• Joseph F. Berenato

Noyes Museum hosting ‘City of Hope’ exhibit


The “City of Hope” exhibit includes this photo by Robert Houston of a caravan bus from Newark, N.J. in 1968. (Photo Credit: Universal Pictures/IMDb/TNS/Courtesy Photo)

From now until May 9, the Noyes Museum of Art at Stockton University’s Kramer Hall, located at 30 Front St., is presenting “City of Hope: Resurrection City and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign.”


According to a release from the museum, the poster exhibition examines “the Poor People’s Campaign—a grassroots, multiracial movement that drew thousands of people to Washington, D.C. For 43 days between May and June 1968, demonstrators demanded social reforms while living side-by-side on the National Mall in a tent city known as Resurrection City.”


The exhibit, which highlights a series of newly discovered photographs and an array of protest signs and political buttons collected during the campaign, has been organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in collaboration with the National Museum of African American History and Culture.


“The Smithsonian does the touring poster exhibits on various subject matters that are driven by social impact in the community and connecting it with things from the past. This was our third or fourth in the last year-and-a-half or two years exhibit with them. The title of the exhibit, ‘City of Hope: Resurrection City and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign’ is bringing back discussion about poverty, and how it prevents opportunities for people of every race in every area in our country,” said Michael Cagno, the museum’s executive director.


Cagno said that themes in the exhibition are as relevant now as they were in 1968.


This Black and White Hands placard from the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968 is part of the exhibit at the Noyes Museum of Art. (Courtesy Photo)

“This was back when the Vietnam War was going on, so there’s a strong parallel with the War on Terror going on, with the pandemic going on, and trying to provide the comparison: has much changed in providing livable wages? Housing is a crucial thing. You can see today, with the pandemic, the access to food and the lines that are all over the place for these food drops. Of course, the one thing that never changes—but is talked about a lot—is healthcare and education. You look at the Black Lives Matter movement, you look at the pandemic and you sprinkle a little bit of politics in there as well, and there are some strong parallels,” Cagno said.


Cagno noted that one of the draws of the exhibit is that it is “small and digestible.”


“There are 18 posters that contain key language and stories, as well as iconic images from the day. It’s something that can be done in an hour, and you walk away with something from it,” Cagno said.


Additionally, Cagno said, since restrictions in response to the pandemic began, the museum has been finding ways to make their physical exhibits available online.


“This was in response to the pandemic and we had to physically shut down, and we switched totally to virtual. Now, we’re doing both, so that those who are not able to come are still able to engage in that same experience online. In addition to that, with our online exhibit, we provided additional resources that talk about the topic, whether it’s honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and examining racism, or looking at the Mother’s Day March—and the start of that campaign, that was done by Coretta Scott King. These are things that, if people have interest, they can delve deeper into with these educational resources that we provide online. Additionally, it’s a great opportunity for teachers to use as material out there,” Cagno said.


Cagno credits the Smithsonian Institution with aiding in those efforts for this exhibit.


“The Smithsonian is very gracious in helping provide the content and making it accessible for everybody to use,” Cagno said.


Cagno noted that this exhibit is a follow-up to its “Driving While Black” exhibit, which ran from February 23 to May 24, 2019.


“This helps to reinforce that the Noyes does not do these one-and-done genre topics, and that we look for opportunities to continue the conversation ... We’re still trying to resurrect this country. I think that we’re starting to have honest and open conversations about race and these injustices that occurred and, to a certain extent, continue to occur. Having that ability to have dialogue is a huge part of this,” Cagno said.


Nick Zebrowski, professional services specialist, and Christina Birchler, the director of Stockton University’s Kramer Hall, stand beside the “City of Hope: Resurrection City and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign” exhibit at the Noyes Museum of Art. (THG/Joseph F. Berenato. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

The “City of Hope: Resurrection City and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign” exhibition is open to the public on Mondays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Social distancing protocols are in place, and face coverings are required.


For more information, or to tour the virtual exhibition, visit noyesmuseum.org.