“30 Images” Exhibit Offers Multiple Perspectives of Wilkes-Barre
If you’ve been on the fourth floor of Hafey-Marian this semester, perhaps you’ve noticed pictures of various Wilkes-Barre sites lining the walls. Public Square, the Kirby Center and the Susquehanna River are on display from various angles. But why? This is the result of a student project dating back to last winter entitled “Wilkes-Barre in 30 Images.”
The project was planned by English department professor Dr. Noreen O’Connor who was inspired by public history projects about place. O’Connor’s classes used the exhibition catalog for “Picturing Promise”which was mounted by curator Paul Gardullo for the new Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture.
O’Connor’s students applied these ideas to the community that surrounds King’s College: Wilkes-Barre. This developed into the assignment that became known as “Wilkes-Barre in 30 Images.” From there, it became a collaboration between her literary journalism and editing classes.
The literary journalism students were sent into Wilkes-Barre with digital cameras, tasked with capturing images that defined the city. An interesting aspect to this process was the variety of perspectives. Some of the students are from the area, while others were a little less familiar with locations that are not within walking distance of the King’s College campus.
Sarah Gyle, a senior at King’s, was one of the students who was familiar with Wilkes-Barre by virtue of being a native of Scott Street.
“When Dr. O’Connor said we’d be doing the project, I immediately thought about how I could tell a story of the Wilkes-Barre I knew in my childhood,” Gyle said.
Sophomore Samantha Bucher is closer to the other side of the familiarity spectrum. While she did know of Wilkes-Barre, and even stopped there a few times before her days as a college student, Bucher was not raised in the city. She referenced a memorable moment a few years ago when justifying the reasoning behind her lead image.
“When I heard about this project, I knew I wanted to include the movie theater because that was my first experience of Wilkes-Barre,” Bucher said. “My dad took me there when I was 14 or 15.”
Gyle and Bucher were in agreement when it came to Wilkes-Barre’s shaky reputation.
“The city has such a negative image in the media right now,” Gyle admitted before emphasizing her goal for the project. “I figured I would share some of the reasons that my part of the city isn’t as bad as the media portrays it.”
Bucher also had a personal story to share in regards to Wilkes-Barre’s reputation and its impact on her picture selection.
“When I started living [in Wilkes-Barre], I heard bad things about it,” Bucher recalled. She continued: “I had a rough start to the college life and I would walk around the city to take my mind off things. Through walking around, I started to see Wilkes-Barre through my own eyes for once, instead of just hating it because I heard the commuters hating on it.”
The interesting perspectives of students is what makes an idea like “Wilkes-Barre in 30 Images” so interesting. It started as an idea for a collaborative project between two professional writing classes and eventually developed into one of King’s College’s most unique displays of student work.
And according to Dr. O’Connor, it will continue to be one of the signatures of the budding Professional Writing program at King’s.
“Wilkes-Barre in 30 Images” will be on display on the fourth floor of the Hafey-Marian building until the end of the fall semester. It can be viewed online at wyomingvalleystories.org.