Stumbling Blocks is a series of pop-up art installations that explore difficult moments in U-M’s history.  These seven installations, which were displayed on U-M’s North, Central, and Medical campuses, each represents a specific challenge from the university’s past. The exhibits are paired with quotes from community members and stakeholders.

Our bicentennial provides the University of Michigan with an opportunity to answers questions about the past and present of the university community. Three ideas will guide our exploration: stumbling blocks, reckoning, and aspiration. The stumbling stone has an origin in the everyday use of the phrase: it is a metaphor that conjures up small obstacles that are unanticipated and briefly throw us off track. We stumble, usually to regain our stride and move forward.”

-Professor Martha Jones, installation curator.

UMSocial utilized several channels to amplify Stumbling Blocks and encourage our community to explore the exhibits for themselves. We collaborated with Michigan Photography (U-M’s in-house photo agency), to produce a week’s worth of content that told the story of Stumbling Blocks. At the end of the week, Instagram posts related to Stumbling Blocks received 332,254 impressions and 11,020 engagements.


Additionally, we posted Michigan Photography’s photos to an album on Facebook, accompanied by captions that detailed the significance of each installation. This album received a total of 380 reactions, comments, and shares by the end of the week.

We believed that the complexity and public nature of Stumbling Blocks merited further dialogue on university channels. So, on April 7, we facilitated a Facebook live #UMichChat about the creation and objectives of Stumbling Blocks. In partnership with staff from the Office of the President, we brought together a panel of project stakeholders, including Martha Jones, exhibit curator and U-M professor of African and Afroamerican studies; Amanda Krugiak, Curator at U-M’s Institute for the Humanities; Elizabeth James, program associate at the U-M Dept. of Afroamerican and African Studies; and Michael Witgen, professor of History and American Culture. Panelists discussed the creative and curatorial processes of Stumbling Blocks, the strategic choice of moments from U-M’s history, and the messages they hope that these exhibitions will impart on our campus community.

Over the course of the half-hour conversation, the video had 11,766 unique viewers.  Additionally, the video received a total of 205 reactions, comments, and shares. If you weren’t able to tune in live, you can view the chat on our Facebook  page.

Stumbling Blocks was a provocative and powerful way to confront missteps from U-M’s past and use them to inform our aspirations toward a more diverse and inclusive campus community. We look forward to continuing to amplify these messages through social communications.