Opening in October, Butler Banner is an exhibit led by Columbia University students and supported and sponsored by Columbia University Libraries. Based on an artifact in the Libraries’ collections and an historic campus event, the exhibit aims to foster conversations about representation in campus spaces, collections, and scholarship.
At the University’s Commencement in 1989, Laura Hotchkiss Brown (GS ‘89) and four friends attempted to hang a 140-foot banner bearing the names of eight women writers above the names of the male writers inscribed on the northern facade of Butler LIbrary. The students were stopped by security, and the banner was removed. With the support of the Libraries and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, the banner was subsequently displayed on the Butler facade in September and October of 1989. Ms. Brown was invited to curate an exhibition and plan a concurrent lecture series by Columbia faculty to celebrate the eight authors: Sappho, Marie de France, Christine de Pizan, Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz, Bronte, Dickinson, and Woolf. In March 1994, twenty Columbia undergraduates created a new banner bearing the names of ten women authors to commemorate Women’s History Month. This banner, which hung briefly on the facade of Butler, bore the names of Sappho, Murasaki, Mirabhai, Stein, Woolf, Hurston, De Beauvoir, Morrison, Silko, and Cisneros.
This fall, 30 years after the original banner was hung from the Butler Library, Columbia University students and the Libraries commemorate the event with an inside-outside exhibition that includes a facsimile of the original banner, reinterpreted for today, that will be hung on Butler’s facade, as it was in 1989. There is also an exhibit on the third floor of Butler Library with a display of the original banner and related materials, as well as contextual materials about the writers in this new interpretation of the banner.
Head Student Curators: Radhika (Rads) Mehta and Gustie Owens
Student Curators: Keziah Anderson, Joon Baek, Ramsay Eyre, Elise Fuller, Heven Haile, Monique Harmon, Aja Johnson, Elizabeth Meyer, and Danielle Resheff
Libraries Contributors: Sarah Witte and Jocelyn Wilk
The names of the women for the 2019 banner include: Toni Morrison, Diana Chang, Zora Neale Hurston, Ntozake Shange, Maya Angelou, Leslie Marmon Silko, Gloria E Anzaldúa, and A. Revathi. For more information about the exhibit and project, please visit the Butler Banner site.