New exhibition highlights 50 years of the Mason student experience


As a part of George Mason University’s 50th Anniversary celebration this year, the University Libraries’ Special Collection Research Center (SCRC) is sharing some documents, artifacts, and photography from the archives in its new exhibition “We Are Mason: A Student History.”

This exhibition, which goes beyond the university’s first 50 years as an independent university to its origins in 1957, uses images and physical objects to illustrate student life throughout the years, as well as show the development of university traditions, growth of the campus, and milestones in our institution’s history. 

As the title suggests, Mason students, as both witnesses to and actors in the university's history, are the focus of the exhibition, said SCRC archivist Bob Vay, who curated the exhibition. But Vay is quick to point out it was a team effort.

glasses cases in the library
The We Are Mason exhibition runs through December 2022. Photo courtesy of SCRC

“My colleagues in SCRC and I conceived the idea for this exhibition last fall. We spent a significant amount of time mulling over different angles and ideas,” said Vay, who is also an alum, with two degrees, a BA and MA in history, from Mason. “Our goal with this exhibition was to present more of a grassroots-level interpretation of our history.”

“While the entire staff of SCRC and our GRA Lillian Poole helped shape and finally put this together, we received a lot of help from other library departments, particularly Preservation Services and the Office of the Dean. Other units outside the Libraries, such as Print Services, Creative Services, and University Branding contributed significantly to the finished product.”

The exhibition features manuscript records, university publications, and photographs from three collections in the SCRC holdings:

  • The Richard Sparks photograph collection, which features 121 images of George Mason College life taken between 1961 and 1965 by then-Mason student Richard Sparks;
  • the Broadside photograph collection, R0135, contains more than 55,000 images captured by Mason students working for the Broadside student newspaper between 1973 and 2001; and
  • the George Mason University photograph collection, R0120, contains more than 120,000 images taken by Mason's Office of University Relations from the mid-1950s to 2007.

Located in the SCRC Exhibit Space on the second floor of Fenwick Library, "We Are Mason: A Student History" runs through December 2022. The Libraries will host a reception on Wednesday, May 25, 2022 from 4-6 p.m. adjacent to the exhibition.