American Archives Month

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Written by Carolyn Parsons, Head of Special Collections & University Archives

October is American Archives Month! Since 2006, archivists have used this month as a time to make our collections more visible and share the work we do. The Society of American Archivists (SAA)’s theme for Archives Month this year is the Power of Collaboration. A celebration of how people with different knowledge and skills come together to create solutions for preserving and making accessible our collections in all their various formats.

In celebration, Virginia archival repositories partnered to create a Virginia Archives Month poster to raise collection awareness.  The Virginia poster theme this year is: The Letterpress, The Woodblock, and The Watermark: Book Arts in Archives and Special Collections.

Virginia Archives Month poster, 2019

The Virginia chapter of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) is also again sponsoring the annual REMIX contest. Directions are listed below, and the prizes range from a $100.00 pre-paid VISA gift card to assorted Virginia archives swag. You can also pick up the contest guidelines at Simpson Library. Plus, there are bragging rights, if you win the People’s Choice Award! All entries are judged on the creativity and originality of the submission and the inclusion of a correct link to the source and contextual information. Entries are due October 31, 2019.

The archival images available to remix, as always, are fabulous, such as this colorful 1886 pencil drawing of a coal burner engine.

Macon and Brunswick Coal Burner, 1886. Image courtesy of the Norfolk Southern Corporation

The full collection of images to use for your contest creations are located in the 2019 Virginia Archives Month collection here on Flickr. Further contest specifics are answered on the REMIX site.

So join in the collaboration and celebration this October, as we remember the importance of our archival collections and the work of archivists to make materials of enduring value accessible and preserved for future generations.

October 16, 2019

Managing Your Personal Records

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It’s back-to-school season! Everyone is starting to settle back into the school-year routine around UMW, but before we all get too settled, I’d like to take a quick moment to bring your attention to something you may not think about too often: your personal records.

The French Club and their important personal records, 1962.

Sadly, if you’re a collector of vintage LPs, I’m not talking about those personal records. I’m talking about the various important documents and digital materials we all generate in the course of our lives. If you’re a college student (or if you were one once, or if you’ve ever lived away from your parents), these might be the kinds of items you have to call mom or dad to send you if you’re trying to get a job or an internship, or take out a loan. These might be things like a birth certificate or your social security card. Depending on your life circumstances, these might also include things like marriage certificates or adoption papers. These types of things—the legal documents that prove you’re you—are top tier important records. I’ll talk about how to handle these later.

Personal records also include things like tax returns, bills (medical, utilities, etc.), bank statements, and similar items. These materials—the documentation of a specific transaction—are also important to retain and protect. However, these types of records don’t need to be secured for a lifetime. You might also consider your personal email, social media accounts, resumes, and photographs as part of your personal records. Some of these things you may want to preserve for any number of reasons, and some of them you might consider getting rid of to free up some space in your desk or on your hard drive (after all, how deep is your sentimental attachment to your old electric bills?). You can dispose of some of these items routinely by applying a rough retention schedule.

As the Records Coordinator at UMW, I specialize in retention schedules. Retention schedules are guidelines that help establish how long it’s necessary to keep a particular item. Agencies in the Commonwealth of Virginia (like UMW) follow retention schedules set by the Library of Virginia that keep us in legal compliance with recordkeeping standards. These are relatively strict and vary by agency and type of record. For your personal records, it can be a bit looser, but it’s still helpful to stay organized for your own benefit.

Examples of things you can dispose of after one year include:

  • Pay stubs
  • Bank statements
  • Utility bills

And after three years:

  • Tax returns (the IRS can audit you up to three years after you file a tax return, unless you seriously omitted more than 25% of your income in the past, and then it’s six years).
  • Medical bills

And those top tier important records I mentioned earlier? Secure those in a very safe place and keep them forever.

Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive or exact list. Your mileage may vary, and you might decide to keep certain things for longer, or you might have records not described here. Resources for determining records and record-keeping strategies abound online, or you can always come see us in Special Collections and University Archives with your records questions.

Once you’ve determined that you have items that you don’t need any more, make sure you think about how to dispose of them properly. Files that have personally identifying information (PII) should be disposed of securely. Shred paper records with a cross-cut shredder, and use permanent deletion software for electronic records. “Delete” or emptying the trash can on your desktop doesn’t really get rid of that file. Heidi Eraser is a free tool that completely deletes files from your hard drive by overwriting several times, and can even be set up to operate on a schedule.

Securely shred your personal paper documents whenever possible, especially if they display personally identifying information like bank account or social security numbers.

For the things you want to keep, focus on organizing your most important files. The Council of State Archivists compiled a list for Electronic Records Day last year that offers several helpful steps for organizing and preserving your personal electronic records. Among these tips include techniques such as backing files up in multiple places, and giving your files descriptive filenames. Angie White, our Digital Resources Librarian, also blogged about useful strategies for keeping your files safe and organized in her Personal Digital Archiving post for this site. Digital materials are more fragile than some people realize, so it’s important to adopt smart preservation and retention tactics to keep your information safe over time.

Take care of your records and yourself this school year, and as always, please come see us in Special Collections and University Archives if you have any questions or just want to chat! As a reminder, the SC&UA reading room has open hours on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10-12 and 1:30-4. We’re located on the second floor of Simpson Library, Room 217, and anyone is welcome to stop by during those hours. You can also make an appointment to see us outside of those times by emailing or

September 3, 2019

Preserving the History of UMW’s Stafford Campus

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Written by Caitlin DeMarco, Stafford Library Assistant

While the campus in Fredericksburg, with its clock tower and old buildings are familiar to many, down Route 17 in Stafford there exists another, smaller campus. Originally called the James Monroe Center, the Stafford Campus began holding graduate level classes with the opening of the South Building in 1999. In 2007 the North Building opened, providing the campus with, among many other things, the large University Hall that has been used for everything from job search forums to blood drives. The North Building was renamed the Gates Hudson Building in 2015. 

Commencement, Stafford Campus South Building, 2003

Commencement, Stafford Campus South Building, 2003

Graduate classes were joined by professional studies classes when the name changed from the James Monroe Center to the College of Graduate and Professional Studies. Graduate classes are often held at night, and students commute to the campus, often after work and from areas further afield, even from Washington D.C. and the surrounding northern Virginia counties.  

For the past few years, I have been helping process the Stafford Campus Records, mostly containing documents from the early years of the campus. The collection consists of several boxes of early photographs, as well as VHS tapes of the groundbreaking and other events on the campus. Stafford Library also has records detailing how the different programs on campus were accredited, as well as the  correspondence of people influential to the creation of the Stafford Campus, such as Meta Braymer, the former Vice President for Graduate and Professional Studies. The Stafford Campus Records can be viewed by request at the Stafford Campus Library.

Meta Braymer and Virginia State Senator John Chichester cut the ribbon for the opening of the South Building, 1999

Meta Braymer and Virginia State Senator John Chichester cut the ribbon for the opening of the South Building, 1999

As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Stafford Campus, it is remarkable to trace its beginnings through pictures and records. A lot of work and heart went into creating this campus, and I have enjoyed sharing and preserving its history for the future. 

The Stafford Campus Gate Hudson Building built in 2007

The Stafford Campus Gate Hudson Building built in 2007


August 16, 2019

Student Aide, Summer 2019

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Written by Special Collections & University Archives Student Aide, Terra Dickinson

For Summer 2019 I worked as the Special Collections and Digital Archiving Lab student aide helping the department with a little bit of everything throughout my time. I started the summer session by doing small tasks. I inventoried The Battlefield yearbooks as well as The Polemics, created citations of old newspaper articles, documented new accessions in ArchivesSpace, and transferred metadata and pdf files from external hard drives to computers.  

As the summer went on, I began doing projects that took more time to complete. Most included digitizing photographs, scanning Honors theses using the Cobra scanner, as well as fulfilling reference requests. For the Centennial Image Collection project, I took the physical negatives that are stored in the archives and checked that all were scanned and uploaded into the digital collection. There were a few stragglers that still needed to be scanned. Here are some cool ones I added:

MWC Smokestack

MWC Smokestack

Chandler Hall image

Chandler Hall

As for the image requests, I downloaded high resolution files via the Centennial Image Collection. Here’s a photo of Marceline “Marcy” W. Morris, the drum major from Mary Washington’s All Girls Marching Band.  Check it out! I also transcribed the oral history of her time here at Mary Washington

All Girl Marching Band Members. From left to right: Phyllis Maddox, Jean Hawkins, Catherine-Rae Capizola, Maryanne Heatwole, and Marceline Weatherly (Morris), c. 1940s

All Girl Marching Band Members. From left to right: Phyllis Maddox, Jean Hawkins, Catherine-Rae Capizola, Maryanne Heatwole, and Marceline Weatherly (Morris), c. 1940s

My biggest project was the transcription of the oral histories. Spoken language and actual sentences, I found were two completely different things. When transcribing, the transcript shouldn’t include crutch words such as ‘ohs or uhms’, but still it shouldn’t be a grammatically perfect document, it should portray precisely what was said. I completed two transcripts of World War II vets that used the GI bill to attend Mary Washington College and two of their wives interviews as well. The first one took the longest but the more I transcribed the easier it got, but I still got the occasional inaudible! There are many different guides and handbooks to follow from different oral history groups and the Special Collections and University Archives does not have their own handbook yet, so sometimes I had to make my best guess as to what made sense. It was very interesting to hear about how the campus used to be in the 1940s and 1950s.  Who knew that the all-girls Mary Washington College allowed World War II veterans to attend?   

Mary Washington College Veterans, 1948

Mary Washington College Veterans, 1948

This summer working in Special Collections and the Digital Archiving Lab has been a great experience. It was so interesting to interact with people’s memories of Mary Washington and all that has been collected in the University Archives.  


August 1, 2019

Adventures in Special Collections and the Digital Archiving Lab

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Written by Special Collections & University Archives Graduate Intern and Volunteer, Colleen Hybl

While I knew that I would learn and complete many different tasks as a graduate intern and as a volunteer, I did not realize the variety of tasks and skills that I would do. For the Spring 2019 semester, I was a UMW Special Collections and University Archives intern for my Masters of Management in Library and Information Science program, where I needed to gain experience in an academic library and digital preservation setting. This meant I spent half of my time in Special Collections and the other half in the Digital Archiving Lab. Then as a Digital Archiving Lab volunteer I am working on the Alumni Oral History Project.

In Special Collections, I was tasked to examine the President William M. Anderson, Jr. Collection boxes to look for duplicate materials, paperclips, privacy information, incorrect file names, and misfiled materials. Then I put barcodes in the management system, ArchivesSpace, and put them on the boxes. I also put labels on the boxes to identify them. This project took more time than originally conceived, because I was supposed to do over 30 boxes. I managed to complete 19 boxes out of a collection of over 30 boxes, which was satisfying for I saw them in their uniform barcodes and labels.

Two photographs side-by-side depicting boxes of grey archival boxes lined up on the Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room Table. Together they show 19 boxes in the William M. Anderson, Jr. Collection.

Left Photo: Boxes 1-6 of the William M. Anderson, Jr. Collection. Right Photo: Boxes 7-19 of the William M. Anderson, Jr. Collection.

In the Digital Archiving Lab, I did two tasks: scan photographic prints and negatives for a future digital collection and create a scanning and metadata guide. Older visual materials from UMW’s University Relations & Communications Department were transferred to the Archives to preserve and make accessible. This meant each photograph must be scanned, saved in an archival format, and have metadata. Each type of photographic material was treated in a slightly different manner for scanning purposes. I worked on the folder labelled “Belmont” as in Gari Melcher’s Belmont. This folder had many different types of material, including a surprise type of negative: a 4×3.4 inch black and white negative. This negative type looks like a standard film, but it does not follow traditional photographic film dimensions that we had previously encountered. By not having more information about this specific type of film, it can be more difficult to preserve the original item, but at least we still have the film in a digital format.

Two photographs side-by-side. The left photograph shows the front side of a 4 inch by 3.4 inch film negative and the right photograph shows the reverse side of the negative. It is possible to see that the negative is an image of Belmont.

These two images show the front and back of 4×3.4 inch black and white negatives.

Besides scanning the photographs, I created metadata for each individual item, which allows people to search for them in the digital collection. To create the metadata, I followed the principles of Dublin Core. Dublin Core is a type of metadata standard that allows flexibility to describe an object, but still has uniformity that everybody can follow. You can learn more about the Dublin Core metadata elements we used for this project here:

While learning about scanning and metadata was interesting and helped me gained skills as a librarian, my favorite task that I completed was the UMW Publications Scanning and Metadata Guide. This document was created to help future student aides and interns on scanning documents and creating metadata. The new guide has step-by-step instructions, screenshots, diagrams, and examples. I was so pleased with this guide! I also learned that my guide was used by the Historic Preservation Department for their work. This made me happy, because it meant my work was of high caliber, warranting use by other departments.

Even though my internship ended, I am still working in the Digital Archiving Lab for the summer to assist with projects that may not have a chance to be completed during the school year. I am currently working on a transcript project for the Alumni History Project. For this project, I am learning a different skill: the art of writing/editing transcripts. Transcripts are the written words of an audio file that help listeners comprehend the spoken words or are used by researchers to isolate the information they need. Depending on your institution, there are varying guidelines for writing transcripts, such as deciding how to write a pause or what to do with slang language. This meant it has been a challenge to figure out what must be included in the five transcripts I am reviewing. Because I have never done transcript work, it has taken more time than I originally thought. Currently, I am still working on the first transcript, but I am on the final time on listening to the audio to double-check my notes. I hope to learn more as I continue my volunteer work.

July 11, 2019

New Digital Collection: Friends of the Rappahannock Oral Histories

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It has been just over a year since we launched our new digital collections platform and if you’ve been checking in every now and again, you’ve probably seen our collections steadily growing. One of our newest collections, the Friends of the Rappahannock Oral History Collection, is the result of a collaboration between faculty and students of the University of Mary Washington History and American Studies Department and the Friends of the Rappahannock. These two groups teamed up to conduct interviews with people invested in and engaged with the history of the Rappahannock River. Special Collections and University Archives received the collection of interviews from the Friends of the Rappahannock so that the audiovisual materials could be preserved and made accessible to the public in perpetuity.

Screenshot of the Digital Collections "Browse Archive" page, showing all of the digital collections in the system. The Friends of the Rappahannock Oral History Collection is enclosed in a red box.

The Friends of the Rappahannock Oral History Collection is one of our most recent additions to Digital Collections.

The interviews detail a wide variety of information regarding the Rappahannock River. Interviewees include Bill Micks, Chief Anne Richardson, Harold Wiggins, James E. Pitts, Sr., John Tippett, and Josiah P. Rowe, III. Once the Friends of the Rappahannock Oral History Collection page is open, you can select an interview based on the topic it covers by viewing the list of over twenty main subjects located on the left of the collection homepage. This list can also be helpful to get a general idea of the themes found in the interviews.

Screenshot of the Friends of the Rappahannock Oral History Collection hompage. A red arrow labeled "Topics" is pointing towards the list of subjects covered by the interviews.

When browsing the collection, you can choose which interviews to read or view by selecting the topics you are most interested in, and you can also select more than one topic.

Each interview is available in both video and transcribed PDF format, so a full-text search of the collection is possible by using the search box at the top right of the web page. If you are reading a particular transcript and would like to do a quick search for a particular topic, select the magnifying glass symbol at the top of the PDF Viewer and type in the word or phrase you are looking for. Both the audiovisual and transcription materials are available for download, but streaming is also available for direct viewing on the website.

Screenshot of a transcribed oral history PDF and it's associated metadata in the Digital Collections website. A red box has been drawn around the search box on the embedded PDF viewer to draw attention to it.

The PDF viewer includes a search feature so that you can quickly locate specific words or phrases.

Check out our newest collection and please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at with any questions!

June 27, 2019


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Dubliners and James Joyce fans around the world celebrated Bloomsday through the wee hours of this morning. The festival celebrates Joyce’s novel, Ulysses, and takes its name from the novel’s central character, Leopold Bloom. The book follows the life of Bloom and others from the morning of June 16, 1904, to the early morning of the next day. In Dublin the single day has expanded into a week-long literary street carnival with performances, readings, pub crawls, and reenactments. Photos of Bloomsday celebrations can be browsed in The Irish Times.

But at the heart of all the festivities is the novel that was banned in the United States for twelve years. In Ulysses Joyce wrote about the everyday intimacies of his characters which in the 1920s and early thirties was deemed obscene material. It wasn’t until December 1933 that US District Judge John Woolsey ruled that Ulysses was an artistic rather than pornographic work, and therefore could not be ruled obscene.

In Simpson Library’s Rare Books Collection, the works of James Joyce comprise one of our  largest and best collections. There are 14 editions of Ulysses, including the highly collected first edition.  Only 1,000 copies were printed in 1922 by Sylvia Beach, the American woman who owned an English-language bookstore in Paris. Beach had opened her bookstore, Shakespeare and Company, two years before, but despite her lack of experience, Joyce and Beach came to an agreement that she would print his book.  UMW’s copy is #522 printed on handmade paper and finished in blue wrappers.

Ulysses First Edition. 1922

Ulysses First Edition. 1922

Other editions of Ulysses in our Rare Books Collection include:
Henri Matisse’s illustrated edition. In 1935 George Macy, an American publisher, offered Matisse $5,000 to create as many etchings as this budget would afford for a special illustrated edition of Ulysses.  While Joyce was thrilled that an artist of Matisse’s stature would illustrate his masterwork, he worried the artist might not actually read the book.  He was right, Matisse did not read the book and turned in drawings based on six episodes from Homer’s epic poem Odyssey, assuming that Joyce’s book was based on the ancient Greek hero Odysseus, known as Ulysses in Roman mythology!

Ulysses, Illustrated by Henri Matisse, 1935

Ulysses, Illustrated by Henri Matisse, 1935

The first authorized American edition from Random House in 1934 is in our collection, as well as the first 1936 British edition. The latter is a beautiful copy with a gilded Homeric bow embossed on the front cover.

Green cover with bow of Ulysses, British edition, 1936

Ulysses, British edition, 1936

So as the Irish say, Tabhair Cuairt Orainn (Visit Us!), and you can see all of our many additional editions of Ulysses.

Mitchell, Sidney H. “Ulysses and The Holy Office”. News and Views from Trinkle, December, 1972.
“Ulysses by James Joyce, 1934 American edition.” British Library: Discovering Literature: 20th Century. Accessed June 16, 2109.

June 17, 2019

What’s New? Records Management!

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UMW’s Records Management program has a new home here in Special Collections and University Archives! 

So, what does that mean? 

As an agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia, UMW is required to follow the guidelines set forward by the Virginia Public Records Act. The Library of Virginia establishes retention and disposition schedules for different types of records based on their content, and agency records officers (like me!) help make sure our records are maintained by their standards and process the necessary forms. 

Essentially, our records management program assists records custodians across UMW with maintaining their records. This includes figuring out what we have and where we have it, where and how we should keep records, and what to do with the things we don’t need any more.  

That’s right—you can get rid of stuff! 

Lots of us have the “better safe than sorry” mentality when it comes to our records. It makes sense that we would want to keep all available documentation to prove something—like a purchase or an action—that we might be called on to justify years down the road. However, this isn’t always the case, and can sometimes even be a liability. While some records are permanently retained, many materials governed by state retention schedules can and should be destroyed at the expiration of the retention period. This might mean shredding, incinerating, permanent deletion, or some other method, depending on the nature of the record.  

At this point, you may be wondering: What is a recordGood question! 

The technical definition goes something like this: a record is recorded information documenting a transaction or activity by or with any agent of the commonwealth (if you work for UMW, you are an agent of the commonwealth). Regardless of physical form or characteristics, the information is a public record if it is produced, collected, received, or retained in connection with the transaction of public business. This generally means that the recorded information can be anything on paper, audio, video, or digital/electronic. If it’s part of state business, it’s a record! 

For further clarification, the LVA created a handy flowchart to help determine when a document is a public record.

We hope to have lots of new, helpful resources for our UMW community available soon as we work on building up our Records Management program, but there are several useful links throughout this blog if you’re curious to learn more. Check our Special Collections and University Archives website for any updates and announcements. You’re also always welcome to reach out to us at if you have any questions!

May 24, 2019

Commencement: Mary Washington Style, 1911-2019

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In celebration of Mary Washington’s 108th Commencement, Special Collections and University Archives staff curated the exhibit, Commencement: Mary Washington Style, 1911-2019. On display through July 31, the exhibit highlights Mary Washington’s Commencement changes and milestones through the years.

The exhibit includes the University’s first commencement program and one of its earliest diplomas.

Photograph of the light tan cover of the First Commencement Program, 1912

First Commencement Program, 1912

Professional Elementary Certificate, State Normal School, June 10, 1912

Professional Elementary Certificate, State Normal School, June 10, 1912

In 1910 the State Normal & Industrial School for Women (University of Mary Washington) was approved to offer professional elementary studies. This program proved to be very popular, certifying graduates for primary and grammar school teaching. University Archives’ earliest diploma is from this period, 1912, and these first graduates completed their studies in 1911. The first students to complete the longer two year Normal School program graduated in 1913. The class size numbered thirty-two, and all students were from Virginia.

Other “firsts” and traditions showcased in the display are:
Graduation in the Amphitheatre

The Amphitheatre was completed in May, 1923, and that year graduation moved from Monroe Hall to the “Open Air Theatre”. The Battlefield,, 1923

Amphitheatre, The Battlefield, 1923

The Amphitheatre was completed in May, 1923, and that year graduation moved from Monroe Hall to the “Open Air Theatre”.

The Daisy Chain tradition

One of the annual events of the early commencements was the creation of the daisy chain. It was the task of the freshmen to gather daisies and tie them into bunches, fashioning the finished chain. Graduates receiving two-year diplomas carried the chain into the amphitheater and laid it on the sides as a decorative backdrop. The daisy chain continued to be a feature of Class Day exercises until 1942.

One of the annual events of the early commencements was the creation of the daisy chain. It was the task of the freshmen to gather daisies and tie them into bunches, fashioning the finished chain. Graduates receiving two-year diplomas carried the chain into the Amphitheater and laid it on the sides as a decorative backdrop. The daisy chain continued to be a feature of Class Day exercises until 1942.

The First African-American Graduate and Early Male Graduates

The Battlefield, 1968 and 1971

Venus R. Jones, ‘68 (left) was Mary Washington’s first African-American graduate, earning a degree in Chemistry in 1968 after just 3 years. Jones would go on to earn her MD from the University of Virginia’s medical school, breaking gender boundaries at the graduate level. 

Joseph Grimes (right) was one of four male Mary Washington graduates, receiving his history diploma in 1972. However, back in 1929, President Combs allowed male students to attend in the summer only. Many of these men completed their degrees in the 1930s through their summer school attendance.

First Graduate Level Commencement

The James Monroe Center (now the UMW Stafford Campus) walked their first graduate students in 2001 on Ball Circle. Through the years the graduate commencement ceremonies have been held at both the Stafford and the Fredericksburg Campuses. 

James Monroe Center Graduation, 2003

James Monroe Center Graduation, 2003

Introduction of the Eagle Pipe Band

Eagle Pipe Band, Commencement, 2006

Eagle Pipe Band, Commencement, 2006

The Eagle Pipe Band, suggested by piper and Chemistry professor, Dr. Ray Scott, was an immediate success, becoming a regular part of Commencement since its initial 1993 performance.

UMW Graduate waving, Class of 2016

UMW Graduate, Class of 2016

The history of graduation at Mary Washington is much more expansive and rich than can be captured in this short post. So stop in this summer and see “the rest of the story” along with many of  the original diplomas, documents, and photographs in Special Collections & University Archives.

“Congratulations, Class of 2019!”

Resources Consulted: 
Alvey, Edward, Jr. History of Mary Washington College: 1908-1972. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1974.
Crawley, William B., Jr. University of Mary Washington, A Centennial History: 1908-2008. Fredericksburg: University of Mary Washington, 2008.

Currently all UMW Commencement Programs are digitized and available online at:

Special thanks to Caitlin DeMarco, Stafford Library Assistant, and Ilana Bleich, Special Collections Student Assistant for their research assistance on Commencement: Mary Washington Style, 1911-2019.

May 10, 2019

Preservation Week 2019

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Each year at the end of April, cultural heritage institutions around the world celebrate Preservation Week, a time when places such as libraries and museums work to bring awareness to preservation issues affecting collections everywhere, even personal collections held by individuals. Without long-term care and preservation planning, many of the items we feel are important and should be saved for personal or community memories will find themselves in precarious situations, from uncontrollable environmental disasters to fast-paced innovation leaving obsolete technology in its wake. While the care and maintenance of our materials can sometimes feel overwhelming, even the smallest steps can make a big difference!

Official logo for Preservation Week. The main text is "Preservation Week" with smaller text just above it that says "Pass it on" followed by a trail of dots that fall into an hour glass. The URL to the ALA's preservation week webpage is at the bottom.

April 21-27 is Preservation Week this year. You can find out more information by visiting the American Library Association’s Preservation Week resource page.

A good place to start for the long-term preservation of important physical and digital materials is simply awareness, which is what Preservation Week is all about! Did you know that storing photographic prints in acid-free enclosures is better for long-term security and stability? Did you know that you can create archival captures of your website, even if you don’t plan on continuing to host or update it? If so, please share with your friends and family! A lot of individuals who aren’t regularly involved in cultural heritage fields may not even know about the possibilities for preserving their treasures, so just talking about preservation and doing some brief research can have a positive impact on the outlook for many of these items.

Once long-term preservation is on your mind, it’s time to create a plan. It’s okay to start small, and the plan might even be to move a few digital files off of your desktop to external hard drives and cloud storage. (Just remember the principle behind LOCKSS, or Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe)! You might also consider prioritizing your items, whether that means the time that you can spend ensuring their preservation or the funding it might take to have more complex items digitized for you. It’s also important to take a proactive approach to preservation. For example, you might be going back and preserving items that you created or acquired years ago, but what about that website you will be starting on tomorrow? Building preservation into your project plan from the start could reduce accidental losses later, or scrambling to find preservation tools at the last minute.

Screenshot of the library's digital collections page, featuring thumbnails of six different UMW Blog sites that have been archived.

If websites are created with preservation in mind, it can be easier to archive them later. Check out some of the websites Special Collections staff have been able to archive at

Finally, proceed bravely! It can be intimidating to try and figure out the best way to preserve and care for your materials, particularly if it involves complex, new technologies, but there are lots of resources out there and professionals in the field willing to help. You might even try making it a goal to attempt one new tool or technique a month to preserve your materials. (We’ve recently been testing out for preserving individual websites!) A great place to start is the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services “Saving Your Stuff” or our own Digitization Tips post. And, don’t forget, you can always stop by your local library or museum for additional help with finding resources!

Photograph of the Digital Archiving Lab, showing a room with computers, flatbed scanners, a large book scanner, and a large wall-mounted monitor.

Staff in the Digital Archiving Lab are happy to help with your digital preservation questions. Make an appointment by emailing

April 25, 2019