By Sophie McGlynn
Waging Peace: 100 Years of Quakers, Moral Quandaries, and a Quest for Justice is an exhibit celebrating the centenary of the founding of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker pacifist and relief work organization. I have been working on Waging Peace since September 2016, and it has been an incredibly informative, enjoyable, and valuable experience. I have learned so much, both about the AFSC itself and about the process of curating an exhibit, and I’ve had a chance to examine some really interesting ethical questions throughout the course of my work. Putting together this exhibit was a great opportunity to learn broadly about the AFSC, as well as to dive into some specific themes and stories. In the end, I decided to focus on four snapshots of the AFSC’s work from the past century: racial justice work in the US, relief work in North Africa and Europe, reconciliation work in the Middle East, and pacifist activism both at Haverford and more globally. Each of these has been an important part of the AFSC’s mission, and each is full of dedicated individuals devoting much of their professional - and personal - lives to something they really believe in.
I had an opportunity to work both independently and collaboratively with the staff at Quaker & Special Collections, which was an amazing learning experience. While I had a lot of autonomy to decide what would eventually be on display and what I could say about it, I also had the support of Krista Oldham, Sarah Horowitz, and especially Mary Crauderueff in finding a story, figuring out how to tell it, and extensively editing my written work. Something challenging about the process was finding a way to engage viewers in a conversation about what we thought were important issues - for example, their own role in peace work, or the critical ethics of what it means to provide ‘aid’ - while also giving them space to bring their own views in and take their own lessons out. Knowing that most viewers will not see the entire exhibit also was challenging in ensuring that each individual item had a story that could stand alone, as well as an overarching story that brought the exhibit together as one ensemble.
Having the AFSC provide some of their own materials in addition to those displayed from Quaker & Special Collections was especially helpful in providing different perspectives for viewers to consider. While our materials offer a more personal and specific set of insights, the AFSC components present a broader institutional overview into the whole body of their work, and the combination of the two creates a unique and varied way to step into this subject. It has been a truly wonderful experience working on this, and I hope to be part of other projects with the Libraries in the future.