Campus Life

UWF plays pivotal role in building public memory of Guantánamo

Twelve universities across the United States are participating in the creation and implementation of a traveling history exhibit of Guantánamo (GTMO) and UWF is playing a key role in the project. The Naval Station Guantánamo Bay is located in Cuba, and since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the base has been used for housing detainees and enemy combatants in the “War on Terror.”

Students in UWF Public History Program Director Patrick Moore’s summer class, Oral and Community History, are gathering personal, oral histories of local citizens that are former GTMO residents. By the end of June, the students will have completed nearly 125 oral histories.

“The students are integral to the whole process,” said Moore. “They are central to the whole project and they’ve spent a lot of time learning about the base. None of the other participating universities have ever been to GTMO, so UWF is playing a pivotal role in this project going forward.”

Moore performed a study of the exiles living on the base and actually visited GTMO in 2001.

The purpose of the traveling exhibit is to shine a different light on the base by sharing stories and history starting from the 1400s when Columbus first discovered the land, all the way to current times. It will serve to explain the history of Guantánamo to the general public. Five main principles were taken into account when building a public memory for Guantánamo:

  • Involve the entire history of the site, not only its recent use in the “War on Terror,” grounded in rigorous scholarship.
  • Include multiple voices and perspectives such as recent and past detainees, military personnel, Cuban workers, Third Country Nationals and others, aiming to restore the dignity of all as human beings with complex individual histories and backgrounds.
  • Raise questions about the present and the future – not only of the site, but of related policies and practices at sites around the world – and inspire open and ongoing public debate for societies everywhere about how to act on the lessons of GTMO.
  • Be international, and offer a space for organizations and individuals to contribute their resources and perspectives.
  • Focus on reaching people off the physical site, without precluding the possibility of an on-site history museum in the future.

This traveling history exhibit will start at New York University in the winter of 2012 and will eventually visit all 12 schools for a certain period of time in the next two years. The tour will wrap up in the historic downtown Pensacola village in 2014.

For more information, contact Patrick Moore at