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Legacy Stories – Summer 2015

In the Udall Foundation’s enabling legislation, Congress directs that the Foundation will provide funding to maintain a “repository for Morris K. Udall’s papers and other such public papers as may be appropriate and assure such papers’ availability to the public.” The University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections uses this funding for several Graduate Assistants who work on the Udall Archives as well as other congressional collections.

The Call of the Wild: Creating an Exhibit Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act

My name is Alexa Tulk, and I worked as a Graduate Assistant for the University of Arizona Libraries Special Collections from January to December of 2014. I was a graduate student at the School of Information Resources and Library Science, and through funding from the Udall Foundation, I was given the amazing opportunity to learn how to process an archival collection, curate an exhibit, digitize collections, and research congressional records, such as Morris Udall’s and Stewart Udall’s collections.

I curated my first exhibit, on the Wilderness Act, which was held in the Congressional Archives Room of Special Collections from November 2014 until March 2015. This exhibit titled “The Call of the Wild” highlighted Stewart Udall’s and Morris Udall’s advocacy for the Wilderness Act, which acted to preserve wilderness areas throughout the United States. Materials from the Udall collections in this exhibit included photographs, bills, maps, newspaper clippings, and awards. This was one of my favorite projects to work on because I got to contribute my own creativity and share the valuable research that I had completed.

I looked through the Stewart Udall and Morris Udall collections and selected materials that pertained to the Wilderness Act that were not only informational but visual as well in order to provide resources that would engage the viewer. Once I selected materials that I felt would best represent the Wilderness Act along with the Udalls’ advocacy, I incorporated those materials into the overall layout and design of the exhibit space. To see the finished project was amazing. This exhibit was such a fun and incredible learning experience for me. Not only did I curate my very first exhibit, but I also learned about the importance of congressional collections in general for historical research. I learned about the legacy of the Udalls and their many contributions to our community. Not only did they advocate for wilderness preservation but they also supported Native American rights, just labor laws, education, land and water rights, and environmental conservation.

I also presented my research at a donor event that highlighted the many congressional records held at Special Collections. There were also many other exhibits that I attended and assisted with, such as the Dennis DeConcini exhibit and the Documented Border exhibit, where I helped select materials and gained valuable insight into both exhibit curation and exhibit reception.

The Udall Foundation has allowed me to build my skill set as a future information professional as well as gain valuable knowledge of archival institutions and their practices.

Visit www.udall.gov/AboutUs/UdallArchives.aspx to learn more about the Udall Archives.