Homecoming: An Eagle Tradition

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As leaves begin to change and decorations turn to gourds and pumpkins, UMW alumni start planning and looking forward to the annual event that brings many college friends back together: Homecoming. Over the years, events have ranged from parades to alumni sports competition, and each has included members of the UMW community traveling back to Fredericksburg for a fun, memorable event. As you’re looking forward to what this year’s Homecoming will bring (taking place October 20th-21st), take a look at the below photographs pulled from the University Archives to see how Eagles have celebrated Homecoming in the past.

In recent years, a variety of events engaged both current students and alumni:

Page from the 2012 Battlefield Yearbook showcasing Homecoming photographs.

The 2012 yearbook showcased several homecoming events.
Image from the Battlefield, Special Collections and University Archives.

There were many years when parades were popular, including both students and alumni riding on floats:

Photograph of several students driving a float down the road.

Students participating in the 2002 Homecoming Parade. Image from the Centennial Image Collection, Special Collections and University Archives.

Photograph of alumni riding in a car with a banner that reads "MWC Alumni Welcome the Golden Club."

A group of alumni ride in a car with a banner that reads “MWC Alumni Welcome the Golden Club.”
Image from the Centennial Image Collection, Special Collections and University Archives.

In other years, alumni participated in athletic events:

Photograph of alumni playing rugby.

At Homecoming in 1995, Alumni took part in a rugby match. Image from the Centennial Image Collection, Special Collections and University Archives. Photograph by Barry Fitzgerald.

Seemingly most important, though, Homecoming Weekend provides alumni an opportunity to catch up with one another:

Photograph of Alumni outside of Belmont.

Alumni gather outdoors at Belmont in 1973. Image from the Centennial Image Collection, Special Collections and University Archives.

Photograph of a group of people eating in Seacobeck Dining Hall.

Members of the UMW Community eating in Seacobeck Dining Hall during the 1965 Homecoming Luncheon.
Image from the Centennial Image Collection, Special Collections and University Archives. Photograph by Colony Studios.

Special Collections and University Archives staff wish a wonderful Homecoming Weekend to our fellow Eagle Alums!

October 12, 2017

October is Archives Month

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October is just around the corner, and now our thoughts turn to crisp autumn days, Halloween, and manuscript collections spread about like so many fallen leaves.

That’s right; it’s Archives Month! Archives all over the country are celebrating their treasures, and we’ve got a few things happening in Virginia to help highlight our collections and to bring curious minds deeper into the archives and what it is we do here. This year, since Virginia is also recognizing the 100th anniversary of statewide prohibition, the theme of Virginia Archives Month is “Spirits in the Archives.”

The term “spirits” is, of course, open to interpretation.

And in the “spirit” of the theme, the Virginia Caucus of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) created a contest to inspire creative interaction with some very cool materials contributed from various institutions across the state. REMIX | Spirits in the Archives gives anyone a chance to use your talents to remix these materials in most any way you can imagine!

Create GIFs, redaction poetry, collage, memes, or use any other digital manipulation tricks up your sleeve. You can also interact with the items physically if that’s your bag! Stitch, cut, knit, glue, or whatever you like; just take a photo or scan of your completed creation. Visit the flickr site for the 2017 image submissions, remix your favorite(s), and submit! Full submission guidelines are posted on the contest’s tumblr, where you can also view previous submissions and find more information about the judging and prizes available. The deadline for submission is October 23, and don’t forget to share your work on social media using #archivesremix and #archivespirits.

Good luck to any entrants out there, and in the meantime, we’d be happy to have you haunting our archives!

September 28, 2017

Celebrating 200 Years of Henry David Thoreau, 1817 – 2017

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2017 marks the bicentennial of writer and naturalist, Henry David Thoreau’s birth.

Image of Henry David Thoreau from the 50 cent daguerreotype taken of him in Worchester, MA, 1856. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of anonymous donor.

In celebration, Simpson Library staff created several exhibits throughout the Library and in the process learned a lot about Thoreau and his renowned literary colleagues, all of whom lived in his hometown of Concord, Massachusetts. As with every new exhibit, the creation process presents an opportunity to delve into the Library’s collections to see what materials we have that complement the exhibit’s theme.

For Thoreau, I knew we didn’t have any first editions of his master work, Walden, waiting to be discovered on our shelves but that Special Collections owns an impressive complete set of the Transcendentalists publication, The Dial, from 1840-1844.  Although a financial failure, the magazine under the editorial direction of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller, was the launch pad for Thoreau’s writing career.

It is in The Dial’s inaugural issue, dated July 1840, that Thoreau’s poem “Sympathy” and his essay on the Roman poet Aulus Persius Flaccus were first published.

Two years later in 1842, The Dial published the first of Thoreau’s outdoor essays, “Natural History of Massachusetts.”

“A Winter Walk,” one of my favorite essays and a great read on a Snow Day, is published in October, 1843, establishing Thoreau’s naturalistic writing style.

Take a close look and you will see where our copy shows a former owner’s inscription of the correct pronunciation of Thoreau’s last name “Thorough.” What you can learn from notations! The Dial ceased publication with its April 1844 issue, but in its short run it was responsible for publishing more of Thoreau’s writing than any other magazine of the period.

All the Thoreau-related exhibits at Simpson Library will be on display through September, so stop by and see our exhibits and especially come upstairs to Special Collections to view the journal that gave Thoreau his start.

September 17, 2017

Visit the Digital Archiving Lab!

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The Digital Archiving Lab (also known as the DAL or “the lab”) has open hours this semester! Please feel free to stop by the lab on Thursday mornings from 9:30 to noon, or again in the afternoon from 1:30 to 4:00. You can stop in to meet Special Collections and University Archives staff, discuss a project, or view a demonstration of the digitization equipment. If you aren’t available on Thursdays, appointments can be scheduled on other weekdays by emailing archives@umw.edu.

Photograph of the Digital Archiving Lab

Inside the Digital Archiving Lab, you will find equipment for high-resolution digitization of books, documents, photographs, objects, and more!

The DAL contains equipment for high quality digitization, including flatbed scanners, a V-cradle rare book scanner, and image editing software. We are also very excited to have just added a high-megapixel DSLR to our inventory to better support the digitization of large documents and objects. While the first items that come to mind for digitization are often paper materials such as photographic prints and documents, equipment in the DAL has been used to digitize everything from plant specimens to clothing. In fact, staff love the opportunity to find creative solutions for digitization challenges.

Special Collections and University Archives staff are happy to take digitization requests from UMW faculty and staff to support research and instruction, and we also offer training to faculty, staff, and students so that you can learn how to digitize items for many different types of projects. Additionally, the DAL provides scanning services for community members and non-course-related projects for a small fee. If you aren’t sure where to begin, staff members are happy to discuss projects with you and can offer advice on digitization, digital preservation, metadata creation, and data organization.

For more information on the Digital Archiving Lab and digitization services, please visit our website at the following link: http://libraries.umw.edu/digital-archiving-lab/

We look forward to working with you!

September 1, 2017

In Process: The James L. Farmer Collection

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Most Mary Washington students, faculty, and alumni know about James Farmer’s legacy, both to American history and to our institution. One of the Big Four leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, he organized the Freedom Ride in 1961 to ensure desegregation of interstate transportation, co-founded the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and was a committed activist, leader, and teacher. His teaching career ended here at UMW, where he served as Distinguished Professor of History and American Studies from 1985 until his retirement in 1998.

Presidential Medal of Freedom. 1998. The James L. Farmer Collection, Special Collections and University Archives.

James Farmer, a native Texan, donated his papers to the University of Texas at Austin, where they reside in the repository at the Briscoe Center for American History. However, portions of his papers remained at UMW and now live in our Special Collections. These materials primarily consist of items pertaining to his various professional interests and engagements in the last few decades of his life. Previous staff members and student aides have done some preliminary work with sorting and arrangement, and past students have done a lot of great work with pieces of his collection, but now his entire collection is being fully processed and described with the goal of making this whole valuable archival collection discoverable and available to the research community and greater public.

Processing the collection takes time and involves certain measures. We need to make sure we respect the integrity of the items and any original order that may have been established by the creator, but we also need to ensure the materials last as long as possible and can be reasonably used by researchers. These measures may include organizing the materials into series based on material type and/or subject, and taking practical preservation steps such as housing papers in acid-free archival folders and protecting photographs with mylar sleeves. Ultimately, we want to make sure these materials stay safe to help tell James Farmer’s important story for as long as they can, and we want to make sure that you can discover all the parts of the story available to you here.

Possibly the most interesting treasures in this collection are the audiovisual materials collected from Farmer’s time in Fredericksburg. They make up about a third of the collection. Among other items of interest, these document some of his lectures and various television and radio appearances over the course of his life. Fortunately, these materials have been digitized (alas, VCRs and reel-to-reel players are not too common any more). However, another not-so-glamorous part of processing involves sifting through the recordings to determine the relevant copyrights and ownership. It’s important to ensure that everything is credited properly and attributed to the correct source. Once that’s sorted, we can take steps to preserve the digital files (that’s for a post about our exciting digital asset management system another day!) and make these accessible along with the papers.

Stay tuned for updates! We’re working hard on completing the processing and hope to have the collection available soon.

August 18, 2017

Chained Books

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Chained books are suddenly in the news! Recently the popular Game of Thrones premiere showed the vast fictional Citadel Library’s chained books, and last month in response, the American Library Association newsletter highlighted a real chained books collection in England’s 17th century Hereford Cathedral. The Cathedral is home to the largest surviving collection of chained books with about 1500 examples – all with their chains, rods and locks intact!

Drawing of the chained library in Hereford Cathedral

Drawing of the chained library in Hereford Cathedral.
Source: Libraries in the Medieval and Renaissance Periods Figure 4.jpg,” Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, https://commons.wikimedia.org/

Simpson Library’s rare books collection does not have anywhere near the Cathedral’s volume of chained books, but we do have one example of a chained book, John Foxe’s 1610 edition of Acts and Monuments of Matters Most Special and Memorable Happening in the Church …, commonly called The Book of Martyrs. First published in 1563, the narrative tells the story of the victims who suffered for the Protestant cause. It’s always been my favorite book to show students, as it is a wonderful example of a book from another age when knowledge was only for the privileged and books were so rare and expensive that they had to be either locked away and used under supervision or secured with a chain to a desk close by.

Acts and Monuments of Matters Most Special and Memorable Happening in the Church

Acts and Monuments of Matters Most Special and Memorable Happening in the Church, London, 1610. Volume 2 of the set.
The text is incomplete, starting on page 842 but the volume has a complete set of woodcuts.

How were these books chained? As you can see in the photographs from our copy, a chain was attached at one end to the front cover of the book; the other end was slotted on an iron rod running along the bottom of a shelf. The “check-out” process allowed the book to be taken from the shelf and read at the desk, but not removed from the bookcase as it would remain attached.


The Library’s unique chained volume also has the royal arms stamped in gilt on its covers and an ornate bookplate of an 18th century Duke.
Royal Arms


So if your budget can’t stretch this year to include a trip overseas, stop by Special Collections and University Archives and take a step back to the Middle Ages without even leaving campus!

August 7, 2017

Personal Digital Archiving Tips

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Whether it’s for sharing with family and friends via online platforms or for adding to a genealogical research collection, many people today are interested in digitizing old photographs, records,  letters, or other personal treasures. While it is always important to consider professional assistance, there are also lots of people who accomplish these projects from their own home offices or public scanning facilities. To help you get started, we have a few tips that we use in our own Digital Archiving Lab (DAL):

  1. Have a plan! Though we all know that challenges and changes arise during any project, it is helpful to know as much as possible about your task before you begin. For example, how many photographs will you be scanning? Where will you store them? Will you be scanning the front and the back of the photo? What will the file names be?
  2. TIFF vs. JPEG. The battle to end all battles – just kidding! We actually use both TIFF and JPEG formats for our projects in the DAL. For most projects, I scan TIFF files first, and then create JPEG copies later if I need them. It is a one way street, though, because it is not recommended to convert JPEGs to TIFFs!
    1. JPEG files are compressed and lossy, so every time they are opened and edited, they lose a bit of data. However, they are a smaller file size and are recommended for web display or emailing.
    2. TIFF files are the professional standard for digital preservation and are also more likely to be required for professional prints. TIFF files are ideal working files because they don’t lose data as you open and edit them, unless deletions are made intentionally.
  3. Resolution. I always recommend scanning at a minimum of 300ppi, so that you can be sure as much detail as possible is captured for future prints or display. If your equipment can scan at a higher resolution, go for it! You can always resize down later, but the reverse isn’t recommended. Finally, if you are scanning film, consider scanning at a minimum of 2400ppi so that your prints can be enlarged.
  4. Spreadsheets and descriptive information. You can actually use any tracking system that you’d like, but the concept is particularly important for large projects. As you scan, make sure to record the filename and any other important information about the photo or letter in a spreadsheet so that you can easily locate files later. I recommend spreadsheets because they can be easily converted into other formats.
  5. Storage. Make sure to save multiple copies of your files in different storage types (cloud storage and external hard drives, for example), and in separate locations.

Recording descriptive information as you scan will you help you find files quickly and easily later.

As you’re working on planning your project, don’t forget library staff are happy to help answer questions, provide consultations, or work with you on professional digitization services. The Digital Archiving Lab is located in the Hurley Convergence Center, room 322, and is open by appointment this summer!

July 20, 2017

A Swim in the Archives

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Summer has most definitely arrived.

Here in the library, it’s chilly all the time and I’m honestly sitting at my desk in a sweater with a space heater at my feet. But outside, the heat and humidity of Fredericksburg in July can make me feel like I live inside a wet sock crammed in an oven.

So for today’s post, I searched through our digital collections for some inspiration on how to beat the heat at Mary Washington. Happily, I found documentation of our friends from the past keeping cool at the various campus pools that students have enjoyed over the years. Sadly, they don’t exist any more, but that won’t stop me from living vicariously through these images.

Down in the basement of Monroe Hall, in the earliest days of the State Normal and Industrial School, you could find students having a swim in their bathing caps and full-coverage suits. It’s not quite poolside in the summertime the way we might think of it today, but it still looks like fun!

This outdoor pool among the trees looks particularly refreshing. These images are circa 1940s-50s, and I think capture a classic, summery vibe.

The chic pool below used to be part of the grounds outside of Framar House. Check out the post from University of Mary Washington: Then and Now for more information and side-by-side images of what the spot looks like today (hint: it probably will not provide this much relief when the heat index is above 100 degrees).

Our students have always been very cool (literally and figuratively).


Happy summer, everyone!

All images retrieved from the Centennial Image Collection, Special Collections and University Archives.

July 14, 2017

Reunion Weekend Treasures

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A big “Thank You” to all the alums that stopped by our History Harvest table Reunion Weekend. It was great to meet many of you and hear stories of your days at Mary Washington.

Vicki Sprague Ravenel, ’77 with Angie White, Digital Resources Librarian, at our History Harvest table. Vicki brought us some wonderful photographs from the seventies!

Vicki Sprague Ravenel, ’77 with Angie White, Digital Resources Librarian, at our History Harvest table. Vicki brought us some wonderful photographs from the seventies!

Alumni from the Class of 2007 catch up in Special Collections over their class yearbook.

Alumni from the Class of 2007 reminisce in Special Collections over their class yearbook.

With your help, Angie and I were able to add some great new materials to the University’s archival collections where they will be preserved for future researchers to use in their research of UMW’s history and traditions. Plus, as you browsed through our digitized online collections, several of you were able to help us identify alumni in the photographs. Shout out to Lisa Perdue, ’87!

Here’s an early peak at just a few of the newly donated treasures from Reunion Weekend.

Janet McConnell Philips '77 donated four cherished Battlefield yearbooks that belonged to her mother, Barbara Ann Hough ’48.

Janet McConnell Philips, ’77 donated four cherished Battlefield yearbooks that belonged to her mother, Barbara Ann Hough, ’48.

Rhonda Graves, ’82 brought Audrey Wood, ’40’s album from 1937 for us to photograph. Wood was from Hampton, Virginia and the Assistant Editor of the 1939 Battlefield. Check out her caption for Monroe Hall, “The Study Hard Building”.

Audrey was Class of 1940 from Hampton, VA and the Assistant Editor of the 1939 Battlefield. Check out Monroe Hall captioned, “The Study Hard Building”.One of Audrey’s friends wearing her class goat insignia. Go Goats!

One of Audrey’s friends wearing her  goat insignia. Go Goats!

Whitney P. Shelton, ’97 shared an entire CD of great photos!

Honor Council, 1995

Honor Council, 1995

And in conclusion, here’s a  photo of Vicki Sprague Ravenel, ’77  in the 1975 campus production of You Can’t Take it With You.

And in conclusion, here’s a great one of Vicki Sprague Ravenel, ’77 and cast in the 1975 production of You Can’t Take it With You.


Again thanks to all the alumni who shared their memories and made our History Harvest such a great event. See you next June at Reunion Weekend 2018!

June 30, 2017

All in a Day’s Work

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On the first day of Reunion Weekend, we had the exciting opportunity to photograph 3D objects in our Digital Archiving Lab when Mary Beth Bush Dore, ’67, brought us a MWC blazer, skirt, and two shirts to photograph. It’s not every day that we work with objects like this, and library staff took the opportunity to get creative with a makeshift modeling studio. Using a coat rack, a silver backdrop fabric, some photography equipment, and a couple of sets of hands, we were able to get great images showcasing outfits from Mary Washington in the 60’s!

Photo Studio

The silver fabric that we had in our offices for exhibits worked great as a photography backdrop!

When we digitize items, we try to capture as much information from them as possible while they are in our hands. We might not have an opportunity to digitize them again, whether it’s because they are being returned to the original owner (as in this case) or they are in a condition that dictates that they not be handled continuously. If we are scanning photographs, we will often scan the back or take notes in a spreadsheet so that we will make sure to record all of the item’s information. In this case, since we were photographing objects, we captured all items individually, front and back. If there was manufacturer information or other details that we noticed, we photographed that as well.

Clothing Items

Three of the clothing items that we received for photographing.

Detail Photographs

When photographing objects, the Special Collections staff capture as much detail as possible, including buttons, patches, and awesome shirt insignias from when Mary Washington was still part of the University of Virginia!

Do you have any UMW history that you aren’t sure can be digitized? Please contact us at archives@umw.edu and tell us about it. It’s always exciting to try new things in the Digital Archiving Lab, and we can’t wait to see what the next opportunity will bring!

June 22, 2017