Diversity in the Gainesville College

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Korean Art and History
  • Culture and Religion
  • Reflection


Gainesville is full of many different personalities when looking at what the college brings in versus the residents of Alachua county. Gainesville is home to over one hundred and thirty thousand people, 65.95% being Caucasian, 22.02% African American and only 6.88% Asian (World Population Review, 2019). The University of Florida has a very diverse group of students, and each year, more and more clubs are created to recognize the different groups that are represented in the student body of the University’s population. While some people may complain that Gainesville is not diverse enough, if it was not for the University then Gainesville would not be as diverse and an attraction as it is today. The University of Florida is the center of attention in the city, bringing in thousands of visitors each year, especially on football games, and helps increase the variety of races seen in the population in the city.

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In the Harn Museum of Art you are able to look at the different many cultures and races that are shown in the exhibitions. The exhibitions reflect the cultures you see in Gainesville, from the African American exhibit, to the Asian Art that can be reflected in the University’s population. There are over fifty-two thousand students that attend the college, with over a thousand student organizations and clubs, everyone is represented, just like the representation seen in the Harn Museum which is located in the UF Cultural Plaza area. The Asian Art seen in the Harn Museum “is among the largest and most comprehensive in the southeastern United States. Comprised of over 2,000 works, the collection ranges in date from approximately the 3rd millennium BCE to the present day and includes paintings, prints, sculpture, ceramics, bronzes, jades and lacquers from across Asia.” (George A Smathers Libraries, n.d.).

While the Harn Museum has a lot to offer when it comes to the Asian culture, so does the University of Florida. There are many clubs and organizations at UF to connect people of the same culture together, such as the Asian American Student Union. The Asian American Student Union (AASU) is located on campus to help promote awareness about Asian American issues, history and culture through different events put on by the students. Additionally, when searching for an Asian organization on Gator Connect, eight hundred and seventy-seven clubs pop up in which students can get involved in. Moreover, there is a Korean Undergraduate Student Association (KUSA) that educates others about Korean and Korean American history, culture and issues they have had to deal with, just like the Korean exhibit does in the Harn museum.

Korean Art and History

Scrolls were used for many different things, such as for a letter, drawing or any news that needed to be passed around. As time went on, the more advanced scrolls became. Scrolls were first seen on silk parchment and then was created using multiple pieces of paper lined together with ribbon and a bamboo slip on the edge. “Korean scrolls became reserved for paintings or calligraphy rather than for manuscripts with the emergence of later bookbinding styles.” (Song, 2010).

One example is a Prunus Tree, a scroll found in the Harn Museum, it shows a painting on the scroll instead of writing. The Prunus Tree, also known as the Plum Blossom, can be a common work of art in Korean pieces. The cherry blossom tree is very significant to the Japanese, while the plum blossom is very important to Korea. In Korea, the plum blossom is a symbol for spring and “As a “friend of winter,” the plum blossom most vividly represents the value of endurance, as life ultimately overcomes through the vicissitude of time.” (Jiang, 2015). The Harn Museum incorporates many different types of silk scrolls with a variety of art shown on them, representing the Korean Culture. Another common theme you may see in the artwork includes natural elements (which may go along with confucianism). Just like the plum blossoms and flowers you can see in many paintings; Korean artwork includes a lot of bamboo.

Bamboo is a common element which was used for many different crafts. Bamboo was not only used to make different objects such as bowls or smoking pipes, such as above, but also used as medicine for centuries in Korea. “...bamboo salt has been used in Korean medicine for centuries as a folk medicine for the prevention and treatment of various diseases. Studies have shown bamboo salt to have anti-cancer, anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial effects.” (Sidhu, Kannan, & Muthu, 2014). In the Harn museum you can view many artifacts made of bamboo and their different uses, as well as being able to see the scans of artifacts.

The Harn Museum has made it a lot easier to access pieces of art online, using digital images and even showing CAT scans of artifacts. With the development of new technology, historians can scan objects and figure out the correct time period it was from and the materials it was made from. Due to the proximity of Shands and the accessibility historians have, the University of Florida was able to use their equipment to do the CAT scans on multiple pieces. In the Harn, historians were able to scan sculptures, making sure there was nothing inside of them, just like with the statue of Bodhisattva. “Shands HealthCare professionals agreed to produce digital X-ray images and perform a color computed axial tomographic (CAT) scan of the bodhisattva. By using traditional scanning techniques, three-dimensional imaging, and other digital reproduction technologies, the Harn Museum seeks to promote access, improve usability, reduce physical handling of objects, and allow for easier internal processing.” (George A Smathers Libraries, n.d.). Being able to have access to the advanced technology from Shands at UF, it has made historians jobs a lot easier when identifying objects to be able to educate people in the Gainesville area. Having the resources such as Shands has also helped increase the diversity in Gainesville, bringing in students from all over to work and study here due to how successful and big the hospital is. “It (Shands) is staffed by 1,052 UF College of Medicine faculty physicians; 798 medical residents and fellows; and 10,324 UF Health Shands employees.” (UF Health, 2019).

Culture and Religion

At the University you can find hundreds of clubs and organizations that deal with all religious practices- there have been multiple sororities and fraternities created around the different religions and cultures, such as an Asian American sorority or a Christian sorority. In Korea, the main practices include Confucianism, Buddhism and Christianity. Furthermore, there are multiple places of worship found in Gainesville, primarily churches for Christianity, but the university makes up for it with the different clubs available to help students practice their religion.

Buddhism is shown being practiced as Buddha sits on the ground meditating. Buddhism is a very common practice found in Asia and in the Harn Musuem you can see different paintings of the Buddhist religion. While many regions study Buddhism, in Korea they practice it a little bit different from China or other places. Buddhism was founded in Korea around 372, about 800 years after Buddha was believed dead. “Buddhism blended with Shamanism, Korean shamanism held three spirits in especially high regard: Sanshin (the Mountain Spirit), Toksong (the Recluse) and Chilsong (the Spirit of the Seven Stars, the Big Dipper). Korean Buddhism accepted and absorbed those three spirits and, even today, monks set aside special shrines for them in many temples” (New World Encyclopedia, n.d.). Furthermore, Amida means Pure Land Buddhism, and is also one of the five wisdom Buddhas. Amida is known for giving land to those who followed his path and the faith of Buddhism. You can tell that this Buddha is Amida due to the meditating state it is in. “According to tradition Amitabha was in ancient times a king who, having come in contact with the Buddhist teaching, renounced his throne and became a monk with the name of Dharmakāra. He resolved to become a Buddha and in this way to come into possession of a paradise in which all who call his name might be born into a life of unbounded joy” (Religion Facts, 2017). Additionally, the Harn has many different artifacts that express Buddhism such as paintings of monks and places of worship.

A Stupa is a sacred place for Buddhism, where people go to worship and meditate- it is a symbol for Buddha and his enlightenment/peace. Normally a Buddhist Stupa has a round dome included at the bottom, but in the image above it only shows the pagodas, which represent the sacred mountains. This sculpture is made out of wood, just like actual pagodas are in Korea, (along with other natural materials such as stone) with many carvings on the side of it, symbolizing different relics. “There are two types of relics enshrined in a stupa: Buddha-sari (physical relics) and Dharma-sari or sutras (the Buddha’s teachings). On the surface of a stupa you will sometimes find carved figures of the Buddha, bodhisattvas or congregated guardians” (Haein, 2016). Pagodas are the tiers shown on top of each other, and the higher it is, the more holy it may seem. The shape of the Stupa represents the Buddha, crowned and seated in the meditation posture on a throne. His crown is the top spire; his head is the square at the spire’s base; his body is the vase shape; his legs are the four steps of the lower terrace; and the base is his throne. (Shambala Mountain Center, 2011). While in this sculpture you do not see the four steps, it is a common theme throughout all stupas. It is very important to have the different places and types of worship seen at the Harn Museum to educate people on not only the Korean culture, but the religions and beliefs as well. Moreover, you can find different sculptures and artifacts in the museum that were used in religious ceremonies and practices.


While the University of Florida certainly has a diverse population, the city of Gainesville does not. Gainesville is primarily centered around UF, bringing in thousands of people from research projects to game days. Additionally, while the Asian community might not be strongly represented in Alachua County, the college makes helps supplement it. There are many different clubs and organizations someone in the Asian community could get involved in and there are many works of art in the Harn Museum to educate others about the culture. The Korean collection let alone has over a hundred artifacts from different eras and dynasties. The students and residents in Gainesville are able to go to the Harn Museum and have full access to a variety of cultures. With that accessibility, hopefully over the years the diversity will keep growing in Gainesville, creating a better learning environment for students and a better place to live. The Harn Museum shows hundreds of artifacts and paintings helping someone relate the cultures altogether, but also show their differences. It is important that the University keeps the Harn Museum and other organizations on campus because it helps people feel welcomed and appreciated, knowing they have someone out their supporting them and their way of life.

Art not only describes a story from the past, but it can bring awareness to a problem or situation. The Harn Museum is the perfect place to show the issues and educate visitors on the different cultures and what people had to go through over the years. Therefore, the museum not only helps bring awareness, but also shows others appreciation to not only their culture, but others too. While diversity is a good thing, it is important for people to be educated about the different cultures and religions, so they can always respect it. That is why I believe the Harn Museum is a great thing to have on the university’s campus.

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