The exhibit showcases major events in JMU history.

The first edition of The Breeze was published Dec. 2, 1922. A display case of historic front pages and other three-dimensional multimedia artifacts was arranged in Carrier Library to celebrate The Breeze’s upcoming centennial on Dec. 2, 2022.

The exhibit, which lies just inside the historic entrance of Carrier, was created by Brad Jenkins, general manager of The Breeze, and Julia Merkel, preservation officer for JMU libraries who’s also a part of the special collections team. Jenkins handpicked all the words and reprints for the display, while Merkel created the arrangement in a way that told a visual narrative.  

“The Breeze is kind of a time capsule of what JMU has been since 1922, so I just wanted to raise that awareness a bit,” Jenkins said.

The display showcases major peaks of JMU history — though Merkel said they were careful not to repeat information that was displayed for JMU’s centennial back in 2008 — along with major history and changes within The Breeze over the past 100 years. Merkel said the display highlights freedom of speech and freedom of information.

“With the Breeze’s 100th coming up, we wanted to make sure there was a real presence for the history of the paper on campus,” Merkel said. “Anytime there’s a 100th, that’s a big deal.”  

Some of the pages in the exhibit pulled from the original copies and rephotographed include articles on the founding editor, Roselyn Brownley, and the original Breeze staff, how The Breeze got its name by a coin flip and the history of name changes of both the university and The Breeze.

Additional stories highlighted in the case include Ronald Carrier becoming the fourth president of the university, JMU football winning national championships in 2004 and 2016 and a tribute to late JMU alumna Alison Parker (’12) — a previous news editor for The Breeze — and her co-worker Adam Ward, who were fatally shot during a live report on WDBJ-7 in 2015.

“With [choosing] the pages to display, what I really went for was, ‘What were some big moments in JMU history and what does that look like on the page?’” Jenkins said.

While choosing the three-dimensional artifacts to display in the exhibit, Jenkins said, he wanted to find objects that showcased the change of how people gather information and the evolution of tools over time.

A few of the artifacts in the exhibit are an old Apple laptop, a 2009 edition of the Associated Press Stylebook, an old cellphone, camera, film reader, microphone and a pica, which was once used to help set type.

“I’m all about seeing real objects,” Merkel said. “We’ve included so many physical, real artifacts that it just tells a story.”

Merkel said the display case has traditionally been used for items that feature campus history, but it had been empty since close to the start of the pandemic.

Jenkins and Merkel said the project took months to plan. Jenkins said he’d been thinking of ways to mark The Breeze’s centennial by raising awareness on campus and originally had the idea for the display back in August 2021.

“I had noticed that [the] display case was kind of between exhibits and I had the idea [that] this could be a good spot to put some reprinted, historical editions of The Breeze so that people can kind of see how student media has told the story of JMU over the years,” Jenkins said.

Throughout the fall 2021 semester, Jenkins and Merkel planned and worked on their vision. The exhibit was erected in Carrier Library over spring break, though Jenkins and Merkel said it’s not quite finished. They hope to be adding more signage and a newsstand in the coming weeks, with the possibility of an official “opening event” in fall 2022.

The exhibit will stay up in Carrier Library until the library is closed for renovation sometime in 2023. This will be the last display in the case before its renovation.

Jenkins said there will also be a secondary exhibit in Harrison Hall, the building that houses the School of Media Arts and Design, in fall 2022.

Jenkins said he believes the centennial display is important for students because it reminds them of the history they’re connected to that came before them.

“For current students and anyone in the JMU community, I think it’s good to have a sense of where your university came from,” Jenkins said. “It is a display about The Breeze, but in a lot of ways, it’s about JMU and the history of JMU in a nutshell.” 

Contact Kasey Trapuzzano at breezenews@gmail.com. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.