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University Libraries

Making Memes: A Gallery of Visual Literacy

By Jillian Ewalt and Bridget Garnai

During the month of September, over 500 UD students participated in an online learning opportunity offered by University Libraries. Inspired by UNC Greensboro University Libraries’ Uplifting Memes workshops, librarians Jillian Ewalt and Bridget Garnai created an asynchronous online tutorial that introduced participants to the concepts of visual literacy, internet memes as communication tools, and the legal reuse of images found online. After learning about these concepts through readings and short videos, participants created their own original memes using images either in the public domain or carrying Creative Commons licensing. 

Images found in the public domain are not protected by intellectual property laws and are owned by the public, not an individual. Many museums and cultural institutions share public-domain images from their collections online and encourage people to use and remix these images. Anyone can use a public domain image without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it.

Creative Commons licenses can be applied by the owner or creator of an image to designate how it can be used by others. Each Creative Commons license requires attribution to the creator when the image is used. For more information about finding and using images found online, visit the libraries’ research guide on this topic.

Students demonstrated their understanding of these topics along with their creativity and positivity even in the challenging circumstances of this semester by making their own memes. The submissions juxtaposed public domain and Creative Commons images with UD experiences, the challenges of remote learning and everyday life during the COVID-19 pandemic, and even some pop culture references. Although participation in this workshop is no longer eligible for points toward housing preferences, people can still participate at

See some of our favorite examples in the gallery below.

— Jillian Ewalt is a librarian for visual resources in the Marian Library. Bridget Garnai is a lecturer in the University Libraries.

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