Category Archives: New Acquisitions

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 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

New Accession

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This post was written by Katie Ingebretsen, our Special Collections and University Archives spring semester intern. Thanks Katie!

This semester part of my internship at Special Collections and University Archives included accessioning items into the collection. Accessioning means that I document each new item that is added to the collection, noting the date the item was received, who it was donated by or bought from, where the item is now located and giving it an accession number and description. The accession number is how collection items are tracked and is made up of two parts: one number that refers to the year the piece was accessioned and one number that refers to how many pieces have been accessioned this year (if the item is the 14th piece accessioned this year, the number will be 016-014).

Special Collections and University Archives has received four items this semester. My favorite piece that I accessioned this semester is a small black ceramic piggy bank, circa 1963, with the old school seal on it and the words “Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia” surrounding the seal. The seal is very interesting because it is not the current UMW seal, but the earlier seal featuring both the torch we have on the seal now and a spinning wheel in the background. This dates to the time Mary Washington was a women’s teaching college, and the spinning wheel represents the domestic arts the students learned such as home economics and millinery.

Piggy Bank, 1963

pig 2a

Piggy Bank with early Mary Washington seal, 1963

April 6, 2016

High on Marye’s Hilltop

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Earlier this year, we were delighted when the Alumni Affairs office contacted Special Collections and University Archives to see if we would be able to digitize an old record that had been mailed to them.  They weren’t quite sure what was on the record, but it had the name of Irene Taylor and a date in 1947 written on one side of it.

Image of audio transcription disc

Image of audio transcription disc

After doing a little digging in the University Archives, we determined that Irene Taylor was a well-known alumna from the class of 1947.  A music major, Taylor, along with her friend Jean Crotty, entered an annual song competition between Mary Washington’s dormitories during their senior year.  Taylor and Crotty’s song, “High on Marye’s Hilltop,” was so well-liked that it sparked a movement by students who wanted to make the song the official alma mater of the college.  Ronald Faulkner, the school’s band director, drafted a sheet music copy of the song that was sent to all alumnae chapters.  The chapters overwhelmingly approved of the song, and “High on Marye’s Hilltop” became the official alma mater in 1952.

Irene Taylor

Irene Taylor

Once we knew the background of this mysterious record, we had to figure out how to digitize it.  After further research, we determined that the record was not an LP, but a transcription disc.  This type of media was commonly used during the mid-20th century for recording music, before being replaced by magnetic tape, cassette tape, and eventually optical disc technology. Transcription discs must be digitized with elliptical cartridges, which are made by only a few remaining companies.  After the correct cartridge was procured, the real work could begin.

This disc was in relatively good shape, so after a thorough cleaning, it was ready to be digitized.  After the initial digitization process, additional static was removed to make the song more pleasant to listen to.  The resulting digital file is a wonderful time machine back to the spring of 1947, when Irene Taylor sat down at the piano and recorded the music to “High on Marye’s Hilltop,” the song that would become the soundtrack to student life at Mary Washington.  Please visit Archives@UMW to take a listen!

October 14, 2015

Summer Fun, 1942

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This post was written by Rebecca Arm, our Special Collections and University Archives student aide.  Thanks Becca!

Since the first session of the Summer 2015 semester is coming up, I enjoyed looking at this recreation calendar from Summer 1942’s First Term (June-July), which is a recent acquisition of the University Archives. Summer courses were open to both Mary Washington students and to members of the greater Fredericksburg community, men and women alike. In 1942, everyone was eager to be part of the war effort, so in addition to regular summer courses the College’s summer catalog offered “short practical courses in cooperation with the War Program” in subjects such as stenography, first aid, and radio broadcasting.

Summer 1942 recreation calendar. “This program is planned for YOU. Do take advantages of its pleasures and benefits.”

This calendar was quick to assure students that recreation during wartime wasn’t frivolous, and that President Roosevelt had issued a statement stating that recreation was “necessary and beneficial” to the nation’s efficiency and morale. In June activities included a softball game, picnic dinner, several dances and mixers, and a concert of patriotic music by students and Fredericksburg town residents. July brought tennis and volleyball nights, students versus faculty athletic contests, and more dances, concerts, and sing-alongs.

Students enjoy a swim in the outdoor pool, c. 1945

Students enjoy a swim in the outdoor pool, c. 1945

Throughout the summer movies were shown in the amphitheater, including “Drums of the Congo,” “The Adventures of Chico,” “Road to Happiness,” “Sanders of the River,” and “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” The calendar also suggested that students take advantage of the riding facilities, the log cabin, and the ever-popular outdoor pool.

Lest anyone forget the war effort in the midst of all this summer fun, the calendar also reminded students that war bonds were available to buy at the College Station Post office, and war stamps from the booth in Chandler Hall.

Whether you’re attending summer classes this year or not, I hope you enjoy your summer as much as Mary Washington students enjoyed summer 1942!

May 6, 2015

The Fool-It

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Happy April Fools’ Day from Special Collections and University Archives!  Mary Washington students have been celebrating this day for decades by reading the annual joke issue published by the school’s student newspaper.  These issues have appeared since the 1930s with titles such as The Bull and The Bullsheet (a clever play on words involving the paper’s original title, The Bullet).  They often included fake news stories with headlines such as “Fountain Turns Campus to Desert” or “Mr. Potatohead — Distinguished Visitor in Residence”.

The front page of the April 1981 Bullsheet

The front page of the April 1981 Bullsheet

Recently, the Library purchased a collection of paper ephemera from eBay for the University Archives.  After the items were accessioned, we were delighted to find a previously-unheard-of joke issue of the student newspaper called The Fool-It.  Although we haven’t been able to place an exact date on the issue, it appears to be from the mid-1930s to mid-1940s.  The publication purports to be written by members of the “Fooltastic Press Association” and the “F O O Club”.  It contains advice joke columns, editorials, and stories about the campus orchestra performing for President Roosevelt and a warning to all campus residents to watch out for a serious illness with no known cure called Spring Fever.

The Fool-It

The Fool-It

You can read all past issues of the University’s student newspaper (both serious and non-serious) over at the Internet Archive.  And watch out for campus tricksters!

April 1, 2015