Honors Projects

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As we near the end of the school year, students pursuing departmental honors are putting the final touches on their projects. Upon completion and approval, students will submit them to the University Archives for long-term preservation and access. The library collects these projects as part of its mission to preserve the University’s history, and to make available the valuable scholarship that is produced here.

As of 2014, students are able to submit their approved projects online directly from the library’s website: http://libraries.umw.edu/paper-submission-guidelines/. Once the submission is complete, library staff adds the item to the collection in the digital archive: http://archive.umw.edu:8080/vital/access/manager/Collection/umw:1604. In the submission form, the student is asked to provide information about their project, like an abstract and keywords. This information will be associated with the item in the digital archive so that researchers can easily find the student’s scholarship if it relates to their search.

Honors Paper Collection

The link in the red box will take users to the honors papers collection.

For honors papers that pre-date the digital archive, bound copies reside in Special Collections and University Archives. In 2005, the library began a preservation project that retrospectively bound every thesis to help ensure their long term preservation. Previously, theses had been submitted to the library in a variety of containers, causing page curls and other issues. In order to provide access to these papers, each has a record in the library’s catalog so that it can be found by the UMW community or other researchers. Library staff are also always happy to hear from alumni who request that their paper be digitized and uploaded into the digital archive.

Original Honors Papers Bindings

Originally, honors papers were submitted to the library in a variety of different containers.

Bound Honors Papers

For better long-term preservation, the honors papers were retrospectively bound in 2005.

Of course, there have also always been honors projects that aren’t papers, and the library has collected plays, videotapes, photographs, and costume sketches, just to name a few. As students embark on more complex digital projects every year, the library is  working on solutions to collect these and other types of projects, as well.

If you’re submitting an honors project to the collection this year, congratulations! Please don’t hesitate to contact Special Collections and University Archives if you have questions about the process.

April 20, 2017

Poems, on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral

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When the Rare Book Room was first set up in Trinkle Library in 1964, one of the factors influencing its creation was the number of valuable and historic books in the open circulating stacks that needed to be moved to a safer location. Today in our Rare Books Collection, you can quickly spot those early “stacks” volumes as their covers display chalky-white Dewey Decimal call numbers. “Rare” is also distinctly marked on their front covers in the same white ink. Such practices make librarians shudder today but were commonplace fifty years ago when the focus was on making sure that each book would be duly returned to its rare collections designation.

Phyllis Wheatley. Poems, on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, 1816

Among the group of books moved for safe-keeping is notably Phillis Wheatley’s, 1816 edition of Poems, on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. Wheatley, the first female African- American poet to be published, was born in West Africa and sold early in her life into slavery. She was sent to North America and sold to a Boston merchant and his wife, John and Susanna Wheatley. The Wheatleys permitted Phillis to learn and receive an education in Latin and the classics.

Title page

Copy of John Wheatley’s letter sent to the publisher.

Simpson Library’s copy of Wheatley’s poetry is actually the third New England printing of her book, preceded by the 1802 Walpole and 1804 Hartford editions. The book’s first printing was in London in 1773 and not reprinted in Philadelphia until 1785. Our 1816 copy lacks the famous frontispiece of Wheatley present in earlier volumes.

Portrait of Phyllis Wheatley by Scipio Moorhead in the highly collectible 1773 edition. Courtesy of Library of Congress.

It does, however, sport an early library card pocket inside its back cover, stating wisely: “To get what you want – Ask the Librarian.”  Sage advice!

Remember April is National Poetry Month so stop in Special Collections and see this wonderful volume of verse.

Source Consulted:

Shields, John C. and Eric D. LaMore, eds. New Essays on Phillis Wheatley. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2011.

April 14, 2017

Think Spring

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Spring officially began on Monday. To be honest though, I’m having a hard time reconciling that news with the reality of stepping out of my house this morning and getting slapped in the face by 24 degrees and frost on my lawn. So it goes.

I suppose we have to pay for our unseasonably warm and delightful February.

To try to get myself in a “springier” mood, I turned to the Centennial Image Collection to find some evidence of warmer days past. This is one of my favorite of our digital collections; I really enjoy the easy access to all the past iterations of UMW/MWC student life. It’s pretty cool to start digging around and see what’s changed while so much has stayed the same.

For example, check out Jefferson Hall lawn in the springtime, separated by almost 30 years. Different cars out front, and some different fashion choices, but the same relaxed attitude persists.

Dinndorf, Helen Elizabeth. Jefferson Hall Lawn. 2007-04. Centennial Image Collection, Special Collections and University Archives.

McWaters, Dennis. Students in front of Jefferson Hall. 1987. Centennial Image Collection, Special Collections and University Archives.

Campus has always put on a show in springtime. When the grass is at its greenest and everything blooms, it makes for quite a picturesque scene. The landscape design compliments the architecture beautifully.

Headley, R. Megan. Westmoreland Hall in Spring. 2002-04. Centennial Image Collection, Special Collections and University Archives.

Cordero, Lou. Seacobeck Dining Hall in Spring. 2003-04. Centennial Image Collection, Special Collections and University Archives.

Even in black and white, it’s lovely.

Flowers blooming at Westmoreland Hall. Centennial Image Collection, Special Collections and University Archives.

I feel warmer already! I’m looking forward to sitting on my favorite bench on Campus Walk and enjoying the spring sun. See you outside, UMW!

March 23, 2017

St. Patrick’s Day at UMW

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St. Patrick’s Day brings with it a variety of parties, parades, green costumes, and delicious treats, and this year is bound to be no exception. While you’re out on the town or exploring different events on campus, you might wonder if these activities are a tradition or who even came up with these ideas in the first place. Is there a St. Patrick’s Day Dance every year? Has it always been cool to drink green beer? If you find yourself curious about events of the past, a good place to start researching is newspapers from the time period. They often include information about community events, or stories about events that took place close to the issue date. In order to research St. Patrick’s Day happenings at UMW, I started with searching the student newspaper digital archive in Eagle Explorer. Here are some of the fun events that I found:

In 1932, students in the Southwest Virginia Club attended a St. Patrick’s Day party with themed costumes and crafts:

“Southwest Virginia Club,” (Fredericksburg, VA.) The Bullet, March 30, 1932, accessed March 16, 2017, http://archive.org/details/Bullet-Fredericksburg_VA_vol-5_1932-03-30.

1950 saw an entire weekend of fun planned in honor of the holiday. The dance, though, wasn’t formal and did not require dates to purchase corsages or formal attire!

“St. Patrick’s Weekend Planned March 10,” (Fredericksburg, VA.) The Bullet, March 7, 1950, accessed March 16, 2017, http://archive.org/details/Bullet-Fredericksburg_VA_vol-22_1950-03-07

The science fraternity on campus made use of the upcoming holiday in 1977 by auctioning off a night of green beer with Dr. Bernard Mahoney to support scholarships:

“Science Fraternity Auctions off Profs,” (Fredericksburg, VA.) The Bullet, February 2, 1977, accessed March 16, 2017, http://archive.org/details/Bullet-Fredericksburg_VA_vol-49_1977-02-22.

In 2010, The Bullet offered St. Patrick’s Day-themed recipes to get students through the holiday:

Brynn Boyer, “Dining on a Dime: Bailey’s Brownies,” (Fredericksburg, VA.) , The Bullet, March 18, 2010, accessed March 16, 2017, http://archive.org/details/Bullet-Fredericksburg_VA_vol-83_2010-03-18.

Though newspapers are still publishing community calendars and stories, if you’re searching for events in the last several years, a great place to look is a web archive. UMW’s web archive has been capturing much of the University’s events pages and social media, and you can search it straight from the home page of Special Collections. Here is a screen shot from last year’s St. Patrick’s Day dinner plans, posted on the Office of Student Activities and Engagement’s news site:

Office of Student Activities and Engagement, “Thursday, March 17th,” The SAE Weekly News, last modified September 28, 2016, accessed March 17, 2017, https://wayback.archive-it.org/4859/20160928155002/http://saeweeklynews.umwblogs.org/2016/03/page/6/

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

March 17, 2017

Participate in Mary Washington Giving Day

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Tuesday, March 14 is Mary Washington Giving Day.  The day when UMW Libraries asks for your support in assisting us to collect, preserve, and make accessible items in our Special Collections and University Archives. These funds go to support the acquisition of new items to the collection, like these previous purchases – a 1920 photograph of faculty and students at the State Normal School’s summer school session or letters from members of the Lane family who lived at Brompton from 1873 – 1887.

Faculty and Students, Summer School, July 22, 1920, State Normal School, Fredericksburg, VA. Buck’s Studio, Washington, D.C

First page of a letter from John Green Lane, Brompton, June 1877

Funds also go towards the many items in our collections in need of proper enclosures, digitization and conservation. By supporting any of our projects, you are helping to safeguard the library collections and preserve scholarship in all its various formats for future students and researchers.

Your engagement with UMW Libraries is much appreciated, and we invite you to take an active role in preserving your University’s history and scholarship and give online next Tuesday at https://mwgivingday.com. Thank you!

March 9, 2017

World War I Poster Collection

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Walking around the library, you may have noticed some posters.

save your child

Like this one on the first floor…

...or this one on the second floor near the classroom...

…or this one on the second floor near the classroom…

...or this one on the third floor.

…or this one on the third floor.

Next time you’re looking for a book or a study space, glance around the walls and you’ll probably see a poster from our World War I poster collection. We have over 75 posters displayed throughout the library.

These posters were created between 1915 and 1918 and served to spread information widely about various aspects of the war efforts. Popular radio didn’t exist the way it did during WWII and there was no television, so posters were an effective means of grabbing the public’s attention and spurring action. Topics include such things as recruitment and the purchasing of war bonds. In some, high-profile figures like President Woodrow Wilson (above) or General Pershing lend their image to encourage patriotic participation or endorse certain organizations. Others highlight concerns over food shortages–a widespread issue in Europe–and ask Americans to adjust their eating habits to allow for more food to send overseas.

food dont waste it

While you’ll obviously see many recruitment posters encouraging young men to enlist, you can also find several asking women to contribute to the war effort. In the poster below, women appear in sort of a proto-Rosie-the-Riveter fashion, proudly championing the “second line of defense” on the home-front.

woman worker

I encourage you to take a stroll through our stacks sometime and look for them all. They vary widely in style and substance, and each one can be appreciated as an individual work of art reflective of a particular era.

Additionally, these posters have some added historical significance this year. 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the United States entry into World War I. On April 6, 1917, the US declared war on Germany, joining a fight that had been going on in Europe since 1914. The war would continue for another year until a ceasefire in November of 1918, and formally ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.

The war caused unspeakable devastation in Europe and more Americans lost their lives than in Korea and Vietnam combined.

If you’re interested in learning more about what the US is doing to mark this occasion, please visit the website of the United States World War One Centennial Commission. This group was established in 2013 by an act of Congress to “plan, develop, and execute programs, projects, and activities to commemorate the centennial of World War I.”

Also, if you’d like to explore more of these types of posters, the Library of Congress has a WWI poster collection with approximately 1,900 digital images available to view and some interesting history to read.

And since it’s almost spring break (!) and I’m sure you’re all looking for a beautifully written but heartbreaking and haunting beach read, I’d like to recommend the quintessential WWI novel, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. He explains his story perfectly in the epigraph:

This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped its shells, were destroyed by the war.

March 2, 2017

Family History Research at UMW

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Written by Angie White

There are many reasons why I was excited to recently join the staff at Simpson Library as the new Digital Resources Librarian, many of which include the exciting projects, interesting special collections, and variety of responsibilities and opportunities.  Also I was drawn to this position at the University of Mary Washington because of the special place that it is to me. Aside from being an alumna myself, my great-grandma (affectionately known as GG) graduated from the State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Fredericksburg in 1925 and went on to teach at a small schoolhouse in Fauquier County, Virginia.

Because of the great digital collection building that has already been done here, I’m able to see what school was like here for GG in the 1920’s. I can find information about her quickly because of full text searches, so I don’t need to browse page by page of every book or read entire newspapers. I can also download page images and share them with other family members. Finally, I can do this from anywhere with an internet connection since UMW Libraries’ digital collections are free and open to the public.

Are you also interested in finding information about your great-grandma who went here? Or is there something else about the University’s history that has piqued your curiosity? Below are the steps that I took to find information about GG, and you can find information about UMW’s history by doing a similar search:

Step One: Access our Special Collections from http://libraries.umw.edu/specialcollections/ and navigate to the “All Collections” search bar.

Step One

Step Two: Type in the name of the person or subject you are researching and select “Search.” Make sure you put a person’s name in quotations so that your results will return only publications with both the first and last name.

Step Two

Step Three: Select the publication and issue that you want to read. At this point, your search might return images or catalog records, too.

Step Three

Step Four: Once you’ve selected your publication issue, it should open automatically to the page with your search term on it. You can also browse the publication by clicking on the pages to turn them, or the left and right arrows at the bottom of the screen.

Step Four

Step Five: To have the option to download different file types, select the “Back to item details” arrow in the top left corner.

Step Five

Step Six: Scroll down the page until you see “Download Options” and download the file type that works best for you.

Step Six

February 24, 2017

New Finding Aid Published

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As a follow-up to my previous post, I’m excited to report that we’ve successfully published a new finding aid! A Guide to the Michael Louis Altstetter Records is now available to view through the Virginia Heritage database of archival resources.

First of many new finding aids to come!

First of many new finding aids to come!

To help put this into context, I’d like to answer a few questions you may have:

What is a finding aid?

Virginia Heritage’s FAQ does a good job of answering this:

Finding aids (also called guides or descriptive inventories) are the key to locating primary source materials. The finding aid provides a comprehensive overview of a collection, explaining how it is organized, outlining a collection’s origin, contents and dates, and listing locations within a collection where relevant materials may be found. It also informs the researcher about how a collection may be accessed or copied.

Basically, a finding aid tells you what we have in our physical manuscript collections. Finding aids don’t display digital content–you’d still have to come to our reading room to view these items–but they do function as the best way to determine if our manuscript collections have what you’re looking for.

What is Virginia Heritage?

This is a centralized database that we use as a repository for our finding aids, along with many other Virginia institutions with archival collections. Various participating universities, libraries, and museums across the state upload their finding aids here as a way of consolidating resources and making those resources widely available. You can search finding aids broadly by subject or keywords, or you can narrow down your search to a specific institution.

Visit About Virginia Heritage if you’re interested in learning more about what they do, the history of the project, and the participating institutions.

How can I see what finding aids UMW has available?

Right here!

But for future reference, Special Collections and University Archives has a link to the current, full list of finding aids on our homepage, in the Resources and Services menu.

screenshot sc menu

You can also find us on the main Virginia Heritage page by selecting University of Mary Washington as the repository and clicking search.

screenshot vh

Does UMW have more in the archives than what’s listed here?

Absolutely! We’re working on making more of our manuscript collections searchable and available for research.

Part of the goal of processing the Altstetter collection was for me to become familiar with coding the finding aid according to established standards (Encoded Archival Description, or EAD, is generally accepted as the XML standard for encoding finding aids). Now that I’ve figured out the basics of EAD and publishing online, I’ll be focusing on producing finding aids for those manuscript collections that have higher potential research value. We want to increase our visibility and make sure that anyone interested can discover our resources.

In the meantime, feel free to visit Special Collections’ Research and Instruction page to learn about additional ways to find and access our various collections and artifacts. We’re always happy to help!

February 16, 2017

Detective Work in the Archives

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A successful reference search in the archives always makes for a good day and a good blog post!  Last semester, Senior Courtney Squires visited the University Archives looking for a photograph of a bookcase that she owns.  Her aunt had purchased the piece locally when UMW used to sell their used furniture directly to the community and gave it to her niece.

MWCBookcaseThe bookcase has a label “M. Washington College, Jul 31, 1941” glued to its back.

Bookcase Label: M. Washington College, Jul. 31, 1941

Courtney thought the bookcase may have been used in Trinkle Hall, Mary Washington’s  library from 1941-1988, and transferred to Simpson Library  when the new library opened in 1989. So she stopped by the library to see if any of our current bookcases matched her small wooden bookcase. No luck there, so I suggested she check our online Centennial Image collection which contains hundreds of historic photographs of Mary Washington, including dorm and classroom interiors. Due to its small size, I thought the bookcase may have been used in a living room or bedroom.

Bingo! It wasn’t long before Courtney emailed us back that she had located a photograph of her bookcase in our digital collections.

I researched through your Digital Collections online, and I found a picture with my bookshelf in it! I am so excited!!!! It turns out this particular piece of furniture was located in a residence hall, and this photo is dated 1950. I cannot thank you both enough for your guidance, and the wonderful collection of pictures online you have all made available to the public and to UMW students. I have attached the picture with this email. Thank you again.

Students studying in dorm room, 1950

Students studying in dorm room, 1950

Thank you Courtney for sharing the story of your research in the archives. It’s exciting to know that 75 years later this same 1941 bookcase is residing again in a UMW dorm!

All of our Special Collections and University Archives digital collections can be searched at Archives@UMW.

February 9, 2017

The Michael Louis Altstetter Records

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The University Archives contain a wealth of campus history. Among other things, you can come here to see archived copies of university publications, explore the UMW Presidents Collections, or seek out a specific department’s records from any number of organizations by browsing our Record Group Headings List.

But one place you may not know to look is in some of the collections listed in the personal manuscript collections inventory. This is a great list of some of the interesting smaller collections we have that don’t quite fit into our standard record groups, but you might not even know they’re there. One of my priorities right now is to help these little gems shine.

My goal is to help make these and others much more accessible and searchable for anyone who might have some interest in exploring our manuscript records. I’m working on arranging, describing, and processing them now, while also thinking of strategies to improve this process in the future and make collections (especially those with high research potential) available in a quick and organized way. Simultaneously, we’re working on developing new finding aids so researchers from anywhere can better understand the content of some of our manuscript collections. Our digital collections are excellent and only getting better, but there are still items of intrigue to be found among the papers.

My first task in this project has been processing the Michael Louis Altstetter Records, and I’d like to share a little about what I’ve found.

Dr. Altstetter was the Dean of Instruction and Registrar from 1929-1934, beginning shortly after President Combs officially took office. Despite being one of Combs’ earliest appointments, a rift developed between Altstetter and Combs within a few years. Altstetter’s position was eliminated, the administration publicly citing an “administrative reorganization” (Alvey 180). The Dean was encouraged to submit his resignation and he parted ways with the college in 1934. Combs never provided any further details.

The Altstetter records themselves consist of entirely correspondence. Personally, I love reading letters from the past. Even though much of what’s available here is administrative and business correspondence, they serve as an excellent insight into the letter-writer’s personality and what his priorities were. You can see how an upper lever administrator interacted with students, parents, faculty, and other administrators. There’s a lot to learn about academics and college life at that time.

About a third of the collection contains correspondence pertaining specifically to academic deficiencies and discipline and features exchanges between Dean Altstetter and the parents of struggling students. In such a letter from December 15, 1931, he expresses concerns to a girl’s father over her lack of confidence:

"I cannot believe that she is hopeless..."

“I cannot believe that she is hopeless…”

Parents were routinely notified by letter from the Dean if their daughter’s performance was lacking, and in some cases, whether or not they should continue at the college. Through his letters, Altstetter exhibits a degree of personal involvement in his students’ lives that speaks to a long tradition of individualized attention here at UMW.

The correspondence is also helpful in understanding some of the educational standards of the time, and how business was conducted with the state. Another part of the collection is correspondence between Dean Altstetter and the State Board of Education, chiefly concerning teacher certifications and whether the ladies of Fredericksburg had met the appropriate state-level standards. There’s numerous back and forth about credits and criteria, and each letter often concerns a single student’s history.

The rest of the collection is grouped as “general correspondence” and covers a range of topics. Living as we do in the digital age, I find it fascinating to look at the number of tasks that were once only accomplished by writing letters, like reserving a room at a hotel or ordering a book, that I can now do in seconds. Writing a letter was also the best way to obtain desired information about the college, such as whether or not boys are allowed.

"Absolutely no men..."

“Absolutely no men…”

More about boys in a later update.

I hope to have a completed finding aid for this collection (and others) soon!


Sources cited:

Michael Louis Altstetter Records, Special Collections and University Archives, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.

Alvey, Edward, Jr. History of Mary Washington College, 1908-1972. University of Virginia Press, 1974.


January 30, 2017