Category Archives: Digital Projects

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

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:

We look forward to working with you!

September 1, 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 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

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

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

Mary Washington’s Will

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Working in Special Collections and University Archives, we frequently encounter many fascinating objects.  This summer, we got to see a truly unique item that was quite personal for us — the last will and testament of Mary Ball Washington!

Mary Washington's Will

Mary Washington’s will, 1789 [image used courtesy of Fredericksburg Circuit Court Archives]

Working in collaboration with the Washington Heritage Museums and the Fredericksburg Circuit Court Archives (which owns the document), our staff was able to digitize the will in the Digital Archiving Lab using our Cobra overhead scanner.

Mary Washington's will on the Cobra scanner

Mary Washington’s will on the Cobra scanner

The Cobra allows for high-resolution scanning of fragile bound books and documents, such as this will.  Now that staff at both the Washington Heritage Museums and the Fredericksburg Circuit Court Archives have access to high-quality digital images of the will, they can reproduce it in exhibits and printed materials without having to repeatedly handle the original document.

Digital Resources Librarian Suzanne Chase zooms in on Mary Washington's signature

Digital Resources Librarian Suzanne Chase zooms in on Mary Washington’s signature

Partnering with local cultural heritage institutions to digitize their treasures is one of the most rewarding aspects of our work in Special Collections, and we hope that by digitizing this piece of history, more people will come to know and appreciate Mary Washington the way we do at UMW!

August 15, 2016

Civil War Digital Projects

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In Special Collections and University Archives, we often have the opportunity to work with students, faculty members, and other UMW departments on interesting projects.  Sometimes, we also get to collaborate with organizations outside the University.  One of our recent collaborative projects brought together individuals from all of these different groups, and resulted in two wonderful public-facing digital history and archives websites.  Over the course of the Spring 2016 semester, we worked with students in HIST428, Adventures in Digital History, taught by Dr. Jeffrey McClurken, and staff from the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park to facilitate the digitization of Civil War materials from the Park’s archival collections.

The students worked in two groups to digitize items from the Park’s collections and create digital projects featuring the items and related interpretive content.  The first group focused on a series of letters and documents written by Montgomery Slaughter, the wartime Mayor of Fredericksburg, and George Murray, a Union soldier who fought in the Battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.

Montgomery Slaughter

Montgomery Slaughter

George Murray

George Murray

As the students wrote, “Slaughter’s letters provide a look into how the city fared during the War, while Murray’s provide insight into the daily life of a soldier.  Although Slaughter and Murray never met, they represent both the Confederate and Union sides of the conflict who’s experiences converged in the Battle of Fredericksburg in December of 1862.”  The digitized documents written by both individuals, as well as exhibits, a timeline, and a video, can be found at the finished Slaughter-Murray Papers website.

The second group of students worked with a collection of seven diaries kept by Private Stephen Gordon of the 15th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Unit.  The diaries include accounts of Gordon’s daily activities between 1861 and 1866, and provide a unique view of the life of a soldier during the Civil War.

Stephen Gordon

Stephen Gordon

The full collection of digitized and transcribed diaries can be found at the completed Gordon Diaries website, along with exhibits about Stephen Gordon’s life, the battle of Fredericksburg, and a timeline covering the main events of the Civil War in connection with the soldier’s life.

These projects turned out wonderfully, due to the hard work of the students enrolled in the Adventures in Digital History course.  To complete the websites, the students had to master many new tasks, including archival digitization, transcription, metadata creation, website construction, and more.  They also made use of new tools like Photoshop, Omeka, and timeline and mapping programs from Northwestern University’s Knight Lab.  The finished results show the high level of skill and dedication of our UMW students, and will contribute greatly to the scholarship of Fredericksburg during the Civil War.

May 10, 2016

Student Handbook Collection

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This post was written by Grace May, our Digital Archives student aide. Thanks Grace!

I started working in the Digital Archiving Lab in the Fall of 2015 and had an ongoing project of digitizing all of the Mary Washington student handbooks. The handbooks contain rules and regulations that govern the student body as well as conduct policies, campus traditions, and information for incoming freshmen. In 1935, the name of the handbook changed to The Bayonet, but returned to its earlier title, Student Handbook, in 1957.

Digitizing the handbooks was a long project that lasted about 5 months, and required great attention to detail. Throughout the scanning process I started to notice some peculiar traditions that were implemented at Mary Wash and thought about how current students like myself might view them. As a senior History major, these interesting historical tidbits intrigued me. For example, a tradition that lasted for about 20 years was called “Peanut Week,” which began in 1933. A description of the tradition from the 1943 handbook says:

A week before the Christmas Holidays peanut shells are distributed in the dining halls. Within the shell is to be found the name of some student or faculty member to whom one is secretly to “play peanut.” The object of the game is for everyone to see how nice she can be to her “peanut” without the latter finding out just who is the thoughtful person. The culmination of the fun comes in the night of the “Peanut Party” when everyone learns who her heretofore unknown benefactor is.

It would probably be impossible to bring back Peanut Week in 2016 with our growing student body and campus, but it is a nice thought and a good reminder to show kindness to fellow classmates and professors.

Another tradition at Mary Wash that I had heard of is Devil-Goat Day. However, who would have known that there were songs for the Devils and the Goats? Bringing these songs back to campus might be easier than implementing Peanut Week! The words to the songs, from the 1938 handbook, can be seen below:

On page 87 from the 1938 Student Handbook.

I hope that researchers who are interested in what is now the University of Mary Washington and its history will find these tidbits as intriguing as I have, and will check out the digitized collection of student handbooks!

Editor’s note: All 85 volumes of student handbooks within the University Archives, from 1929 to 2016, can now be searched, browsed, and downloaded from the Internet Archive collection.

April 11, 2016

Special Collections and University Archives Receives Grant

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University of Mary Washington Libraries, in partnership with the Center for Historic  Preservation and UMW Facilities Services, has been awarded a $6,250 grant by the community Duff McDuff Green Jr. Fund.

Monroe Hall, June 1910

Monroe Hall, June 1910

This grant will assist with the preservation and digitization of the University’s architectural blueprints and drawings — particularly those related to noted Virginia architect Charles M. Robinson, whose architectural designs grace campuses and other buildings throughout the commonwealth of Virginia.

UMW has one of the largest collections of historical blueprints and drawings of Robinson’s works. The 150th anniversary of the architect’s birth is approaching in 2017, and scholars are interested in accessing and studying his drawings. Among Robinson’s notable architectural works at UMW are Monroe Hall (1910-11), Frances Willard Hall (1909-11), Virginia Hall (1914-15, 1926), Seacobeck Hall (1930-31) and the bridge to Seacobeck Hall (1930).

This project provides the opportunity to preserve these historical architectural resources and make them available online to researchers while raising awareness of Charles M. Robinson and his impact on Fredericksburg’s architectural landscape. The grant also will give students an opportunity to work directly with historical documents, learning how to correctly digitize large-scale historical records and add metadata and standardized file names so they can easily be accessed online. The project is made possible by a grant from the Duff McDuff Green, Jr. Fund of The Community Foundation.

February 23, 2016

Now Open: the Convergence Gallery

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We are pleased to announce the official launch of the Convergence Gallery, our new exhibit space in UMW’s Information and Technology Convergence Center! This area, located at the intersection of Simpson Library and the ITCC, holds kiosks with interactive digital exhibits featuring content from Special Collections and University Archives. Our goal in building the Convergence Gallery is to create a collaborative exhibition space that engages visitors with materials from the Library’s collections while also providing a platform for UMW students and faculty to showcase their own digital projects. Please contact us at if you have ideas for future exhibits or would like to contribute digital content to be featured on the kiosks.

Here is a preview of UMW Libraries: A History, 1911-Today, one of our current exhibits. Please come visit the Convergence Gallery to view our other interactive exhibits and to see what’s new!

March 12, 2015