At the University of the West Indies (UWI), graduation season runs for a month and takes in campuses that stretch the length and bredth of the Caribbean region — and into cyberspace. So the museum, in collaboration with the UWI Archives, is chiming in with an exhibition on academic dress and celebration.
The exhibition runs from October 19 through November. It looks at the history of academic regalia globally and locally, and at the occasions when the UWI academic community dons its gowns.
One special feature of this exhibition is our title poster – a gift from international poster artists Michael ‘Freestylee’ Thompson of Jamaica and Maria Papaefstathiou of Greece. Maria visited the UWI Museum in early October, while she was in Jamaica for the launch of a National Gallery exhibition on reggae poster art — the outcome of an international competition and a step towards the development of a reggae Hall of Fame in Kingston, birthplace of the Jamaican music form. (Check out Michael’s flickr stream!)
While at the museum, she heard that an exhibition on academic dress was in the works, and offered to ‘rope in’ Freestylee to develop a title poster for the exhibition.
Maria also made the point that in her native Greece, the formal academic regalia was largely absent.
The exhibition is a great way of learning a little more about the history and meaning of the gowns, hoods and caps that are common features of graduation season and of other formal academic occasions – such as the installation of Chancellors, Vice Chancellors and other high university officials.
Recent groups of visiting students include young men and women from the UWI Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow (UWISTAT) Mona organisation, who checked out our ‘Origins’ exhibition just before we pulled it down — and who’ve promised to come back for an update on Academic Dress & Celebration.