MS student Leanna Barcelona brings student archives to life through award-winning exhibit designs

Posted: April 10, 2017

lbarcelona.jpg?itok=VoeL7k4n Master's student Leanna Barcelona uses materials from the past to connect with students today in her artistic and award-winning exhibits.
Since her high school days in the northwest Chicago suburb of St. Charles, Illinois, Barcelona has wanted to be an archivist. As an undergraduate student, she worked at the Student Life and Culture Archives at the University of Illinois, and after earning her bachelor's degree in history and political science in May 2015, she decided to stay at Illinois for her MS in library and information science (MS/LIS) degree.

"I wanted to continue working at the Student Life and Culture Archives as a graduate student, and financially it made the most sense. It also doesn't hurt that the iSchool is ranked as the #1 graduate school for its field," she said.

Barcelona is a two-time recipient of the C. Barber Mueller Prize for Exhibition Design, sponsored by the University of Illinois Library Exhibitions Committee. In March 2015, Barcelona won the prize for her exhibit, "A Snapshot of Women's History at U of I: 1871-Present," which showcased digitized photographs from the University Archives of Women's History Month. In February 2016, she won for her exhibit for Black History Month, "Stepping through Time: Black Greek Letter Organizations at U of I," which featured materials from the Student Life and Culture Archives and highlighted Black Greek letter organizations.
"In March, I had an exhibit in the Main Library titled '150 for 150: Celebrating the Accomplishments of Women at the University,' for a sesquicentennial project. The Library and Gender Equity Council are creating a website that will feature over 150 great women from the University, and I have researched and generated the content for the website," said Barcelona. 

In addition, she is working on another exhibit using the American Library Association Archives to showcase the centennial celebration of the U.S. entry into World War I.

barcelona_imageofresearch.jpg?itok=riageBarcelona's graphic design skills were recognized again this month when she won first prize in the Image of Research competition sponsored by the Graduate College. 

"For the competition, I took a photograph of a storage vault at the Archives Research Center and overlaid the picture with a digitized photograph from the archives of students on the Quad in 1937. I came up with this idea after thinking about how student histories 'live' within the Student Life and Culture Archives program. A lot of my research, especially exhibits, focuses on student histories and how their shared histories connect throughout time," she said. 

In her free time, Barcelona loves to read. "I usually try to read a book a week. When I'm not reading, I like to do crafty things like knitting or wood burning. I also enjoy being active and attending group fitness classes on campus," she said.

Her career goal is to become a University Archivist or at least continue working in the archives of an academic institution.

"Universities are hubs of political and social movements, which can be captured and preserved in archives, and this creates rich research materials," said Barcelona. "I enjoy helping people in their research endeavors and working with collections, so this type of position would be ideal."

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