Reports from a Student Aide, Spring 2022

Published Post author

This post was authored by Jamie Van Doren ’23, Special Collections and University Archives student aide.

As we round out the Spring 2022 semester, I’m happy to get the chance to reflect on my time as a student aide in the Digital Archiving Lab thus far. I started in February, and I’ve gotten to do interesting work that I’ve found both exciting and fulfilling. I’ve helped to scan and photograph documents for one of the school’s Historic Preservation classes, scanned documents from the Michael Mello files for our HIST298 class (which I’ve taken—and survived!), and learned how to reshelve and work with books in the Rare Books Room over in Special Collections. The project that I’ve spent the most time on, though, has been helping to edit transcriptions of our collection of Black Alumni Oral Histories, which will be up on Special Collections and University Archives’ Digital Collections site sometime soon.

Screenshot of Special Collections and University Archives Digital Collections landing page

You can check out all of the library’s uploaded alumni oral history interviews by clicking on the Alumni Oral History Collection on the Digital Collections homepage.

While the transcription process is tedious at times, this project has above all been a deeply rewarding experience for me. It feels like a meeting of all of my interests as a history major, a gender studies major, and a student aide hoping to become a librarian later on. It was my job to listen to student-conducted interviews with Black alumni, and edit the corresponding transcriptions for accuracy. The process is simple, but time consuming; one hour of interview most often took me three to four hours to transcribe and check through. This gave me a generous amount of time to absorb and consider the words of our alumni as I worked, and I really did enjoy every second of it.

Listening to and documenting the stories of these alumni has connected me with Mary Washington in a way that I don’t think I have been before. I’ve seen myself, my friends, and a greater image of Mary Washington itself in the recounting of our Black alumni. It has been a reminder for me that the people who have attended, and who currently attend, this school, are what give it such a deep and vibrant history. I know that I have shared dormitories, walked campus walk, and studied in the same library as so many amazing people. Even if we weren’t here at the same time, we have shared so many of the same experiences.

Each of us have our own stories here at Mary Washington, and I’ve been honored to hear and help share those of students before me. Hearing from our Black alumni is particularly valuable as our school grapples with its history (and present day) as a predominantly white institution. Many of the interviews discussed students’ experiences with racism/discrimination on our campus, in Fredericksburg, and in their lives as a whole. These interviews are a vital and important piece of our school’s quest to honor the experiences and stories of minorities on campus (check out the mural dedicated to the life of Mary Washington’s first Black graduate, Venus Jones, in Jepson Science Center or through the accompanying website for another example).

Screenshot of an oral history landing page on the Venus Jones mural companion site

Take a look at oral histories about Dr. Venus Jones’ life through digital collections and on the mural’s companion site.

These oral histories are an insightful and meaningful resource that all of our students, faculty, and staff will benefit from hearing. Not only are they great for those interested in the history and atmosphere of Mary Washington; they’re also just a joy to listen to as a whole. I got to hear so many funny, relatable, and helpful stories about our alumni’s experiences in school and in their lives and careers after their time at Mary Washington. The lives of our Black alumni are powerful, complex, and vibrant. It is so important that we continue to make space to hear their stories and get to know their lives and experiences as we work together to help the University of Mary Washington thrive.

April 28, 2022

Women’s History Month Highlights: Mary Wollstonecraft in Rare Books

Published Post author

As we wrap up Women’s History Month, staff in Special Collections and University Archives would like to briefly highlight two items from proto-feminist author Mary Wollstonecraft that we have here in our Rare Books collection.

Painted portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie, c. 1797

As a quick introduction, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) was an English writer and philosopher who brought attention to women’s rights at a time when such things were not commonly discussed. She had an unconventional life for her time, pursuing a career as a writer when it was nearly unheard of for a woman to do. She pursued an affair with a married man and bore a child with another out of wedlock.

Wollstonecraft lived in France during the Revolution, sympathizing with the cause of the revolutionaries. During this time, she wrote A Historical and Moral View of the French Revolution, which was published after the fall of the Jacobins in 1794. It presented Wollstonecraft’s analysis of the conditions and causes of the Revolution and the perspectives of French people.

She returned to England in 1795 and soon embarked on travels through Scandinavia. The letters she wrote to Gilbert Imlay—the father of her daughter, Fanny—would be published in 1796 as Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. After her relationship with Imlay broke apart, she eventually ended up marrying William Godwin, who she met through her literary friendships. With Godwin, she became pregnant with her second daughter, Mary, who would grow up to establish her own literary fame as Frankenstein author Mary Shelley. Sadly, Wollstonecraft died resulting from an infection following Mary’s birth.

Title page, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects by Mary Wollstonecraft. Printed at Boston, by Peter Edes for Thomas and Andrews: Faust's Statue, No. 45, Newbury-Street, MDCCXCII.

Title page, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects by Mary Wollstonecraft. 1792.

Possibly her most famous work is A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects. Published in 1792 and considered by many to be an early feminist manifesto, A Vindication speaks powerfully to the fundamental rights of women, largely concerning a woman’s ability to receive an education and to hold a position of respect in middle-class society equal to that of men.

Introduction, page 1 of A Vindication of the Rights of Women.

Introduction, A Vindication of the Rights of Women.

“I shall first consider women as human creatures who, in common with men, are placed on this earth to develop their abilities.”

Wollstonecraft’s strong advocacy for women’s rights would serve as an inspiration for activists to come, including those involves in the women’s suffrage movement of the 19th century. Users of UMW Special Collections and University Archives can come in to view a first edition of the work for themselves and see how Wollstonecraft’s words resonate today.

Title page, Letters Written During A Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, by Mary Wollstonecraft. London: Printed for J. Johnson, St. Paul's Church-Yard. 1796.

Title page, Letters Written During A Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, by Mary Wollstonecraft. 1796.

The second work of Wollstonecraft’s in our collection is a first edition 1796 printing of her Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, the last of her books published during her lifetime. This is a travel narrative composed of letters written to her lover, Gilbert Imlay. They were separated at this time, and Wollstonecraft embarked on this journey as an attempt to win him back by locating a ship of silver stolen from Imlay by a Norwegian captain. It didn’t work. The letters explore her own philosophical, social, and emotional perspectives, as well as observations of the communities in which she traveled. As such, scholars have described it as a memoir as much as travel writing.

To see these books in person or to find out more about other items in our collections, please contact us at to schedule an appointment or visit us in Simpson Library, Room 217, during our open hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 1:30-4pm.

March 31, 2022

Recollections from a Former Student Aide

Published Post author

This post was authored by Megan Williams ’21, former Special Collections and University Archives student aide and current Technical Services Assistant.

In December of 2021, I completed my undergraduate career here at the University of Mary Washington (UMW) and had to leave behind my student aide position in Special Collections and University Archives. Graduating and having to leave this position behind was bittersweet because Simpson Library had become a home away from home and being a library student aide was a major highlight of my time here. As a result, I would like to share some of my thoughts on my experience working in Special Collections and University Archives.


My journey as a student aide for this department began in August of 2019 when I was a sophomore. During my first semester in this position, I was slowly introduced to the department. One of my first tasks was to conduct research on the bass drum from the Mary Washington College (MWC) “All-Girl Marching Band.” I thoroughly enjoyed this project because it was a forgotten artifact from the college’s history that was signed by Bing Crosby and some other major celebrities from the 1940s and 1950s. The major objective of this research was trying to determine when the bass drum was signed by these celebrities. At the time, I was unable to pinpoint a date for the Bing Crosby signature. However, last year Carolyn found a picture of Bing Crosby signing the drum. Based on the information associated with the picture, we have determined that he signed it in 1952 at either the Apple Harvest Festival in Charlottesville or the Winchester Apple Festival. For more information on the research I did in the fall of 2019 on this artifact, check out this blog post: “Marching Band Drum Returns Home to University Archives.”

Black and White image of singer Bing Crosby autographing a large bass drum.

Bing Crosby signs the MWC All-Girls Marching Band bass drum.

Another project that I had the opportunity to work on during my first semester in this role was an exhibition entitled “A Few of Our Favorite Things.” In this exhibition, Carolyn had the staff pick out some of our favorite items from the collection. One of my favorite items that I chose for this exhibit was “This is Your… MWC Coloring Book”, created by Nancy Jill Slonim and Vi Olson in the 1960s. The reason I like this artifact stems from the fact that it is satirical. In addition to helping Carolyn create this exhibition, I had the pleasure of assisting her in the creation of the James Farmer artifact exhibit and the most recent exhibit, “Artifacts in the Archives.” 


During my second semester and third semester in this position, I worked on some other small projects. However, unfortunately, during these semesters my in-person work was limited because of the global pandemic. However, I was able to continue my work with the department remotely. The project that I primarily worked on when I was remote was editing the items in the History 298 Michael Mello Collection website. Working on this website became one of my favorite activities because I was able to learn more about Omeka, an open-source content management company. Since I really enjoyed working on this project, it was one that Angie and Carolyn always had me go back to throughout my time in this department. In fact, one of my final projects that I did for the department involved me digitizing and uploading a new batch of files for students to work on. Having this exposure to this platform has been helpful because I have been able to put this experience into other internships and do similar projects. For more information about my work on the Mello Collection website, check out this blog post “Summer Reflections during COVID-19.”

Megan, a young blond white woman, stands in a doorway under a sign reading "Special Collections".

Having this student aide position truly changed my life. If I did not have this position, I would not be pursuing my Master’s in Library and Information Science at Kent State University or have my current job. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that while I am no longer the student aide in Special Collections and University Archives, I have not left Simpson Library for good. In fact, during February of 2022, I started my first full-time job as the Technical Services Assistant for Simpson Library here at UMW!

February 28, 2022

New Beginnings

Published Post author

When it comes to career opportunities, January has often been a month of exciting transitions for me.  In I995, I returned in January to my alma mater to work in the Reference Department at Simpson Library, and later in 2003, again in January, accepted a new position in Special Collections & University Archives. For almost two decades, I’ve had the privilege to work with students, faculty and colleagues on many interesting projects that showcase and make accessible the Library’s unique collections. Much of that work I have shared here with you in our Departmental blog.

As January of this year approached so did a new opportunity—the position of Interim University Librarian. With the recent retirement of former director, Rosemary Arneson, came the offer to lead the Library and its staff in our mission to provide excellent service and resources to the UMW community. Angie Kemp, who many of you know from her postings here and work on digital projects, has been appointed the new Interim Head of Special Collections & University Archives. You will hear more from Angie, as she takes on the leadership of the Department.

I am grateful for the time I spent in Special Collections & University Archives and look back with pride at how much the Department has grown and evolved, providing more access, instruction, mentoring, outreach, preservation, and services.

Select highlights include:

Expansion of our digital presence from a single collection of photographs created during the 2008 Centennial Celebration

Logo for Archives@UMWto our current digital presence which spans content across three repositories:

Graphic oof digital collections page Initiating the Special Collections & University Archives Internship program:

Lauren Holt photographing collections

Intern Lauren Holt photographing collections, Spring 2013

Numerous exhibitions and preservation projects:

James Farmer Exhibit

James Farmer: In His Own Words, 1920-1999 Exhibit, 2020

Teaching the Historic Preservation Department’s Archives & Society class and collaborating  with faculty to engage students across the curriculum with our unique collections:

students in the archives class pose on steps at the Library of Virginia

HISP303 Archives & Society class field trip to the Library of Virginia, 2006

And best of all working with wonderful students, faculty, researchers, and colleagues!!!

Special Collections Team

Last year’s awesome Special Collections & University Archives team

As I embark on my new position, I look forward to still working with Special Collections & University Archives and fostering its continued development—partnering in this new chapter together!


January 31, 2022

Exploring the Scrapbooks in Special Collections

Published Post author

Written by Special Collections & University Archive’s Intern, Sarah Sklar, ’23

As an intern in UMW’s Special Collections and University Archives, my main task this semester was to inventory the collection’s large number of scrapbooks. The scrapbooks range in creation date from the early 1910s to the 2010s, so an entire century of campus history is preserved within these scrapbooks. The scrapbooks vary greatly in size, appearance, and content, and no two scrapbooks are alike. The older scrapbooks mostly contain photographs, but a few of the scrapbooks from the 1920s are more of a “classic” scrapbook and include a diverse mixture of content such as napkins from dinners or balls, newspaper clippings, locks of hair, preserved flowers, greeting cards, and letters. Other scrapbooks, like a few created in the 1950s, are full of newspaper clippings from publications like the local Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star and others from Northern Virginia and Richmond.

The scrapbooks also vary greatly in content. Some of the scrapbooks in the collection are personal mementos of one person’s experience here at Mary Washington, while others document the experiences and history of a club or group on campus, such as the Home Economics Club that was popular in the mid-20th century. Mildred Lenore Burke, who was a student at Mary Washington College for about a year and a half before she left to become a nurse in the early 1940s, created a scrapbook that consists entirely of photographs. The photographs in her scrapbook reflect many fun days spent with friends on campus, in downtown Fredericksburg, and even in Colonial Beach, Virginia. The unofficial, unregulated student point of view displayed in the scrapbooks separates them from other materials in Special Collections, since many of the materials in Special Collections are official documents produced by the University as an institution.

Mildred Lenore Burke sits in front of a WPA construction sign on Ball Circle.

Mildred Lenore Burke sits in front of a WPA construction sign on Ball Circle.

As a historic preservation major, one of the most interesting aspects of the scrapbooks and their content is the ability to view campus through the lens of students over a century-long period, specifically the construction of campus. Mildred Lenore Burke’s scrapbook is a great example of this, since her scrapbook contains a photograph of her standing on what is now Campus Walk in front of George Washington Hall. Washington Hall is on the left, and to the right is the future location of Mason, Randolph, and Farmer Halls, but in the photograph the location is still heavily forested. Upon first glance, it was hard to tell exactly where on campus the photograph was taken, but the Tri-Unit in the background helped me to identify its location. These photographs of campus and its buildings tell the story of the order in which all of our campus buildings were constructed and are a valuable resource for anyone studying the physical landscape of UMW.

Mildred Lenore Burke stands in front of George Washington Hall (to the left).

Mildred Lenore Burke stands in front of George Washington Hall (left).

During the inventorying process, I took note of many different aspects of the particular scrapbook I was looking at. Some of these characteristics included physical size, binding type, the materials it was constructed with, the materials it contained, the provenance, the creation date, the creator, the title, and whether it was boxed, labeled, or digitized. Scrapbooks, including the ones in our collection, present unique challenges when it comes to preservation, storage, and digitization. Although I did not get the chance to digitize any of the scrapbooks in the collection, I learned a lot about the various materials scrapbooks can be constructed with such as black construction paper, newspaper, glue, and tape, and the various ways that they interact with each other over time. During my time as an intern, I also learned about the different constructions of scrapbooks, such as their various types of bindings, which is helpful to know when handling a fragile scrapbook. In addition to being useful information in an archival sense, learning about the construction of scrapbooks and the way they deteriorate over time will help me to someday construct my own long-lasting scrapbook full of memories from my days as a Mary Washington student.

December 15, 2021

Activism in Archives: Virginia Archives Month 2021 

Published Post author

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

Published Post author

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

Published Post author

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 

Published Post author

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

Published Post author

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