The exhibition, titled “The Election for Woodrow Wilson’s America,” features photographs, love letters from Wilson to his wife Edith, political cartoons and campaign posters of Wilson during the 1912 election, when he defeated both incumbent President William Howard Taft and former President Theodore Roosevelt.
The University Archives and the Public Policy Collection at Mudd Library contributed to the exhibit, and several rare pieces of Wilson memorabilia were loaned by Anthony Atkiss ’61.
According to University Archivist and Curator of Public Policy Papers Daniel Linke, the idea for a Wilson exhibit was first proposed about two years ago.
“We were thinking about what we would do in 2012. Well, that was an easy one, because it’s the centennial of Woodrow Wilson’s election to the U.S. presidency,” Linke said.
The Wilson exhibit was designed before it could make any direct references to details of this November’s presidential election, but Linke noted that there are a few “allusions.”
“We talk about some of the issues [in the Wilson exhibit] in terms of corporate money versus people’s choices. We’re seeing that right now with Super PACs,” Linke said. “The exhibit shows parallels with the issues then and now.”
According to Linke, the exhibition portrays Wilson as the “model citizen-scholar” that Princeton strived to produce.
“You can’t work at Princeton and not be cognizant of Wilson’s presence here, both as a professor and as the president and later, President of the United States. All have a legacy on this campus,” Linke said.
Atkiss, who owns over 1,700 items related to Wilson and started collecting presidential memorabilia when he was in junior high school, said Linke reached out to him and asked if he would share some of his items that had to do with the 1912 election. Atkiss decided to donate half of his collection to the exhibit, while the other half was sent to Wilson’s presidential library in Virginia.
Since July, there have been approximately 175 to 200 visitors to the Milberg Gallery, according to a department manager for the exhibit. The logbook entries located near the entrance show that most visitors to the exhibit are first-time visitors to the University rather than students and faculty.
Mark and Marjolein Irwin, a couple from the Netherlands who visited on Tuesday, commented that the Milberg Gallery is not easy to locate within Firestone.
“Normally, we would never have gone up to the second floor,” Mark Irwin said. Linke shared this view, mentioning that the gallery is not something a visitor can just “casually happen upon.”
Linke said that the renovations in Firestone will make the gallery more “readily accessible. It will be a place where a student can just go to without having to wind their way up the staircase and around the corner,” Linke said.
Marjolein Irwin said that she came upon the exhibit and enjoyed it even though she had no previous knowledge of the American president. The 22 political cartoons featuring Wilson, she explained, were what she liked best.
“By the cartoons, I kind of got an idea of what people thought of him,” she said.
To Linke, the exhibit is valuable in that it offers a prism through which to judge politics 100 years later.
“The exhibition shows that there are things that happened in history that get done and people move on, but then there are issues in politics that are perpetual,” Linke said. “Mark Twain said that history doesn’t repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes. And this exhibit shows you some of the rhymes between the 1912 and the 2012 elections.”
The exhibit is free and open to the public until the end of December.
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/09/20/31178/