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UNC student organizations throughout history showcased in Wilson Library exhibit

Decades ago, The Ugly Club reigned at the University.

Club officers openly boasted unattractive faces and aimed to scare the homesickness out of freshman in invitation-only hazing rituals.

And their ceremonies — complete with face paint and tin-pan beating — comprise only a small part of the University’s rich extracurricular history, based on a new Wilson Library exhibit.

The ongoing display, called “From Di-Phis to Loreleis: A History of Student Organizations at UNC,” features 157 records, pictures, yearbooks and other artifacts.

The collection traces the development of UNC student activities through the past 200 years, from the University’s founding to today.

The information comes from University Archives and the North Carolina Collection.

The exhibit’s organizers will host events April 6 and 7 featuring speakers and performers in Wilson Library.

Linda Jacobson, keeper of the North Carolina Collection Gallery, said the topic of student extracurricular life has been several years in the making.

“This exhibit targets students because not a lot of them know history over the past 200 years and how far the University has come,” she said.

“The collection serves as a window for looking at student life over the years.”

She said the University’s student population transformed from a small community of all-male students to a diverse one including multiple ethnicities and women.

And Jay Gaidmore, University archivist, said student activities played a big part in making campus more inclusive.

“Students have been a main force behind the push to embrace diversity,” Gaidmore said.

“The exhibit represents student life, which is the most important thing about UNC.”

John Blythe, special projects librarian, said extracurriculars are just as or even more important than what happens inside the classroom.

“There is only so much studying a student can do, and we are trying to document that,” he said.

He said there are more than 600 student organizations on campus today, some of which are included in the exhibit.

Jacobson said the exhibit makes people realize the importance of North Carolina archives and could entice students to preserve their own items.

“This exhibit encourages more groups to leave records with us, whether it is T-shirts, gavels, posters,” she said.

Gaidmore said he wished he had been more involved in organizations when he was a student.

“It makes me want to go back to college,” he said.

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