February 8, 2016

A performance gymnastics group founded at the University of Maryland in 1946, and now an outreach program of the UMD School of Public Health, Gymkana is the oldest student group on campus -- and the entirely self-funded group is now inviting alums and fans to help save its rich 70-year history.

The group has amassed an expansive library of pictures, videos, and various memorabilia in its seven decades of existence. But preserving and archiving such a collection takes considerable time, money and expertise. 

"Having spent years looking forward to ensure its survival, Gymkana has never had the funds available to effectively archive and preserve its own history," says Ben Prescott, assistant director for Gymkana. "This is why we need your help!"

A new exhibit on the first and second floors of UMD's McKeldin Library showcases photos and memorabilia from Gymkana's collection -- all of which will be digitized and preserved during the archival process.

Gymkana Troupe members entertain and act as "ambassadors of healthy living" through unique gymnastic and acrobatic performances, gymnastics classes, and summer camp. Based in the School of Public Health, the group promotes healthy, drug-free living to school-aged children through its performances. 

Supported through the Launch UMD platform, the group's crowdfunding campaign Back Flip Through Time: Help Save Gymkana History aims to raise $25,000 by March 9, 2016. Working with the University Archives, the funds raised through Launch UMD will go to beginning the process of cataloging and digitizing Gymkana's collection of documents, memorabilia, videos, and roughly 15,000 photographs and 35mm slides. An online archive will then be created to make Gymkana’s entire historical collection accessible on one central website so that everyone, including members of past, present and future seasons, can stay connected to Gymkana and its history. 

Seven levels of giving -- from $50 to $5,000 -- will be recognized with unique gifts from the Gymkana Troupe. Visit Gymkana's campaign page to contribute.

View samplings from Gymkana's vast collection of historical photos and documents here:

Gymkana historical photos


Check out this terrific video about Gymkana, produced with Merrill College of Journalism alumna Karen Ye:


Related Links

UMD Launch: Help Preserve Gymkana History