Now, nine photos of hands holding unidentified books stretch across the second-floor wall left of the east wing lobby staircase in Ekstrom Library. The hands represent people from all walks of life – a diverse mix of gender, race and ethnicity. But there’s more: Each of those books is on a cabinet that opens to reveal a photo interpretation of a banned book.

“It pops out” from the wall, said Dean Robert Fox of the exhibit at its December unveiling. “It is incredibly stimulating” and, as it addresses books that have been banned, its “right place” is in the library.

“This is phenomenal,” said photography student Nicholas Linares as he looked at the exhibit for the first time.

Titled “UNBOUND,” the exhibit came about after Rae Helton, former Learning Commons coordinator at Ekstrom Library, saw a Day of the Dead installation that photography professor Mary Carothers did at 21c Museum Hotel.

Helton, now in the Office of Community Engagement, was impressed with Carothers’ creativity and went to her with an idea to tell “many stories of adversity and diversity.” It would go on the wall where a Martin Luther King Jr. “Road to Freedom” exhibit had hung for years.

“I truly appreciated the ‘Road to Freedom’ panels,” Helton said, “but I saw this as an opportunity to do something different.”

Carothers took on the project, presented it to her students and let them pick the theme. They chose banned books.

“Boiling it down to nine books was challenging,” Carothers said. “I told the students to pick a book that was inspirational to them.”

Graduate student Lexi Bass said she picked Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book, “The Scarlet Letter,” because “I deal with a lot of the same things in my other art: shame, judgment, sexuality. I thought it was a good match for me.”

The other books and their photographic interpreters are:

  • “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll; Anna Buky, photographer
  • “A Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood; Crystal Ludwick, photographer
  • “The True Furqan” by Al Saffe and interpreted by Almahdy; Lana Wilson, photographer
  • “1984,” by George Orwell; Eric Christensen, photographer
  • “James and Giant Peach,” by Roald Dahl; Johnathan McCutcheon, photographer
  • “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” by Ken Kesey; Jenni Harper, photographer
  • “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini; Kevin Parrish, photographer
  • “Flowers in the Attic,” by V.C Andrews; Rachel Waters, photographer

“I hope for many years this will intrigue faculty and staff to read the books and think about the stories behind the books,” Helton said.

Display sponsors are the CODRE Diversity Programming Committee, Margaret M. Bridwell Art Library and University Libraries. Visitors to Ekstrom Library can see the exhibit during regular library hours.