Digital exhibit traces history of Hispanic activism at UWM and in Milwaukee

A new digital exhibit by the UWM Libraries documents the history of Hispanic activism at the university and Milwaukee overall, including a 1970 protest on campus demanding more support for the Latinx community.

The demonstrations led to the creation of what is now known as the Roberto Hernandez Center, which is dedicated to serving Hispanic students at UWM and the Hispanic population overall in southeastern Wisconsin. The center is named after the education activist who helped to lead the 1970 protest.

Students wait at Mellencamp Hall for services on Aug. 28, 1970, as part of protests on campus demanding more support for the Hispanic community. The photo is one of dozens of new images added to the UWM Libraries Latino Activism digital archive. (UWM Photo Services)

More than five decades later, a digital exhibit called “The Roberto Hernandez Center: El Movimiento,” created by UWM archivist Abigail Nye, is one of the additions to the updated Latino Activism Digital Collection at the university. Other new items include 14 oral histories with prominent members of the Hispanic community who have ties to the university, and more photographs that date back to the early ’70s.

“We truly believe that the story of Latinx activism at UWM and what transpired back in 1970 is the history of Milwaukee too,” said Alberto Maldonado, director of the Roberto Hernandez Center.

Staff from the center and library worked together to assemble the collection, which is now accessible online, though organizers continue to work on the project ahead of an event at the Golda Meir Library on Oct. 21 to showcase the new material. The updates will include Spanish language metadata to go with descriptions written in English.

Four men sit near drums outside the Golda Meir Library on Aug. 28, 1970, when protests were held on campus to demand more support for the Hispanic community. (UWM Photo Services)

Organizers also will ask community members to help them to identify subjects in photos so that they can be added to the record, said Ann Hanlon, head of digital collections and initiatives for UWM Libraries.

The Latino Activism Digital Collection update is two years in the making after the idea first arose out of planning for the Roberto Hernandez Center’s 50th anniversary in 2020.

“This is a labor of love,” Maldonado said. “The impetus for our celebration was looking at our history and making sure that our history was accurate and inclusive of all the parts.”

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