Charles C. Myers Library to Hold Dedication for Gift from the Marshallese Community

Apr 8, 2019 | University Relations staff

DUBUQUE, Iowa – The University of Dubuque Charles C. Myers Library will host a dedication of a gift from the Marshallese Community on Thursday, April 11, at 2:00 p.m. in the library.

Decades ago, members of the Marshallese community who attended University of Dubuque Theological Seminary wove by hand an intricate mat in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The mat was then gifted to the University in response to the heartfelt gratitude and love shown to the students by their professors, staff, and campus community.

The mat was made from pandanus leaves. The long process of preparation includes scraping and boiling the leaves before drying them in the sun. The dried leaves are split into long parallel strands with one end whole so the strips are attached across the leaf, which makes it possible to handle a number of strands at the same time. Different mats are used for different occasions as well as gifts to honored recipients.

Pandanus trees are of cultural, health, and economic importance in the Pacific. They grow wild mainly in semi-natural vegetation in littoral habitats throughout the tropical and subtropical Pacific where they can withstand drought, strong winds, and salt spray.

The mat, which was displayed in Severance Hall, will be moved to the Tommy Tucker Gallery in the library. The move comes at the request of a soft power class taught by Brian Hallstoos, associate professor of history. Students in the class felt the mat should be better preserved and displayed more prominently.

“Hanging high on the wall of our otherwise drab classroom, the beautiful weaving caught our group’s attention from early in the semester. After learning more about the history of the Marshallese, Brianna Finnegan, a junior, and other students took steps to have this important cultural object moved to a safe, climate-controlled location where it could be seen by all. We will all be very pleased to see the mat located in a new place of honor where it may attest to the special connection between UD and Dubuque’s Marshallese community,” Hallstoos said.

The mat will be hung in accordance to guidance from the Bishop Museum in Hawaii.