Section: archive

Propaganda on display: dusting off WWII posters

Propaganda on display: dusting off WWII posters

By Lauren Katz

The Kenyon Review and Gund Gallery have collaborated this year on the Art and Identity symposium, a series of lectures and events linking art and the Holocaust. Last Thursday, Feb. 7, Gund Gallery presented its newest addition to the project in a Common Hour talk entitled Image and Ideology: Propaganda Posters from World War II.

The event allowed the curators of the exhibition to present their work on the posters; however, this particular event included a twist: rather than members of the Gund Gallery staff, the curators were three student members of the Gund Gallery Associates team, Anna Shinbane 16, Janet Wlody 13 and Virginia McBride 15.

At the beginning of the year, all of the associates recorded how they would like to assist with the Gallery. The three curators expressed interest in writing, and were fortunate enough to be chosen for this exhibition. Their job was to pick a group of propaganda posters and write textual analyses of each piece in the show.

The Gallery acquired the posters from Denison University, and the three students had the opportunity to visit the collection and choose which posters would make the trip to Kenyon.

We sorted through them and divided them into different categories, Wlody said. We sort of chose the best representatives from each group, and that ended up going into the show.

The next step was finding the right placement for each poster.

This was the first show any of them had curated, so they collaborated in order to create thematic image groupings.

We collaborated a lot on how we wanted all of the different images to flow from one end of one wall to another end of another wall, Shinbane said. As you walk through the show you will see that there is a circular theme to all of the different rooms.

Choosing the posters and spacing, however, was only the beginning. The curators also had to create textual labels to accompany each poster and describe the historical context.

Because the artwork came with a small amount of information, the students were given the opportunity to expand on their interests through research.

I have a great interest in museum studies, and I was presented an opportunity to work on the conservation board of this particular show, Shinbane said. A lot of my interest lay in research, which we were able to do because we were not given a lot of information.

The other curators were able to contribute their passions to the project. Wlody concentrated on the portrayal of women in propaganda, and a lot of the exhibits posters came from the home-front during the war.

I am an English major, but for a long time I thought I would have a concentration in American Studies, Wlody said. I am very interested in American history, and within my English major, I tend to focus on American literature.

Although the three students had their own designated categories, they worked together to create the best work.

It was kind of like one giant voice, working together and editing each others writing, Shinbane said.

These categories also played a large part in how the Common Hour event was set up.

The three curators took the tour group through the exhibit and shared insight on the themes present in each piece of art.

That was sort of just a run-through of what we thought was a good example in one of the categories that we had written about, Wlody said.

Each curator presented her section and then invited the audience members to share their observations. From what I heard from some people at the opening, they all really enjoyed it, Wlody said.

Ultimately, the event brought history to life in an engaging, visually-appealing way. [The posters] tend to just collect dust in corners, Wlody said. This way they were finally shown.

[starbox id=”Lauren Katz”]


Comments for this article have closed. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor for publication, please email us at