversary
Officially open since Tuesday night, October 26, the month-long exhibit will host local returned Peace Corps volunteers every Wednesday to share their experiences.
“I have learned from these 50 years that Peace Corps volunteers are very diverse,” said Juliane Heyman, one of the agency’s first volunteers from 1961. “They go to diverse countries and do diverse things.”
Heyman was directly recruited by Sargent Shriver, the Peace Corps’ first director, appointed by President John F. Kennedy. She worked for the agency for five years and has stayed involved for the past half-century.
Her life in the Peace Corps began with Kennedy’s personal pitch to her and other students at the University of Michigan for an American volunteer program. Heyman said all the universities were “gung ho” to participate.
And when the volunteers return to America, she said, “They have learned even more than they have given to the country.” Vic Cox, a UCSB alum who volunteered in Brazil in the 1960s, added, “If it weren’t for the Peace Corps, I wouldn’t have seen much of the world.” An old newspaper clipping of Cox, announcing his decision to join up, is among the memorabilia displayed on the wall.
The exhibit, occupying a corner of the library’s lobby, sports an array of artifacts collected from the 72 countries that have been visited by the Peace Corps. Dozens of cultural pieces such as wooden masks, handmade flutes, and sheathed swords lie under glass cases. Surrounding shelves provide books, pamphlets, and a scrapbook of blogs, journal entries, and other writings by volunteers in the field.
Robin Smith, secretary of the Santa Barbara Peace Corps Association, began collecting materials for the exhibit nearly three months ago. The actual installation began Saturday morning, for completion by Tuesday night. “It’s worth hundreds of hours to honor the past 50 years,” Smith said.
Kicking off the weekly presentations were returned Peace Corps volunteers Sharon Dirlam and Melissa Morgan, who spoke of their experiences in Siberia and Kyrgyzstan, respectively.
On Wednesday night, November 3, at 7 p.m., Santa Barbara Peace Corps Association boardmembers Naomi Kovacs and Dominique Monie will speak of their ventures to Cameroon and Madagascar, respectively.
Vic Cox, Lawrence Lihoset, and Bryant Wieneke will describe their experiences in Brazil, Honduras, and Niger, respectively, on Wednesday, November 10, 7 p.m.
The following Wednesday, November 17, 7 p.m., Ann Church Rowe will talk about her experiences in Honduras.
Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams will visit the exhibit November 21, during his stops through the West Coast.
The display and presentations are free and open to the public. Library hours are 8 a.m. to midnight Mondays through Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays, 9 a.m to 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to midnight Sundays.