A new exhibit at the University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries looks at how government policies, from rural housing initiatives to low-income public housing programs, shape the landscape of communities in Georgia and across the United States.
The exhibit, entitled “Unequal by Design: Housing in Georgia and America,” draws upon historic government documents, photographs, historic newspapers and other records preserved in the UGA special collections archives to trace the evolution of housing policy, tackling issues such as zoning, gentrification and suburbanization.
Curated by the Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, the exhibit guides viewers through major milestones over the past century and notable pieces of legislation, such as the G.I. Bill and Titles VIII and IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, commonly known as the Fair Housing Act, as well as policies enacted by state officials and at the local level.
Visitors can learn about the impact of those government decisions through the stories on display of urban renewal projects that displaced the Buttermilk Bottom neighborhood in Atlanta and Linnentown community in Athens. The exhibit also examines the history of Atlanta’s Techwood and University Homes, the first federally funded public housing projects in the nation.
“Housing in the United States is the result not only of individual choices and market forces but also the numerous, complex decisions made in the halls of government,” said Sheryl Vogt, director of the Russell Library. “The “Unequal by Design” exhibition helps us to understand the enduring effects that housing policy has had on our communities and on the lives of Georgians.”
To tell the complex and contentious history of housing policy, Russell Library archivists worked with students in a fall 2021 senior design center course instructed by Moon Jung Jang, professor of graphic design in the Lamar Dodd School of Art and a Special Collections Faculty Fellow. The course work provided a foundation for graphics, which were completed by Russell Library intern Rachel Park, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in art with a concentration in graphic design.
“This exhibit demonstrates how our commitment to the preservation of historical records can allow future generations to better understand the factors that have shaped their world and how archival collections can facilitate experiential learning at a research institution such as UGA,” said Toby Graham, university librarian and associate provost. “I am proud of the team at the UGA libraries for their ongoing work to showcase exhibits that are informative, engaging and meaningful to our community.”
“Unequal by Design: Housing in Georgia and America” opened Aug. 22 and will be on display at the UGA Special Collections Libraries through May 26, 2023. The galleries at the Special Collections Libraries, located on the University of Georgia campus in Athens, are open to visitors for free from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, with extended evening hours until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information or to schedule a tour, visit libs.uga.edu/scl.
The Libraries welcome members of the Athens and UGA communities to participate in free related public programs to be held during the exhibit’s run. Details about the events will be listed at libs.uga.edu/events when they are available.