Activism in Archives: Virginia Archives Month 2021 

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Happy October, everyone! Much to my personal delight, we’re firmly in the season of cooler weather, changing leaves, spooky porch decorations, and Archives Month! 

Every year at this time, Virginia members of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) observe Archives Month with a theme designed to draw attention to the variety of unique and important collections housed in the many different Virginia academic and cultural heritage repositories. This year, organizers drew inspiration from the recent growing movements in social justice activism and chose the theme Activism and Archives. 

A large group of people standing outside the US Capitol building holding up their fingers in peace sign gestures.

March to End the War in Vietnam, 1969, from the Centennial Image Collection, photograph by Dan Dervin, image courtesy of Special Collections and University Archives, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.

The Virginia Archives Month 2021 website asks the question: How do archives intersect with activism? Their answer, 

…not only do archives provide documentation of activists, activism, social movements, and social injustices through the decades, archives and archival collections are also used as tools in modern activism. 

It’s a good answer, but there’s more. Archives can absolutely be tools, helping activists bring forth the quieter parts of an institution’s history. The information gathered through archival research can indeed support a cause, provide necessary documentation, and help tell a story. But we must always remember whose story it is.  

Image of a protest sign held up in front of the White House. The sign reads "privilege is thinking you do not have the time to fight for others' rights."

Mary Washington students join protest at 2nd Annual Women’s March on Washington, photo by Allison Tovey for Blue & Gray Press, February 1, 2018, image courtesy of Special Collections and University Archives, Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington.

We’ve said before that archives and libraries are not neutral. The decisions about what to include in these institutions are purposeful. Activism shouldn’t just use archives as tools; archivists can be activists too.  

As custodians of cultural heritage, we have a tremendous responsibility to support an honest narrative that includes all voices. Sometimes this is exciting and liberating, and we want to share our wonderful historic artifacts with the whole world. Other times, this can be painful, shameful, or confusing, and we might prefer to hide the secrets deeper in the stacks, or whisper guardedly about them. Our professional challenge is to find and share these stories too. A comprehensive, honest history is one from which we all grow. 

A large group of predominantly Black people depicted marching through a city street.

Desegregation march in Danville, June 10, 1963. Danville Civil Rights protesters practice nonviolent resistance to local and state authorities, 1963. Image courtesy of the Library of Virginia.

For Virginia Archives Month, the staff in Special Collections and University Archives shared some of our projects to try to bring some previously underrepresented stories to prominence. These include the ongoing Alumni Oral History Project and the James Farmer Reflections Lectures. UMW students carried out the bulk of the work to see these projects through, and it’s exciting to see folks in our community engaging with all types of histories. 

In addition to our projects, the site includes links to important projects from all over the Commonwealth, such as the Old Dominion University Social Justice and Activism Archivethe 19th Amendment in the 20th Century Exhibit presented by George Mason University Special Collections Research Center, the College of William and Mary’s Lemon Project, and Virginia Commonwealth University’s East Marshall Street Well Project. There are also links to nationwide initiatives and resources around social justice and activism, as well as some playful coloring book and puzzle activities. 

Two people standing in a door frame, one holding up the peace sign gesture with his fingers. In the foreground is a uniformed police officer.

Students under arrest after demonstration, 1970 April 26, #prot01, image courtesy of James Madison University Special Collections.

You’re also invited to view the Flickr page of images collected from the participating Virginia institutions that highlight our various communities’ activism, or print postcards from some of the selected images 

UMW Special Collections and Archives is open Tuesday – Thursday from 1:30 – 4 p.m. and by appointment. We welcome all members of our community for research or to discuss partnering on a project like the ones mentioned above!

October 15, 2021

New Publications Added to Digital Collections

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In August, three new publications were added to our Digital Collections: Prometheus, Static, and the Blue & Gray Press. These publications, all from different decades of Mary Washington’s history, provide unique insight into campus life and events. All of the publications are available as full-text PDFs that can be searched and viewed directly in the digital collections and/or downloaded. In addition to the added discoverability of having these publications online, the digital files are actively preserved to prevent future data loss.

Screenshot of the University Publications digital collection. Ten sub-collections, representing ten individual publications, are displayed.

The University Publications collection continues to be updated with new digitized collections.


Check out the following publications in our Digital Collections:

Cover page of a Prometheus newspaper issue, displaying the newspaper header at the top and a large photograph of Bonnie Raitt performing on stage.

The Prometheus was published from October 1977 until October 1978.

The Prometheus was a progressive-activist student newspaper published bi-weekly from October 1977 to October 1978. It was published concurrently to the Bullet, the “official” student newspaper. Prometheus staff included Michael Mello ‘79, who went on to become an attorney, professor and criminal justice system activist.

Front cover of a Static issue, displaying the title in white letters against a black background.

The Static was the official newsletter of WMWC.

The Static was the official newsletter of campus radio station, WMWC, published from October 1991 through 1994. The newsletters often included program schedules, commentary, upcoming releases, and more. For more information about the history of WMWC, check out our Spring 2021 guest blog post by Ryan A. MacMichael ‘98: WMWC: Forgotten Campus Legacy, 1939-2021.

Cover page of a Blue & Gray newspaper issue, displaying the Blue & Gray Press newspaper header and two cover stories.

The Blue & Gray Press is the current student newspaper at the University of Mary Washington.

The Blue & Gray Press is the current student newspaper at the University of Mary Washington. Since this paper is a continuation of the Bullet, it is published in the “Student Newspaper” collection along with its predecessor. This collection will continue to be updated as new issues of the Blue & Gray Press are published. Current articles are always available on the Blue & Gray Press website.

September 3, 2021

Commencement Programs Collection Opens

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It seems appropriate to unfold one of our newest digital collections, Commencement Programs, in a year when nine separate UMW graduation ceremonies were held over four days! Graduation marks the final rite of passage for seniors who have worked tirelessly to achieve their academic dreams, and the commencement program is part of that special event, documenting the activities and graduates.

The earliest commencement program in the University Archives collection is a small publication dating from 1912. First Commencement Program for the State Normal School

It notes the ceremony took place in the Auditorium (Monroe Hall) and lists the “Presentation of the Athletic Trophy” as part of the event. The speaker was the Honorable J.D. Eggleston, Jr.

Photograph of Joseph D. Eggleston, Jr.

Joseph D. Eggleston, Jr. speaker at UMW’s (then the State Normal School) first commencement. Image: Virginia Tech Special Collections.

Eggleston was the Superintendent of Schools for Virginia at the time. He had been in the position from 1906-1912 and was an advocate in establishing the three normal schools for women – Harrisonburg in 1909, Fredericksburg in 1911, and Radford in 1912. His motto was, “Education should be the chief business of the state.”

Programs from the 1920s and early 1930s are sparse in our holdings. But after 1933, University Archives has every undergraduate commencement program, except for the 1936 issue.

100 years ago this single page document was the Commencement Program.

100 years ago this single page document was the Commencement Program.

Through the years the programs documented the University’s name changes, faculty and student awards, conferring of honorary degrees, and the first graduate programs.

James Farmer smiles and shakes President Anderson's hand upon receiving his honorary degree at the 1997 Commencement.

James Farmer received his honorary degree from President Anderson at the 1997 Commencement.

Initially an individual commencement program for the Master-level graduates was not published, as the students were small in number. But by 2003, individual programs were published for the graduate-level ceremony which often took place on a separate day. As you search through the collection, you will see there are still some years though where the two ceremonies are combined.

The 1983 program was the first to include graduates from the first Master’s program – the .Master of Liberal Studies (MALS).

The 1983 program was the first to include graduates from the first Master’s program – the .Master of Liberal Studies (MALS).

Enjoy browsing the Commencement Programs and check back soon to see more additions to our digital collections!

August 1, 2021

Celebrating Pride in the Archives: LGBTQ+ Alumni Oral Histories 

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Special Collections and University Archives is excited to announce our newest digital collection: The Alumni Oral History Collection! This collection aims to document and preserve the unique perspectives of Mary Washington alumni in their own words, and—with the permission of the interview participants—share them with the world!  

Large rock painted with a rainbow and the text "UMW does not discriminate."

UMW’s Spirit Rock displays a message of support for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

The first interviews in the collection are the stories from the LGBTQ Alumni Affinity Group. These interviews were initially conducted by Professor Erin Devlin’s HIST 441: Oral History class in Spring 2019. Professor Devlin worked with Alumni Relations Executive Director Mark Thaden (’02) to identify oral history narrators through the affinity group. Thaden himself even agreed to participate!  

Students carried out, recorded, and transcribed the interviews with the alumni, and obtained permission from those participants who volunteered to have their interviews archived and shared. The interviews were transferred to Special Collections and University Archives where the transcripts were edited for clarity and style and then uploaded to Preservica, our digital preservation and access platform.  

Screenshot of the landing page for the Alumni Oral Histories digital collection.

Access all interviews and transcripts through our online Digital Collections page. Browse the whole collection, filter by subject, or enter a search term. All transcripts are full-text searchable.

The stories that make up the collection are as varied and interesting as the alumni who told them. Twenty-four interviews—over fifteen hours of interview content—cover the history of LGBTQ alumni at Mary Washington from the late 1960s to just a few years ago. Narrators provide wonderful glimpses of student life, friendships, and fun; there’s more than one awed perspective on seeing the campus for the first time, and a very Mary Washington meet-cute told from both sides. There are great stories of drag shows, road trips, parties, sports, activism, and inspiring individuals they remember from their days as students. 

The oral histories also feature some raw moments of struggle, grief, and uncertainty. Some alumni recount devastating national events, like 9/11 and the horrific 1998 murder of Matthew Shepherd, and describe the impacts felt on campus. Others tell of complex family relationships, or the loss of friends. The narrators look back on their multitude of experiences with honesty, and it’s a privilege to listen. 

A large group of students assembled on Ball Circle. The students wear different colored t-shirts and appear to form a rainbow.

Students display a rainbow of solidarity during a campus Day of Silence event. Battlefield, 2013, p.4.

We are very happy to launch this collection in time to celebrate Pride Month! UMW Special Collections and University Archives supports all members of the LGBTQ+ community every day. We recognize that archives are not neutral, and we are actively working to make sure that when we help tell the story of Mary Washington, it includes all the important voices that deserve to be heard.  

 All images courtesy of UMW Special Collections and University Archives.

June 24, 2021

Recollections from a Lab Aide

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Written by Digital Archiving Lab student aide, Francesca Maisano ’21.

As the spring semester ends, and graduation nears, I would like to share some thoughts on my experience working at the Digital Archiving Lab (DAL). I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working as a student lab aide at the DAL for what will be two school years at the end of this semester. While in this position, I have worked alongside wonderful people and used a variety of software and equipment, all of which I had never used before. I also learned valuable archival, technological, and interpersonal skills, even during the pandemic, something that has impacted three-quarters of my time as a lab aide. There has still been plenty of work to be done, such as scanning and the captioning of COVID-related videos, even if some of this work is done remotely. My personal favorite piece of equipment was the Cobra book scanner that is used to scan items such as rare books, magazines, yearbooks and scrapbooks. While I greatly enjoyed scanning these archival materials with the Cobra, sometimes scanning was slightly terrifying, since many of these materials are old and quite fragile!

Through the work I have done and the archival materials I have worked with, like old Mary Washington scrapbooks and photographs, I feel so much closer to Mary Washington and its history and community. It was always fun scanning archival materials for fellow students, as well as for professors and classes, and seeing the varied topics people at this school were researching and learning about and the projects they were doing!  

This was also a very rewarding job, knowing that my work was helping not only the UMW Archives but also those who have disabilities, ensuring that our archival materials are accessible for everyone. I captioned videos and made PDFs full-text searchable. My major video-captioning project last year was captioning thirteen James Farmer lectures (and I captioned a few more this year as well). These videos are so powerful, and I am so glad that others will be able to watch and learn from James Farmer’s incredible, impactful stories on his time in the Civil Rights Movement. You can read about how I captioned those videos and more of my thoughts here.

A screen capture of the captioning process in Adobe Premiere software. A small box displaying the video is in the top right corner, and the bottom includes the caption text and timings.

A screenshot of what Adobe Premiere Pro looks like when I am editing the captions of one of James Farmer’s lectures. This was one of the videos I captioned earlier this semester.

While I’ll be graduating this spring, I know that I’ll cherish my time working in the DAL and use the skills and knowledge I have gained in graduate school and my future career. To all current students at Mary Washington, if you have an opportunity and desire to work at the Digital Archiving Lab, do so. You won’t regret it!   

May 7, 2021

My Life as a Digital Archiving Lab Intern

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Written by Digital Archiving Lab intern, Chase Monroe ’21.

Over the course of this Spring, I have had the opportunity of being an intern in the Digital Archiving Lab under the supervision of the Digital Resources Librarian, Angie Kemp. My major project during my internship involved migrating the UMW publications (The Battlefield, The Aubade, Alumni Magazines, and more) from Eagle Explorer into our Digital Collections in Preservica. Throughout this project, I learned the basics of digital collections project management, including the creation and transformation of metadata.

Moving to Preservica provides virus protection for the publications, keeps the PDFs searchable, and provides workflows and options for file types that may become obsolete over time. Our Digital Collections has many historic resources like The Centennial Image CollectionThe James L. Farmer Collection, and the UMW Blueprints and Architectural Drawings, so the addition of the publications allows a one stop shop for searching.

While Eagle Explorer allows users to search full-text publications, the publications and data describing them (metadata) are actually hosted in the Internet Archive (IA) using their own metadata elements. The metadata in our Digital Collections is in the Dublin Core schema (Figure 1). Metadata can be arranged in other schemas and is important as it standardizes the data elements that go into our Digital Collections. Additionally, having a uniform standard allows searching for the same date or subject across all collections to be simple and easy, and allows for the sharing of data across platforms.

A screenshot of a gray box with bolded metadata categories containing descriptive information about a photograph.

Figure 1. A cropped screenshot of metadata of the “James Farmer teaching civil rights class” photograph in the James L. Farmer Collection that has some of the Dublin Core elements (in bold).

I started the metadata transformation process by reviewing the descriptive metadata in the Internet Archive to see if there was anything we wanted to remove, keep, or edit for Preservica. However, our Digital Collections requires Dublin Core schema which is not used by the Internet Archive. So, I mapped out the Internet Archive elements and metadata to the appropriate Dublin Core corresponding element and assessed the metadata going into Preservica. For instance, the “Call number” element in IA corresponds to the ”Relation” element in Dublin Core. Next, I made a new project folder in Oxygen XML Editor, containing the batch of XML records for the publication that would be transformed into a new set for Preservica. Then, I created a Dublin Core template in Oxygen XML Editor (Figure 2) to visualize Dublin Core schema for the XSL Stylesheet.

Screenshot of an XML file opened in Oxygen XML Editor software. Metadata elements, which are in angle brackets, and their associated content are listed.

Figure 2. A cropped screenshot of the Battlefield Dublin Core Template in Oxygen XML Editor.

After my Dublin Core template was complete, I created the XSL Stylesheet in Oxygen (Figure 3) using the Dublin Core template as a guide. The XSL [eXtensible Stylesheet Language] Stylesheet allows you to change the format of a batch of XML records all at once into Dublin Core or other schemas! Angie provided me the stylesheet template, and I made edits depending on the specific needs of the individual publication.

Screenshot of an XSL transformation file opened in the Oxygen XML software program, displaying the Dublin Core elements in angle brackets and the transformation directions for creating the content for each element.

Figure 3. This cropped screenshot of the Battlefield XSL sheet in Oxygen XML Editor shows the description that will appear in all new metadata files and the subject element that will pull from the IA XML files.

Once I checked the XSL sheet for any errors, I began the transformation process by right clicking on the original IA XML folder in the “project” tab and selecting “configure transformation” in Oxygen. I finished all the technical input, including programming Oxygen to recognize the XSL file I created, and the software produced a new output folder of my final metadata. For the Battlefield, 100 IA XML files transformed into Dublin Core XML files (Figure 4). You can view the transformed publications (Figure 5) in our Digital Collections here!

Screenshot of an XML file opened in Oxygen XML Editor software. Metadata elements, which are in angle brackets, and their associated content are listed.

Figure 4. An example of a resulting output XML file in Oxygen XML Editor from the batch transformation process.

The project was a team effort; Carolyn Parsons, Sarah Appleby, Angie Kemp, and I assessed what data was necessary to keep for the publications. After the final decisions, I moved forward on my own, and Angie reviewed the files after I finished each publication. I communicated with Angie daily, whether I was asking questions, or getting help on creating an XSL file.

Finally, I would like to thank Sarah and Carolyn for their valued input on the publication migration project and for their kindness. I enjoyed working with them in team meetings. I am so thankful for this opportunity to work for the Digital Archiving Lab, and with Angie, who I have known since I was a freshman.  She is a wonderful mentor and working with her furthered my passion for working with metadata. I am proud to announce that I applied for the online Masters of Information Science program at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, starting Fall 2021.

Screenshot of a digital collection web page, with a gray box containing bolded metadata categories and descriptive information about the collection. Thumbnails of 12 publication covers with titles and dates are listed below the gray metadata box. Facets allowing refinement by decade display in a gray box to the left of the thumbnails.

A screenshot of the Student Handbook publication within our Digital Collections.

April 15, 2021

New Student Scholarship Collection in Eagle Scholar

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Eagle Scholar, the University of Mary Washington’s institutional repository, contains over 5,000 items highlighting campus research, scholarship, and creativity. In January, library staff published a new collection in the repository with over 60 student research projects representing 16 different departments across the University. These projects were originally presented in UMW’s Research & Creativity Symposium, which was held online for the first time in April 2020 due to the pandemic. As students submitted their projects for the online event, they were also given the option to have their research included in Eagle Scholar for long-term storage and access.

Screenshot of the Research & Creativity Symposium home webpage in the Eagle Scholar repository.

Over 60 student research projects were added to Eagle Scholar in the new Research & Creativity Symposium collection.

Eagle Scholar’s Research & Creativity Symposium collection contains a variety of project formats and media types, including but not limited to: archived web pages, embedded YouTube videos, mp4 video files, posters, and mp3 audio files. Each project has its own page in the collection, with information such as author(s), abstract, recommended citation, and options to download or stream the presentation, depending on the media type. Students can use the unique URL assigned to their project to share their research with friends, family, future employers and graduate schools.

Screenshot of an individual project's webpage, with descriptive information about the project, an option to view usage data, and an option to play the presentation video.

Each research project has its own webpage with descriptive information, usage statistics, and options to download or stream the project. The example shown here is “The Geometry of Surfaces and its Applications Using Mathematica” by K. Corbett.

Since January 2021, projects in the Research & Creativity Symposium collection have been accessed almost 500 times, across 23 different countries (as of March 16, 2021). The top referrer to this collection is Google Scholar, and usage continues to grow daily as users around the world locate these projects while conducting their own research. Furthermore, many project pages display their individual access statistics, so authors can see how their projects are used.

Screenshot of an interactive map of the world, showing purple and blue circles over different regions and countries. The circles include numbers with download counts from those regions.

Eagle Scholar provides statistics on how frequently and where research projects are accessed across the world. As of March 2021, this collection has been accessed the most from the United States.

As we move closer to April, library staff are looking forward to adding more projects to this collection from our next Research & Creativity Day. In the meantime, we hope you will take a moment to explore all of the fantastic student research that is currently available in Eagle Scholar. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact

March 18, 2021

WMWC: Forgotten Campus Legacy, 1939-2021

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Written by Ryan A. MacMichael ’98, guest author and curator of the current exhibit, WMWC: Forgotten Campus Legacy, 1939-2021

In November 1939, a new administrative building–George Washington Hall–was built and featured “a large, soundproof major studio with equipment for sound effects, and a control room with monitoring equipment, two turntables, and facilities for recording and transmitting programs.” Initially, there was a direct wire that connected the studio with Fredericksburg’s 1260 AM WFVA, which broadcast the college’s programs. The shows were created by the burgeoning radio program at the college and what would eventually become “The Mike Club.” In fact, at the time, Mary Washington was “the only college in the state having a radio studio.”1 The pioneering group of women behind the original radio broadcasts took a four-day field trip to New York City in 1940 to witness radio broadcasts as well as shows at Rockefeller Center. (The trip cost them $30).

It was a few more years before the college’s own station was officially born. A month after the end of World War II, WMWC registered with the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System as “Station WMWC” on October 11, 1945. The station aired “daily dramas, campus news, the concert hour, and the hit tune parade” on 600 AM.2

Students, Betty Sparks and Janet Ryder, stand at a microphone and turntable set-up in the WMWC Studio inside of George Washington Hall. One of the women is wearing headphones.
Betty Sparks and Janet Ryder at the WMWC studio in George Washington Hall, Battlefield, 1948.

Over the next several decades, the radio station aired original programming of interest to the campus and community. In the mid-1950s, the studio moved out of George Washington Hall and into a newly designed, well-appointed new studio in duPont Hall. Campus programming continued to air as well as twice-a-month broadcasts in cooperation with WFVA.

Ten female students sit in the WMWC studio with a microphone mixing board, turntable, and reel-to-reel tape deck. One woman is sitting.
The Mike Club, Battlefield, 1957 Left to right: C. Wohlnick, S. Zabner, S. Epps, I. Phillips, J. Lautenslager, R. Craft, D. Sensabaugh, S. Kates, R. Gaines. Seated: L. Eadie.

As the 1970s approached, however, interest in the studio waned, with fewer Mike Club members as the years went on. In the 1969-70 academic year, the station quietly disappeared for nearly ten years during a “decade of uneasiness.”3 During those intervening years, though, a movement was underway to bring the station back bigger and better than ever. As early as 1973, polls circulated that showed a strong support for the return to airwaves for WMWC. On November 19, 1978, the current incarnation of the station was reborn in Lee Hall on 540 AM, “[transmitting] radio waves directly into the dorms, academic buildings, ACL [Lee Hall], Mercer Hall, and Seacobeck during the proposed times of 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 12:00.”4 By this point, the college had been co-ed for eight years and, thus, so was the newly re-formed WMWC with a large staff of DJs that included current Associate Vice President & Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker.

Since 1978, WMWC has persisted and remains as the last student-run organization still bearing a reference to the University’s former name of Mary Washington College. During those 40+ years, the station has moved from AM to “cable FM” to “radiating/leaky cable FM” and, after the move from the “attic” of Lee Hall to Woodard, it has settled as an Internet streaming station. During the ensuing years, programming has included live performances in the station, in-studio interviews with artists as wide ranging as the Indigo Girls and the Pietasters, and of course, plenty of the entertaining banter you can only get from students broadcasting for the first time on college radio.

Musicians the Indigo Girls stand in the CD library of WMWC with six Mary Washington students and one visitor.
The Indigo Girls visit WMWC on October 21, 1997.

I was a DJ at WMWC during the AM-to-cable FM days of the mid 1990s, sometimes spending up to six hours a week at the station spinning music. I had a stint as General Manager in 1997 and count my time at the station as one of the highlights of my years at Mary Washington. I also created the first web site for the radio station, launching it in 1996. No in-depth history of the station had ever been written, so it was then that it became my mission to learn more about the station’s origins and start to preserve as much of its history as possible.

WMWC station in the attic of Lee Hall. Visible is a table with a mixing board, cart machine, tape deck, CD player, and speakers hanging from the ceiling.
WMWC station, Lee Hall, October 1995

This month, working with current station staff, including WMWC’s president James Pryor ‘22 and Vice President Lu Sheikhnureldin ‘22  as well as Simpson Library’s Tammy Hefner, Convergence Gallery Supervisor and Marketing/Outreach Assistant and Carolyn Parsons, Head of Special Collections & University Archives, we’ve launched an exhibit at Simpson Library titled, WMWC: Forgotten Campus Legacy, 1939-2021. The exhibit highlights the history of the oft-overlooked campus radio station and features physical artifacts from the station, including mixers used during the 1980s and ’90s, zines published in the early 1990s, a concert poster, and other equipment dating back to the station’s re-birth in 1978.

Display case at Simpson Library with a label that says "WMWC: 1939-2021." Included in the display are a yearbook, a zine, a large mixing board, a microphone, the Instant Replay cart replacement system, and a poster from a WMWC-sponsored concert of The Connells and The Goodguys from 1989.
The WMWC exhibit at Simpson Library, February 2021

It’s something of a miracle that so many artifacts have remained with the station, even after its move into the area it now inhabits in Woodard. This is a testament to the respect for the station’s history that its members have had, preserving the physical artifacts even though they serve no practical purpose in 2021.

The exhibit at Simpson Library runs through the first week of March. In addition, the station’s web archive has been relaunched at and features photos, a deeper history, and an audio archive of station IDs, interviews, and more. WMWC’s own web site is at, where you can still tune into the station to hear original programming and prerecorded shows.


  1. Bullet, October 25, 1940
  2. Battlefield, 1946
  3. Bullet, November 15, 1977
  4. WMWC A Reality! (1978, September 12). Bullet, p. 3

February 19, 2021

100 Years Ago

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Welcome back to the start of another semester in These Unprecedented Times.  

Many of us are anxious, depressed, confused, angry, hurt, stressed, lonely, or all the above. We are all very tired. But amid so much pressing and constant uncertainty, sometimes hopeful conversations emerge. Folks talk about how to help, how to change, and how to move forward to something better. 

In the University Archives, we spend a lot of time looking back. Scholars, historians, and other researchers who use our collections tend to look at our place in a historical context. When I started thinking about this blog, I did the same; I looked back at our history. I wanted to take a look back at the way we moved forward once before.

An aerial view of campus as it appeared in 1928. Willard, Monroe, and Virginia Halls are visible, as are the construction sites for Lee and Chandler Halls. The letters "FSTC" appear in large letters on the lawn below Virginia Hall.
An aerial view of the early campus (Willard, Monroe, and Virginia Halls), with Lee Hall and Chandler Hall construction sites visible.

100 years ago, our country and the world found themselves emerging from the dual tragedies of a crippling World War and a different global pandemic. Our community likely had to grapple with a new normal then, and had to determine how they would adapt to the change. While we here in 2021 think about what our future might look like, we can also take a moment to turn back and consider what we looked like emerging into the twenties of last century. 

It’s remarkable to see the differences, and yet still notice how some things stay so familiar. 

A woman sits alone in a double-occupancy dorm room, backlit by the windows behind her.
A student sits alone in her dorm room in either Willard or Virginia Hall, 1920.

A student alone in her room in 1920 strikes a recognizable pose for those of us here on the other side of 2020. We’re continuing to distance to keep each other safe, which means a lot of alone time for many of us. Depending on your situation, however, time alone might be a luxury.

About thirty students engage in unspecified physical activities on an athletic field, circa 1925.
Players gonna play! Students hit the athletic field, 1925.

Whether distancing alone or safely with family or “pods,” many of our students today stay active as a means of managing stress and finding some fun. Group sports might be a little complicated these days, but Mary Washington students have always found joy in play, whether it’s wearing a mask to work out in the Fitness Center, attending a group fitness class over Zoom, or donning a full calf-length dress for a basketball game. 

Group photo of the 1925 basketball team, dressed in matching scarves and long dresses.
The 1925 Women’s Basketball Team.

Those of us on campus in Fredericksburg might see some shades of the familiar in the photo below. Campus might have fewer Model-T Fords driving by these days, but the steps of Monroe Hall coated in snow is a sight you could see right now. However, now that we’ve adapted so well to virtual learning and working environments, the traditional snow day might be a thing of the past!

A 1920s exterior view of the Monroe Hall portico covered in snow as four women gather on the steps.
No snow days for these students either! Students stand on a snowy Monroe Hall portico.

Campus today is blanketed with snow but few students. But if you happen to be here, and you should find yourself considering picking up a sled and hitting Trench Hill between remote learning sessions and Zoom meetings, remember that your mask doubles as a face-warmer!

If you’ve been on campus recently, in addition to the recent snowfall, you may have also noticed a few changes around Virginia Hall. Mary Washington’s second-oldest residence hall is undergoing renovation to modernize the facilities for our residential students while preserving the architectural legacy of the building.  

Students in the 1920s sit grouped around tables in the library.
Students gather around tables to study in the library when it was contained in Virginia Hall, 1923.

Virginia Hall has been an adaptable building since its first phase of construction in 1914. As shown in the image above, it once housed the library. We’re looking forward to seeing the newest iteration of Virginia Hall and all it can offer to a new generation of students when it reopens in the near future.

100 years from now, I wonder what we will see. What changes are we making in our community today that will make an impact for tomorrow?

All images courtesy of The Centennial Image Collection, University of Mary Washington Special Collections and University Archives.

February 3, 2021

Celebrating our Fifth Anniversary

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Before 2020 ends, I wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate the 5th anniversary of our Spinning Wheel blog. Named for one of Mary Washington’s oldest icons (present on the University’s first seal), it connects us to the school’s founding in 1908. But more importantly, the wheel’s forward motion symbolizes the University’s many changes through the years and beckons us to explore new, exciting ways of providing researchers with access to our collections and in meeting our preservation goals.

Thank you to each of you that have joined us on our blogging journey, as we write about the collections, UMW history, digital projects, new accessions, exhibits, services, records management, student reflections and more. This year has been difficult for everyone, and the staff in Special Collections and University Archives are grateful that our posts are an additional way we can communicate with each of you.

So whether it is to learn about our new projects, like this year’s captioning of the James Farmer Lectures series or revisit old favorites, like our post from Reunion Weekend’s History Harvest, we invite you to join us  here in 2021.

Happy Holidays!

December 18, 2020