Category Archives: Exhibits

Recollections from a Former Student Aide

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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

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

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

“Quarantime”: Completing an Internship Remotely

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Written by Special Collections & University Archives Intern, Cat Kinde ’21

“Quarantime,” as my family has taken to calling this shocking haze of life we find ourselves in, has definitely changed our lives in numerous and complicated ways.  One aspect of my life that was especially impacted was the way I completed  my internship.

This semester, I was an intern for the Special Collections and University Archives at Simpson Library supervised by Carolyn Parsons. Throughout this time, I learned and experienced in some small way what it means to work in a University Archives. One of the favorite parts of my internship was learning how to accession objects in the collection. Unfortunately, it is a bit difficult to create records for an archive if you are not actually in the archive!

When I got the email on March 11 stating that students were being sent home for three weeks, in the midst of many phone calls, reassurances, and speed packing, I remember worrying about many things, including the fate of my internship. Luckily, over the course of a rather lengthy email chain, Carolyn and Professor Harris, my faculty advisor, helped me devise a plan to continue my internship from a distance.

In March B.C.E (Before Coronavirus Era), Carolyn and I were working on a new exhibit for the archives. I had already assisted her with an earlier exhibit on James Farmer’s Libraries, and this next exhibit was to focus on women’s suffrage activities at Mary Washington. 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment. However, to our surprise my research showed there was actually very little suffrage activity on campus at the State Normal School (now UMW), so we decided to expand the exhibit to focus on national, state, and local levels.

Woman Suffrage Procession Program Cover showing a trumpeter on a white horse with the US Capitol in the background, 1913

Woman Suffrage Procession Program Cover, 1913 Library of Congress

Of course, none of that technically mattered if the building where the exhibit was supposed to be would be closed due to the global health crisis. Once again, Carolyn along with the equally amazing Digital Resources Librarian, Angie Kemp, came to the rescue, and we determined that the exhibit could be completed virtually through Timeline JS.

Student working on her online exhibit at home with white pet dog.

Working from home has a bonus perk – help from an extremely fluffy co-worker (not exactly helpful, but he is quite fluffy).

The switch from creating a physical to a virtual exhibit has been extremely interesting. The research behind the exhibit has been more or less the same, but the dynamics of what I needed to complete the exhibit has been quite different. I still worked on gaining permission to use photos and writing captions for them, but instead of using Photoshop to make sure the photos maintained a high quality when printed, I worked on cropping and arranging them directly into the exhibit space. The labels I wrote were also much more concise than they were before; otherwise the text would overtake the screen. Additionally, the majority of my work could be done in my pajamas. (Not that I couldn’t wear my pajamas at the library-it just would have been weird).

Student working at her kitchen table.

Although the couch, pajamas, and dog are all extremely appealing, I did try to create a semblance of a workspace at the kitchen table.

Either way, after many weeks of fast-paced learning, I am happy to announce the virtual exhibit is officially complete. You can view my exhibit here: “A Vote is a Counted Voice”: Celebrating the Centennial of a Woman’s Right to Vote, It was definitely a very different experience than the one I had been expecting when I started working on this exhibit, but I think it ended up being just as informative and interesting as the original, only in a different format.

Stay safe, stay sane, and I hope to see you all in the fall!

April 30, 2020

James Farmer’s Libraries: A Special Exhibit

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Campus buzzes this year with activity associated with Farmer Legacy 2020Here in Special Collections and University Archives, we’re also doing our part to recognize and celebrate the legacy of James Farmer. As mentioned in our previous post, we’ve opened the James L. Farmer Papers for research and published the finding aidand we’ve also created an exhibit in the Convergence Gallery. To add to this, most recently, we’ve curated another exhibit titled James Farmer’s Libraries. This exhibit features select items from the personal book and music collections of the Civil Rights icon. 

The majority of the materials in these libraries came to Special Collections and University Archives after his death in 1999. Like his papers, these items reflect his involvement with various Civil Rights organizations and notable figures, and they highlight a lifetime of activism. 

James Farmer seated at a desk in front of bookshelves.

James Farmer at his desk, 1988. Photograph by Lou Cordero.

Among his long string of accomplishments, James Farmer was also a writer whose prose struck as effectively as his speech. He appreciated the craft and curated a collection of books from various authors who wrote about topics close to his heart. Important themes of civil rights, justice, and equality clearly run dominant throughout his library.

Most of the books displayed in the exhibit were gifts to Dr. Farmer, as evidenced by the number of personal inscriptions. One such inscription is from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Upton Sinclair, famous in his own right for his social justice involvement and investigative works such as The Jungle. Sinclair signed a copy of his book The Return of Lanny Budd with the note, “To James Farmer, one of our young crusaders who must take over. 

Handwritten inscription that reads, "To James Farmer, one of our young crusaders who must take over, Upton Sinclair"

Inscription to James Farmer from Upton Sinclair.

Farmer’s library includes a few autobiographies of fellow activists. Coretta Scott King’s 1969 book, My Life with Martin Luther King, one such example, containing an inscription that reads, To James Farmer, with gratitude for your love and support, and with warm regards. Coretta Scott King. Farmer’s own autobiography, Lay Bare the Heart, is also on display. This item once belonged to James Farmer, but unlike the other volumes, he personally gave it as a gift to the Mary Washington library with the inscription, “To the students of Mary Washington College”. 

Cover of Lay Bare the Heart: An Autobiography of the Civil Rights Movement by James Farmer with a photo of the author featured

James Farmer’s autobiography recounts a life of work towards equality and freedom for all.

For James Farmer and others in the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), nonviolence was at the center of the Civil Rights Movement. Instead, as both weapon and defense, CORE frequently wielded song. Farmer was deeply familiar with this, and wrote in Lay Bare the Heart:  

“We sang loudly to silence our own fears. And to rouse our courage. There is no armor more impenetrable than song.”

Four young African-Americans joining hands and singing.

The Freedom Singers (Cordell Reagon, Rutha Harris, Charles Neblett, Bernice Johnson Reagon). This quartet traveled with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and performed frequently throughout the Civil Rights Movement, including at the 1963 March on Washington.

Even in the face of hatred and violence, those marching for equal rights sangMany of the records in James Farmer’s library of albums feature collected songs of the Civil Rights Movement. These records include the soundtrack to the famed 1963 March on Washington, featuring music from folk legends such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul, and Mary, as well as gospel stars Marian Anderson and Mahalia Jackson.  

Album cover for We Shall Overcome!: The March on Washington, August 28th 1963

The recording from the March on Washington contains the music and the speeches of the day, including Martin Luther King Jr.’s renowned “I Have a Dream” speech.

Farmer’s collection also includes A Jazz Salute to Freedom, notable as CORE’s first venture in music production. The album features several popular jazz musicians of the era: Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett, Nat and Cannonball Adderly, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and many others. As CORE’s National Director, James Farmer wrote a note of gratitude on the liner notes, thanking all purchasers for supporting CORE and reminding them of CORE’s purpose. 

Album cover for A Jazz Salute to Freedom

CORE’s first music production featured recordings from famous jazz artists, coming together to support equal rights.

Currently on display outside of the Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room on Simpson Library’s second floor, James Farmer’s Libraries will remain up for viewing until March 28. 

February 20, 2020

Farmer Legacy 2020

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These past weeks, the UMW community celebrated two civil rights “Big Four” leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.and Dr. James Farmer.

100th Birthday Celebration for Dr. James Farmer

100th Birthday Celebration for Dr. James Farmer in Chandler Ballroom

2020 marks the centennial of James Farmer’s birth and UMW is honoring his legacy and actions during  Farmer Legacy 2020 , a  year-long commitment to “promoting inclusive excellence and community and civic engagement in the classroom, on campus and in the community …”

Dr. Farmer joined the faculty at Mary Washington College as Commonwealth Professor of History (later Distinguished Professor of History) in 1985 and left his impact on the campus as he continued to share his work as a civil rights activist and educator.

Farmer speaking in the 1980s.

Dr. Farmer speaking in the 1980s.

To raise awareness and learn more about James Farmer, Simpson Library staff have created several exhibits, currently on display in the lobby and in the Convergence Gallery, with biographical timelines of Farmer’s impactful life and books to checkout on the Civil Rights Movement. An additional exhibit,  James Farmer’s Libraries, highlighting his personal collections of books and music, will open next month.

Exhibit, James Farmer: In His Own Words.

Exhibit: James Farmer: In His Own Words, 1920-1999 in the Convergence Gallery

Special Collections & University Archives houses Dr. Farmer’s records from the last years of his life. The complete finding aid to his papers and audiovisual materials can be viewed here. Our digital collections also provide a selection of images and audiovisual materials, including the James Farmer Reflections series, thirteen of Dr. Farmer’s lectures given when he was Professor of History. These primary resources are accessible within the online James L. Farmer Collection.

As we kick-off the University’s many Farmer-related events this year, Special Collections and University Archives is honored to support the year’s remembrance and calls to action by continuing to preserve our Farmer collections and make accessible Farmer’s words and ideas to inspire a new generation’s work for social justice and inclusion.

January 27, 2020

Digital Archiving Lab Student Aide, 2018-2019

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Written by Digital Archiving Lab Student Aide, Mary Novitsky ’19

I officially started as a student aide in the Digital Archiving Lab (DAL) at the beginning of the Fall 2018 semester. I became interested in working in the Lab during my ARTH 317 class in Spring 2018 semester. My class focused on planning an exhibition of 1926 alumni Margaret Sutton’s artwork in the Convergence Gallery entitled Margaret Sutton: Face to Face that required working alongside UMW Galleries and the DAL. When it came time to digitize the artwork for publication, I was more than happy to volunteer for the Lab to scan and photograph all of the artwork.

A scanned image of a work of art by Margaret Sutton in the 1950's. It shows seventeen costumed figures and the medium is ink on board.

Margaret Sutton, Untitled (Seventeen costumed figures), ink on board, 1950s. Accession Number 1993.11.0181, Courtesy UMW Galleries.

While working in the DAL, I learned the multidimensionality of archival work through working with different databases and methods of digitizing various different types of materials. One of the first projects I worked on involved editing the scanned pages of the 1668 Bible from the local Masonic Lodge (Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4). Details became apparent in the scans that were almost invisible to the naked eye and lead to many interesting finds within the book. I especially enjoyed learning about the Bible’s history from the Masons, and seeing their satisfaction in the finalized project.

A photograph of Digital Archiving Lab Student Aide, Mary Novitsky, sitting in front of a computer monitor with multiple scan images on the screen. A Masonic Lodge member is standing and looking at the monitor.

Digital Archiving Lab Student Aide, Mary Novitsky, discusses some of the images she processed. (Photo by Suzanne Rossi)

Another major project I worked on was digitizing all of the commencement programs from the university on the Cobra high resolution scanner. Seeing the progression of the university   through the layout of the program and its multiple name changes amazed me. Even though many of the programs prior to 1935 are missing, the archives still had the first commencement program of the school dating back to 1912. I found out so much about the university’s history through working on this project, and loved seeing the progression of the small changes UMW made to the program along the way. I got to work on the entirety of the project: scanning, editing, entering the metadata, and finally uploading all of the programs.

Collage of commencement program covers from 1912, 1961, and 2011.

The first, fiftieth, and one-hundredth Commencement programs for the University of Mary Washington

Being able to see a project from start to finish was incredible, because most of my other responsibilities were continuations from past semesters, such as working with the World War I posters, or projects intended to be multiple semesters long. Looking back on my experience, I am amazed by how much I learned in such a short period of time; from handling different materials, problem solving the best way to digitize, and especially working with databases to preserve the materials.

March 1, 2019

Over Here, Over There: Mary Washington’s Support of the War Effort, 1917-1918

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With Monday marking the centennial of Armistice Day, we have been busy in Special Collections getting our World War I posters collection online and preparing a new exhibit highlighting the University’s role during the war.  It has been interesting to see what our archival collections reveal about what was happening on campus and abroad a hundred years ago. I was aided immensely in my research by a single pamphlet of the State Normal School’s war activities. The bulletin, distributed after the war to recognize “the services rendered and the sacrifices made by the faculty and students,” captured the significant war activities of the School.

Bulletin of the State Normal School

Even before the US officially joined the war in 1917, Mary Washington students (or Normalites as they were then called!) were already showing their support by sewing and making garments for the children of invaded Belgium. Olive Hinman, Head of the Industrial and Fine Arts Department, adopted a French war orphan and in 1918 adopted a second orphan.

Students joined with the local Red Cross Society, contributing their knitting and sewing skills. Lalie Lett Webb, ’19 Scrapbook.

Students joined with the local Red Cross Society, contributing their knitting and sewing skills. Lalie Lett Webb, ’19 Scrapbook.

All students and faculty at the State Normal School responded quickly to the call for war support by either serving in the military, working oversees, purchasing Liberty Bonds, conserving food, or donating time and money to relief organizations. Two faculty members left the School to serve overseas. Roy S. Cook, Professor of Science and Math, was a Private, 6th Division, Co. D, of the 54th Infantry, Regular Army. Cook returned home safely after the war and taught another thirty years at the State Normal School. Gunyon M. Harrison, Assistant Professor of Math, served as Captain, 116th Infantry, 29th Division, Regular Army.

Photo of the two faculty that served overseas in World War I.

Gunyon founded the campus Rifle Club whose members noted in the 1917 yearbook that, “The club feels heavily the loss of its commander, Captain Gunyon M. Harrison; but, while he is training riflemen, we are doing our best to become efficient riflewomen.”

Rifle Club, The Battlefield 1917

Rifle Club, The Battlefield 1917

Many alumnae and a few students also left their jobs and studies during the war to assist with various types of “war work.” Marjorie Riker, ’15 was an alumna who went to Paris and did canteen work there with the “Y”. After the troops departed from Paris, she went to Coblenz, Germany with the Army of the Occupation and worked there for four months. Senior Elizabeth Carter, ’17 was noted in the 1917 Battlefield as having gone “abroad last year to be a Red Cross nurse in Paris.”

Alumna and student who served in WWI
From the start, the State Normal School students and faculty were strong investors in Liberty Bonds and the United War Fund. The campaign for the sale of the bonds was under the direction of the President of the School, Edward H. Russell, and the amount of purchases ran into the thousands of dollars. During the fall of 1918, students worked diligently to contribute to the United War Fund. They “washed windows, polished shoes, put away coal for members of the faculty and … did any work that they could get.” All the classes worked on weekends at local farms husking corn. When faculty and students gathered for the final fundraising meeting, their hard work brought in $2,225.00 in contributions!

Letter from President Russell to Faculty and Employees encouraging them to buy bonds. Edward H. Russell Records, 1909-1919

Letter from President Russell to Faculty and Employees encouraging them to buy bonds. Edward H. Russell Records, 1909-1919

The First World War was one of the worst conflicts in our nation’s history. More than 116,000 Americans were killed and nearly twice that number were wounded. During that tumultuous period, the students and faculty of Mary Washington stepped up and showed their patriotism, as they helped secure the freedoms we enjoy today. To learn more about UMW’s role in the war effort, visit our new library exhibit, Over Here, Over There: Mary Washington’s Support of the War Effort, 1917-1918, on display through January 20, 2019.

Resources Consulted: 
Alvey, Edward, Jr. History of Mary Washington College: 1908-1972. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1974.
State Normal School, Bulletin of the State Normal School. Fredericksburg,:R.A. Kishpaugh’s Print, 1919.
Virginia WWI and WWII Commemoration Commission, Virginia in World War I.

Thanks also to Ilana Bleich ’19, our Special Collections and University Archives student assistant, for her keen research assistance and expert label creation.

November 16, 2018

May Day Memories

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For almost 55 years, the month of May was synonymous with May Day at Mary Washington. One of the biggest events of the year, the May Day celebration was planned months in advance with each of the classes providing a list of nominees and voting for candidates with the most “poise, bearing, beauty, and queenly presence.”

May Day Program, 1917 and list of student nominees

Held first on May 16, 1914, the event initially was intended to celebrate both the victors of the athletic Field Day events and the elected May Queen and her court. Future years would see the sports portion of May Day dropped and only the May Queen activities remain. The event’s location would also change from its original home in front of Monroe Hall to the newly built amphitheatre in 1923.

Crowning of May Queen Betty Billingsley, 1929

Crowning of May Queen Betty Billingsley, 1929

May Queen Jamie Redwood, 1941

May Queen Jamie Redwood, 1941

The procession always began with heralding trumpeters, followed by the Queen and her attendants, and then the classes in order with their colors. Senior students had the honor of participating in the Maypole dance.

Seniors participating in the Maypole dance.

Senior class attendants participate in the Maypole dance.

Tickets were highly prized, especially once the entertainment expanded in the 1940s to include elaborate orchestrated ballet productions involving much of the student body.

Myron Russell portraying Joan of Arc in the first May Day ballet program, 1941

Myron Russell portraying  Joan of Arc in the first May Day ballet program, 1941

From 1914-1968, campus culture had changed, and by 1968 the Vietnam War was underway. May Day seemed unimportant and outdated to many of the students. In the March 25, 1968 Bullet, abandonment of “May Day, Emerald Ball and the Christmas Formal” was suggested to be “replaced by a fall and spring weekend of greater student interest and participation.”

The following year the Senate unanimously approved a new Spring Festival with an art exhibit, band concert and open air dance to take the place of May Day and with that the long-lived tradition was over.

A brief resurrection of May Day occurred in 2001, as students strived to modernize the event – changing the selection criteria to an essay on school spirit, giving proceeds to breast cancer research and selecting both a king and queen. But long-term interest couldn’t be sustained and by 2003 the tradition that was once the “high point of the semester” was history again.

This summer, Special Collections will have on display a photographic history of May Day, so come by and check out the Library’s second floor exhibit cases or search online for photographs at Special Collections and University Archives: Digital Collections.

Sources Consulted:

Alvey, Edward, Jr. History of Mary Washington College: 1908-1972. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1974.
Crawley, William B., Jr. University of Mary Washington, A Centennial History: 1908-2008. Fredericksburg: University of Mary Washington, 2008.

May 26, 2018

Celebrating 200 Years of Henry David Thoreau, 1817 – 2017

Published Post author

2017 marks the bicentennial of writer and naturalist, Henry David Thoreau’s birth.

Image of Henry David Thoreau from the 50 cent daguerreotype taken of him in Worchester, MA, 1856. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of anonymous donor.

In celebration, Simpson Library staff created several exhibits throughout the Library and in the process learned a lot about Thoreau and his renowned literary colleagues, all of whom lived in his hometown of Concord, Massachusetts. As with every new exhibit, the creation process presents an opportunity to delve into the Library’s collections to see what materials we have that complement the exhibit’s theme.

For Thoreau, I knew we didn’t have any first editions of his master work, Walden, waiting to be discovered on our shelves but that Special Collections owns an impressive complete set of the Transcendentalists publication, The Dial, from 1840-1844.  Although a financial failure, the magazine under the editorial direction of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller, was the launch pad for Thoreau’s writing career.

It is in The Dial’s inaugural issue, dated July 1840, that Thoreau’s poem “Sympathy” and his essay on the Roman poet Aulus Persius Flaccus were first published.

Two years later in 1842, The Dial published the first of Thoreau’s outdoor essays, “Natural History of Massachusetts.”

“A Winter Walk,” one of my favorite essays and a great read on a Snow Day, is published in October, 1843, establishing Thoreau’s naturalistic writing style.

Take a close look and you will see where our copy shows a former owner’s inscription of the correct pronunciation of Thoreau’s last name “Thorough.” What you can learn from notations! The Dial ceased publication with its April 1844 issue, but in its short run it was responsible for publishing more of Thoreau’s writing than any other magazine of the period.

All the Thoreau-related exhibits at Simpson Library will be on display through September, so stop by and see our exhibits and especially come upstairs to Special Collections to view the journal that gave Thoreau his start.

September 17, 2017