Written by on May 20, 2013

Down to the Roots: Exhibit explores San Luis Obispo’s links to the land

The second floor of Kennedy Library has been transformed into a miniature Farmers’ Market for Special Collections’ Spring Exhibit, “Links to the Land.”

The exhibit brings together records from over 12 collections to create one story about how San Luis Obispo’s community was shaped by its ranching and farming families. “Links to the Land” was originally inspired by Special Collections’ San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market Oral History Project, said Peter Runge, head librarian for Special Collections and University Archives.

“We decided to expand that to include ranching, land stewardship and the environment,” Peter said.

To Market, to Market

“Links to the Land” began as an exploration of San Luis Obispo County’s diverse Farmers’ Markets. The Farmers’ Market Oral History Project was a way for Special Collections to engage the community and celebrate local culture, Peter said. By adding history of famous San Luis Obispo families like Ah Louis or the Sinsheimers, the exhibit became the story of San Luis Obispo’s growth.

“We’re part of the community, we’re embedded in the community, and this exhibit more than other exhibits really connects all the pieces of the community,” Peter said.

A photo of an exhibit poster that says "Farm Labor" with a photo of farm laborers uniting.Many Collections, One Story

As the exhibit grew, more and more collections were incorporated into the story. “Links to the Land” draws on multiple collections for the display, setting it apart from previous exhibits, said student Bryn Hobson, who designed many of the displays.

“The exhibit is pretty different from the last two we’ve done. This is piecing together all these related collections, which is pretty interesting [in terms of] working on the design,” Bryn said.

Bryn created 12 different designs representative of the 12 major collections featured in the exhibit. Bryn’s designs for each collection were inspired by vintage fruit labels, as well as by unique motifs in the individual collections.

“For this exhibit I discovered an admiration for this famous family history in SLO: Sinsheimer, McMillan, Ah Louis,” Bryn said.

A Piece of the Exhibit

Working closely with Peter Jankay, director of the San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market Association, Special Collections designed “Links to the Land” to have the feel of a marketplace.

Peter even offered to loan the library a farm stand and umbrella, which inspired Special Collections to incorporate produce into the displays. Now, every Monday, the farm stand is full of fresh fruits, and people are invited to help themselves to some fresh, local produce.

“You can actually walk away with a piece of the exhibit,” Peter Runge said.

More information on local farmers’ markets is available at the San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market Association. More photos on Kennedy Library Flickr.

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