Guantanamo Bay exhibit comes to campus

The Guantanamo Public Memory Project, a collaborative look into the history of this United States naval station in Cuba, makes a stop at the University of Miami.

The exhibit, which brings together projects from 11 universities, has been traveling to each of these schools as well as other sites. It allows students to explore the history of Guantanamo Bay from different perspectives through “panels, oral histories, and digital content,” according to the project’s website. UM was the last of the 11 participating schools to be visited by the exhibition.

Grace Barnes, a professor in the School of Communication, taught three documentary classes that contributed a total of 12 videos to the project. She described these films as “video histories” that explored the stories of different people who were involved in different aspects of Guantanamo.

“At the beginning of the class, I asked the students ‘When I say Guantanamo, what do you think? Do you have any relationship with Guantanamo or any opinion about Guantanamo?” Barnes said.

She explained that in one of her classes, there was a student whose father had been stationed there while serving in the Marines. The student was able to set up an interview with him over Skype. Other video subjects included a lawyer who represented people who were mistreated at Guantanamo.

On Monday, the Guantanamo Public Memory Project’s opening reception and panel discussion was held at 6 p.m. in the College of Arts & Sciences Gallery at the Wesley Foundation (CAS Gallery). This was in partnership with the University of Miami Libraries and The Miami Herald.

Panelists included The Herald’s Carol Rosenberg, who served as the mediator, Christina Frohock from UM’s School of Law, Madhya Husta, a former Cuban Community Assistance program manager, Captain Pete Husta, a retiree of the U.S Navy and immigration attorney Ira Kurzban.

During the panel, the history of Guantanamo was discussed, as well as what the expectation is for the future of the site and whether or not it will close. All the participants agreed that it will not.

“The detention center, yes. But the base, we’re keeping forever,” Frohock said.

The project itself was initially started by Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights and was launched in 2009, according to the project’s website.

The traveling exhibit, which included contributions from the 11 participating universities, began in 2012 at NYU, another participating school. Since then, it has traveled to 17 different sites.

The memory project has also gone abroad to Istanbul, NYU London and the University of Brighton in the UK.

Barnes felt that this was an important subject for students to be involved in.

“Instead of having a whole bunch of experts say why this should or shouldn’t happen, take this question to smart young people who don’t know a thing about it and throw it at them and then have them think it through,” she said. “Then, it becomes a learning experience.”

Patricia Amaral contributed to this report.

The exhibition will be on display and open to the public until the  Oct. 31 at the UM College of Arts & Sciences Gallery at the Wesley Foundation, 1210 Stanford Drive.