Category Archives: Outreach and Events

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

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

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 Thank you!

March 9, 2017

2016 Alumni Reunion Weekend

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This past weekend, hundreds of alumni ventured to Fredericksburg for the annual Reunion Weekend celebration. This year’s gathering was specifically for alumni who graduated from Mary Washington in years ending with 1 or 6. We hosted a History Harvest and Pop-Up Exhibit table in the University Center where visitors could browse through photos and artifacts from the University Archives and also donate physical and digital items to be added to the permanent collection.

Alumna trying on a beanie from the University Archives

Alumna trying on a beanie from the University Archives

During the event, we spoke with many alums who shared touching and funny stories about their past experiences as students at Mary Washington. Specifically, we had the pleasure of meeting many members of the Class of 1966, as it was their 50 year reunion.

Members of the Class of 1966 find their pictures in the Battlefield Yearbook

Class of 1966 alums locating their pictures in the Battlefield Yearbook

One generous member of this class brought in her treasured scrapbook created over four years as a student at Mary Washington, and donated it to the University Archives’ collection where it will be preserved for current and future students and researchers of University history.

Class of 1966 Scrapbook

Class of 1966 Scrapbook

Attending Reunion Weekend is a special experience for us, since we always learn something new about student life at Mary Washington from the alumni perspective. We look forward to talking with the graduates from years ending with 2 and 7 at next year’s event!

June 6, 2016

Reflections from our Exhibits Intern

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This post was written by Julia Jin, our Special Collections and University Archives exhibit intern. Thanks Julia!

As the Exhibitions Intern at the University of Mary Washington’s Special Collections and University Archives, I worked with Carolyn Parsons, the Special Collections Librarian and University Archivist, and other great professors across different departments to design, research, and construct exhibitions this semester.

The first exhibition I worked on was for the Library Grant from the Institute of Turkish Studies, awarded to Dr. Nabil Al-Tikriti, professor from the History Department. With some help from Dr. Al-Tikriti, I filled the exhibition cases (the two larger cases at the front entrance of the Simpson Library) with objects, books, and images all pertaining to Turkish studies with the focus being on the content available from the books that the library was able to purchase through this grant.


Institute for Turkish Studies Book Grant Exhibit

Institute for Turkish Studies Book Grant Exhibit

The second exhibition I worked on was for Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, with Dr. Marcelo Fajardo-Cardenas, professor from the Spanish Department. For this exhibition, I was able to gather a number of materials to construct a mock altar in celebration for this holiday. Included in the altar were sugar skulls (one was actually from Mexico!), candles, salt, water, marigolds, and the image of Guadalupe. Each item has a meaning behind it, all in honor of the dead. Accompanying the altar were books and various images, sourced from UMW Libraries.

Dia de los Muertos Exhibit

Dia de los Muertos Exhibit

Lastly, I wrote the label text for the silver objects in the display case at the front entrance of Simpson Library. Based on previously researched information, I selected the content that I thought would be important to include on the labels. To see these objects up close without the case was truly an experience that would not have happened if I did not have this internship. As a senior graduating this fall, I felt that this experience was timed perfectly to culminate at the end of my college career.


UMW's Historical Artifacts

UMW’s Historical Artifacts

December 16, 2015

Summer Exhibit

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The current temp at lunch-time today is a high of 93 degrees – not the coolest of summers in Fredericksburg. With the heat and humidity in mind, Special Collections and University Archives staff decided to focus on a “summer” theme for our current exhibit.  The exhibit, Summers at Mary Washington, showcases summer activities through the decades, including sports, summer school, orientation, Move-in Day, and Reunion Weekend. Some of the “coolest “ photographs on display are the ever popular outdoor pool photos from the 1940s.

Nine students at the outdoor swimming pool, 1945

Nine students at the outdoor swimming pool, 1945.

My personal favorites are the early summer session academic catalogs. The 1921 catalog informs students that when they arrive at the wharf or depot, they are to “take a jitney to the Normal School.” Summer School in the1920s was a six weeks session offering teaching certificates for first and second grade and the Elementary Professional Certificate. The Great Chatauqua came to campus mid-summer for one “joyous week, presenting a varied and magnificent series of programs.” Room and board for the full summer session was only $30.00, and tuition was free!

So as the temperatures continue to rise outside, stop by and take a break in the cool, air-conditioned Library. The exhibit, Summers at Mary Washington, is located on the second floor of Simpson Library and will be on display through early September.



August 17, 2015