On October 24, about 70 guests, including UCSB trustees and faculty members, gathered for the opening reception of the exhibit, Campus by the Sea: Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of UC Santa Barbara. Featuring items from UCSB’s Special Research Collections, the exhibit traces the school’s history from a sleepy liberal arts college into a world-class research institution. It is housed within the Special Research Collections, which is in a third-floor space created by the massive 2016 library expansion and renovation. The 75th anniversary is in reference to the year (1944) that the school joined the UC system. The school traces its beginnings to 1891. It moved from the Riviera to its current location in 1954.
During the reception, guests viewed the exhibit and visited with the curator, UCSB Archivist Matt Stahl, and other contributors. During the program, Chancellor Henry Yang recounted his inauguration 25 years ago, which he didn’t want to have, preferring to just start working. When the trustees insisted, he invited Neil Armstrong to give the keynote address. The students were so elated to have a man from the moon here, recounted Yang, that they decided not to go through with their planned protests.
As a sign of UCSB’s progress, Yang noted that 25 years ago, there were 17,000 applications for freshman admissions. This year there were 93,000, which placed the school fifth in the number of freshman applicants among all private and public schools in the country. Yang pointed with particular pride to the six Nobel Prizes and the Pulitzer Prize faculty members have won and to UCSB’s election in 1995 into the Association of American Universities, a collection of 62 leading, research-intensive institutions in the U.S. and Canada.
Stahl explained to guests how the exhibit traces the school’s growth by showing a few highlights from each time period. For the 1940s-50s, the focus is on the acquisition of Santa Barbara State College by the UC System, and the relocation from the Riviera to the present site.
For the 1960s, one focus of the exhibit is on UCSB’s Home Economics program, for which the school was known. The exhibit contains a 1964 letter demonstrating the administration’s commitment to maintaining and growing the department, though the program was then shuttered in 1969. The exhibit also highlights that decade’s protests, which culminated in the Isla Vista Riots and the burning of the Bank of America building in 1970.
For the 1970s, the exhibit shows the expansion of the school’s Environmental Studies, Black Studies, and ChicanX Studies programs. It further spotlights scientific research, including the pivotal moment in 1979 when the Institute of Theoretical Physics was founded. The exhibit has research and teaching materials from Alan Heeger, including an overhead projector and slides he used in his course on conducting polymers. Heeger, along with two others, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2000 for light conducting and emitting polymers.
For the 1980s-2000s, Stahl related that there was a dearth of material, and in a lighthearted moment, urged guests to get records to him soon because the 100th anniversary is only 25 years away. The exhibit is rounded out with a section on UCSB’s research and its award-winning faculty, including photos of the six Nobel Prize winners and a bronze replica of Walter Kohn’s medal donated by his family. The exhibit concludes with a wall of photos of current students and written passages setting forth their hopes for UCSB’s future.
The public is invited to view the exhibit until July 4, 2020, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, 9 a.m.–8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It is closed on weekends. On Friday, November 1 from 2-4 p.m., there will be an open house with curators on hand. The exhibit is co-sponsored with UCSB Alumni. For more info, go to https://www.library.ucsb.edu/events-exhibitions/campus-sea-celebrating-75th-anniversary-ucsb.
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