Political Science exhibitApril 2, 2018 - Posters, buttons, letters, hats, knick-knacks, photos and dozens of other political artifacts from the 1950s through the 1970s will be on display at CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI)’s John Spoor Broome Library in honor of Student Research Week from April 9-13.

“Democratic Presidential Campaigns, 1952-1976: Highlights from the Jane Tolmach Collection” will have a grand opening ceremony on April 12 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. The campus and general public are welcome to attend.

The exhibit, which is installed on the west side of the Library, is the result of a two semesters’ worth of collaborative work by the Student Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF).

Led by Professor of Political Science Sean Kelly, Ph.D. and the head of the Library’s Unique Collections, Matt Cook, the group of 18 freshmen SURF students have spent the year in a “living-learning community,” which means they stayed on the same floor of a residence hall, enrolled in three general requirement courses together, making it easier to collaborate both in and out of class.

“We spent like, a thousand hours doing that,” quipped one SURF student helping to put up the display on March 29.

The SURF students’ task was to research, sort and curate more than eight decades of political ephemera donated to CSUCI by the family of former Oxnard Mayor Jane McCormick Tolmach, who died in 2015 at the age of 93.

“It’s been a very long process,” said Biology major Emma Amato, 18. “We went through many boxes in the basement, selecting what we needed to go in the cases. We laid all the items we wanted and made an outline. We are going to have a description under each one.”

Tolmach went from 1950s housewife to staunch Democratic activist, becoming the first woman to be elected to the Oxnard City Council in 1970, and later becoming the first woman to serve as mayor of Oxnard. Among the items in her collection are photos of Bobby Kennedy in Tolmach’s backyard, speaking to supporters on June 4, 1968. He was assassinated in Los Angeles the following day.

“All her accomplishments, I don’t know how she did so much,” marveled Cole Schwab, 19, an Environmental Science & Resource Management major who had never heard of Tolmach before the project. “She was a great woman and a great mayor. “She did a lot for the city of Oxnard.”

Political Science exhibitThe students catalogued every piece for the Library archives and assembled both a physical and online exhibit. Students born in the age of digital information sorted through white paper cowboy hats printed with “LBJ,” stick pins bearing the likeness of Jimmy Carter, notes and postcards to Tolmach from various Democratic candidates, Democratic donkey figurines and a liquor bottle bearing the name of Governor Jerry Brown during his candidacy in the 1970s.

“This old poli sci memorabilia is pretty funky, but it wasn’t weird back in the day,” Schwab said. “Like those paper hats.”

The SURF students are all freshmen from a variety of disciplines, selected by Kelly and Cook based on a strong sense of curiosity and a qualifying essay. 

Undergraduate research is generally reserved for juniors and seniors, but Kelly and Cook believe immersing students in a world of inquiry as freshmen.

“We’re getting them into the mindset of doing research and what that means,” Kelly explained. “It will be valuable in their subsequent work.”

“I’ve learned a lot of research skills and for biology you need a lot of research skills,” Amato said. “I learned a lot about politics, but we also learned the process of research.”

One more value Kelly and Cook hope the SURF students take with them is the importance of voting. With that in mind, the exhibit will include a computer where visitors can register to vote.