Campus historical spaces and narratives possess the ability to appeal to all the university’s community members. Sports traditions, civil rights histories, and museum exhibitions represent just a small sample of the ways the institution’s past interests our students, faculty, and guests. While local community members regularly engage with this side of the university, its history’s reach is international.
The University of Alabama’s English Language Institute (ELI), as part of the university’s Capstone International Center, provides English language support through numerous programs and academic courses. In August 2023, through the ELI, a group of Japanese students from Chiba University toured the Gorgas House Museum as part of a two-week program introducing them to campus and regional culture. Before their tour and visit to the United States, they watched a video in Japan about the university’s history and culture and it included the Gorgas House.
More than 20 students toured the home, learned about its histories, people, and collections, and experienced where the university’s history begins. They touched hands-on objects including nineteenth-century cannonballs, played the 1875 Haines Brothers piano in the parlor, and sat in the porch rocking chairs. While the tour introduced the university’s history, it also began an immersion into campus culture. History, with all its egregiousness and triumphs, provides opportunities for conversation, integration, and learning. History is universal and museums, collections, and monuments serve as places for all learners, both domestic and international, to engage with it.
– Written by Brandon Thompson, Director of the Gorgas House Museum