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 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

Reunion Weekend History Harvest

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Tomorrow and Saturday, UMW Libraries will be hosting our third annual History Harvest for Reunion Weekend.

Angie and I will be at the University Center from 8 AM Saturday morning to noon so stop by and visit!

Angie and I will be at the University Center from 8 AM Saturday morning to noon so stop by and visit!

Special Collections and University Archives, including our Digital Archiving Lab, will also be open from noon to 3:00 PM tomorrow. We will have a display featuring artifacts from the archives (including those early eye-popping red and green beanies!) and staff to scan your treasures. You can contribute originals or digital copies to the University Archives’ collection, so they can be preserved for future users and take home a bookmark or postcard memento from our collections to share with family and friends.

Alumni enjoying 2016 History Harvest

Last year, we enjoyed meeting and talking with many alums and were particularly honored to have the Class of ’66 donate their scrapbook to the University Archives. We even learned more about their freshmen tradition of Peanut Week in November!

This year Reunion Weekend is celebrating class years ending with 2 and 7, so we hope to see some rockin’ materials from our 50th anniversary Class of 1967. Looking forward to seeing you!

Reunion Weekend, May, 1991

June 1, 2017

Kodak Book Digitization

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Though Special Collections and University Archives is every bit of what we typically imagine – a quiet, beautiful reading room surrounded by rare books and manuscripts – it also encompasses historical collections that we don’t always consider right away: digital. As an avid collector of University of Mary Washington history, our department is always interested in adding to our digital collections, which sometimes means that we create digital copies of unique items and then return the original to the owner. For example, we were recently given the opportunity to scan and photograph Helen Davenport Smith’s scrapbook, courtesy of her daughter, Joyce Lee Smith ’58. Helen Davenport Smith was a 1919 graduate of the State Normal School for Women at Fredericksburg, now known as the University of Mary Washington.

Image of the cover of the scrapbook.

Cover of the scrapbook, with decorative letters spelling “Kodak Book.”

The scrapbook, titled “Kodak Book” after what was most likely the popular camera used at the time, adds a wealth of information to our understanding of how the campus and students interacted during the time. It is filled with photographs of students engaging in various activities, such as gardening and socializing, as well as photographs of Smith’s post-college life and career. A cat portrait even made its way into the book, showing that even one hundred years ago, they were a popular photo subject!

Three photographs of students engaged in various activities.

Three photographs depicting students in various activities, such as gardening and recreation.

Photograph of cat on window

Cats have seemingly always captured the eye of photographers.

In order to digitize the scrapbook, staff used the Cobra Rare Book Scanner in the Digital Archiving Lab. The scanner allows rare books to be opened at an angle so that very little pressure is placed on the spine and binding. While the Cobra allows for glass to be placed over pages to help keep them flat, this book did not require flattening because the binding type and usage caused the pages to stay flat on their own. The scanner has two high-resolution cameras built in that photograph the left and right pages individually, resulting in very high-quality image files that allow for great zooming, printing, and long-term digital preservation. As files were processed after scanning, we used Photoshop to adjust the contrast and colors of images where the ink or pencil was faded in order to make the text more readable.

Image of Cobra Rare Book Scanner

The Cobra Rare Book Scanner has a v-shaped cradle to reduce the stress place on rare books during the digitization process.

Image depicting Photoshop techniques.

The original photograph (left) was processed through Photoshop, highlighting the list of names that were difficult to read in the faded ink.

In addition to 2D scanning, we thought it was important to capture the scrapbook as an object. In order to achieve this, we set up a DSLR mini photo studio and captured the edges of the book as well as its fragile thread binding. Photographing the book as an object will allow users to study the page curves, thickness, and binding, as well as provide context for the individual page images.

Image of pop-up photography studio.

A pop-up photography studio was created in the Digital Archiving Lab to capture the scrapbook as an object.

Image of the Kodak Book binding.

Binding of the Kodak Book captured from the pop-up photography studio.

Do you have any University history that you think should be added to our digital collections? Email us at or stop by our History Harvest table at Reunion Weekend on the morning of June 3rd. The Digital Archiving Lab will be open from noon until 3pm on Friday, June 2nd, if you would like to stop by and see how the digitization process works!


All Kodak Book images are courtesy of Joyce Lee Smith ’58.

May 24, 2017

UMW Presidents Collections

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Last month, UMW celebrated the inauguration of Troy Paino, our tenth president. Such a milestone in our history serves as the perfect opportunity to look back on the legacy left by our previous presidents. And here in the archives, legacies are our specialty!

The University Archives holds the administrative records and personal papers of all UMW’s past presidents. Some of these collections have been arranged and processed, and you can view the contents of those collections in their respective finding aids. The UMW Presidents Collections page contains a comprehensive list of all nine previous presidents (in chronological order) with links to the corresponding finding aids where available.

The Presidents Collections site also contains links to expanded biographies of each former president. If your memory doesn’t quite go back 109 years and you don’t remember much about our early presidents, it’s a great place to start.

Edward H. Russell (1908 - 1918)

Edward H. Russell (1908 – 1918)

Each president oversaw vital changes to the university. Edward Russell (above) became president very shortly after the school was founded and authorized construction of the very first buildings, Frances Willard Hall and Russell Hall (now known as Monroe). President Russell’s records have been fully processed and described, and you can explore those contents at the online finding aid.

Morgan L. Combs (1929-1955)

Morgan Combs served as president from 1929-1955, and in that time saw a tremendous amount of growth. Many more construction projects took place under President Combs, such as Mason and Randolph Halls, Lee Hall, Seacobeck, and the Fine Arts Center (duPont, Melchers, and Pollard Halls). Also during this time, the school consolidated with UVA and became the liberal arts women’s college. It also took a new name: Mary Washington College.

William M. Anderson, Jr. (1983-2006)

Another of our presidents with a long and notable tenure was William (Bill) Anderson. President Anderson held the position for 23 years and oversaw a great deal more expansion. More buildings sprung up at the campus in downtown Fredericksburg, and the academic offerings grew to include graduate programs that necessitated a brand new campus in Stafford. With this growth came another name change: University of Mary Washington. President Anderson’s collection also has a finding aid online if you’d like to view the contents of those records.

Visit the UMW Presidents Collection site to read about more of our past presidents and see what finding aids are available, or make an appointment to come by Special Collections to view some of our unique materials.

May 19, 2017

New Digital Collection – The Epaulet

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We are excited to announce that our newest digital collection, The Epaulet, is now available online! The Epaulet was the student literary magazine from 1940 until 1968, with an average of three issues published each academic year. According to the first issue of the magazine, the idea was so embraced by students that their subscriptions funded the endeavor and their initial literary contributions created a surplus for the following issue. In the same issue, President Morgan L. Combs described the magazine as being “symbolic of the beauty, the culture, and the refined atmosphere so prevalent at this college” (November 1940).

Motto of The Epaulet

Motto of The Epaulet

The Epaulet published original creative work such as poetry, short stories, artwork, and plays, and several early issues even included pieces written by faculty and staff, such as “It Can Happen Here,” by Mrs. Charles Lake Bushnell (June 1941) and “Words,” by Dean Edward Alvey (February 1941). Though some artwork existed in the early issues, The Epaulet began to highlight it more by transitioning from a standard cover to original art in the mid-1940s, as well as including art throughout the pages. The full collection of magazines and their creative covers can be browsed by date using the Eagle Explorer search tool available on the Special Collections website: The collection was digitized on the library’s Cobra Rare Book Scanner by student aides and staff, creating high-resolution scans that are full-text searchable and available for download.

Spring 1954 Cover

Cover of the Spring 1954 issue of The Epaulet.

Spring 1956 Cover

Cover of the Spring 1956 issue of The Epaulet.

May 11, 2017

New Collection Materials

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This post was written by Christine Pace, our Special Collections and University Archives student assistant. Thanks Christine!

I started working as a student assistant in Special Collections and University Archives this fall semester. Since starting, one of my favorite things is seeing first-hand the new items that come into our collections. This year the Department received many scrapbooks and photos. It is amazing to see how students have enjoyed their time at Mary Washington over the years. As I go through these new items, I have been able to see photos of past events and gatherings of former students and see captured the same excitement and fun that I have with my friends through our own events from Devil-Goat Day to sitting on Ball Circle on a sunny day.

These accessions are not only physical items but also snapshots of the past. They tell the stories of Mary Washington traditions and the little moments that can be a reminder of fun times. One of my favorite recent accessions is a collection of photographs from Houston Kempton, a past photographer of The Bullet, known today as The Blue and Gray. Here are just a few pictures from this collection that I enjoyed seeing as I scanned and put them into protective archival sleeves.

Furniture on the Lawn, Junior Ring Week

Furniture on the Lawn, Junior Ring Week

Westmoreland Hall

Westmoreland Hall

Student Jumping

Student Jumping

May 4, 2017

Devil-Goat Rally – Be There!

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It’s the Thursday before the last day of classes in the spring, and at Mary Washington that means only one thing – it’s Devil-Goat Day! The day when graduates from odd years go head-to-head in contests against their classmates from even years.  On Ball Circle today, there will be free food, entertainment, and friendly sports competitions.  It’s a single day event now, but back in the early years at Mary Washington Devil-Goat events spanned across the entire year. There were snowball fights in winter and the hiding of Devil and Goat flags in October.

Devil-Goat Rally Tonight!, Bullet, October 21, 1938

Devil-Goat Rally Tonight!, The Bullet, October 21, 1938

Interested in learning more about Mary Washington’s infamous tradition? Check out UMW photographs and publications, like the student handbooks and newspapers. University Archives has print copies in the library as well as digitized copies at Archives@UMW.

Egg Toss at Devil-Goat Day, 1983, Centennial Image Collection, Special Collections and University Archives

Egg Toss at Devil-Goat Day, 1983, Centennial Image Collection, Special Collections and University Archives

You can learn all kinds of fun facts. The March 20, 1944 Bullet article even provides details of the “real live goat” brought on campus by the Goats, and the Devil students who dressed in red flannel and carried traditional pitchforks! The Goats did triumph that year, but the Devils won the all important pie-eating contest, producing “from their midst the two girls with the biggest mouths.”

Not a photo of the real goat brought to campus in 1944, but a later attempt by a student dressed in a goat costume. Centennial Image Collection, Special Collections and University Archives

Unfortunately not a photo of the real goat brought to campus in 1944, but a later attempt by a student dressed in a goat costume. Centennial Image Collection, Special Collections and University Archives

University Archives also houses Devil-Goat Day memorabilia – T-shirts, felt green Goat insignias, and a Devil pin from 1981. These are currently on display this week in the Simpson Library lobby cases. So stop by the Library and check out your University traditions!

April 27, 2017

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: Once the submission is complete, library staff adds the item to the collection in the digital archive: 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