Category Archives: Found it in the Archives

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

The Puzzle in the Archives

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Written by Caitlin DeMarco, Stafford Library Assistant

I have recently been processing the papers of Professor Dennis G. DaLuiso of the UMW Theatre & Dance Department. He taught classes and directed plays from 1971 to 1977, and gave to UMW Special Collections and University Archives papers pertaining specifically to the plays he directed, including Li’l Abner, Guys and Dolls, and The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, among others. We have scripts, sometimes with directorial notations, programs, and photographs from many productions.

Four cast members sitting at a table with three casr members looking on from the right.

Some of the collection’s photographs are unidentified.

One of the interesting things, though, about archival collections is that often times there are items in the collections that have no or very little information about them. For example, there is an entire folder in the DaLuiso Papers that contains only a series of photographs. They are brilliant black and white shots taken during some of the DaLuiso-directed plays, but there is little identifying information to go with them. Some have the names of the actors scribbled on the backs of the photographs, but mostly I have no idea what plays these photographs portray.

Three actors stand in front with the sign "Available Jones" overhead. The woman in the center has a veil on and the man on the far right appears to be marrying the couple.

Sometimes the clues are spelled out for you.

One of the first puzzle pieces I was able to slot into place, was a photograph of a set which had a sign for ‘Available Jones’. A quick Google search told me that Available Jones was a character from the play Li’l Abner. Another photograph, showing actors standing around outdoors, can probably be identified as being a scene from The Great American Cliché, since the program from that play (put on for the Bicentennial Celebration in 1976) said that it took place at the UMW Amphitheater.

The Great American Cliché performed outside.

The Great American Cliché performed outside.

The next step in putting the pieces together is asking for help from people ‘in the know’. First, our Digital Archiving Lab student aides digitized the photographs and jotted down all known information in a spreadsheet. Then we sent out emails to both a current Department of Theatre & Dance professor and the original photographer. The former could not identify anything himself; however, he did offer to ask Professor DaLuiso on our behalf. The photographer also told me he is looking into the identifications, so I am eager to hear back from him once he has finished his study.

Like other puzzles, identifying the people and plays portrayed in these photographs can be done more easily with many people involved in the process. Once we post the digitized photographs online in our digital repository, researchers, as well as other interested individuals, will be able to view them. With all these people working together, hopefully we will be able to solve this mystery.

April 11, 2019

Archival Fun

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Written by Special Collections & University Archives Student Aide,  Ilana Bleich ’19

As the last few weeks of 2018 approach, you may need to flip ahead to your 2019 calendar. If you were a student at Mary Washington College in 1983 or 1984, your new calendar might feature a few of your classmates. The Men of MWC calendars were first published in 1983 by juniors Kathi O’Rourke and Becky Rogers as part of an independent study in a marketing class.

Figure 1. Article in The Bullet about the 'Men of MWC' calendars. November 15, 1983. Vol. 57, No. 8.

Figure 1. Article in The Bullet about the ‘Men of MWC’ calendars. November 15, 1983. Vol. 57, No. 8.

For the assignment, which was inspired by the much flashier Men of UCLA calendar of the time, O’Rourke and Rogers sold 140 copies within the first week at $4.00 each. The calendars were so popular that O’Rourke and Rogers copyrighted them and produced another calendar for 1985. By the second year, they even hired a professional photographer. These calendars were a light-hearted and fun way to promote the image of MWC.

Working as the student aide in the archives this semester has allowed me to come across many bits and pieces that make me laugh or smile, such as the calendars—archives aren’t always so serious! I think that archives and libraries have a reputation of being strict and preserving only the elite and important, but in truth there is so much more. Archives capture life in all its forms.

For example, the school yearbook, The Battlefield, used to have a section in the back devoted to funny things the students said. It is amusing to see how the students would tease their professors just as we sometimes do, and these pages are reflective of the sense of humor at the time.

Figure 2. The Battlefield , 1921

Figure 2. The Battlefield , 1921

Photographs from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s show students laughing, relaxing, enjoying each other’s company—and even studying in a bathtub! I love seeing pictures of students at early Mary Washington. They make me feel more connected to the school and its history. In a way, it is nice to see that we have always been loud, messy, and imperfect.

Figure 3. From top left to bottom right: 1958, a student reads in a bathtub; 1942, students stuff Christmas stockings; 1962, a pillow fight; 1963, students get rid of their beanies.

Figure 3. From top left to bottom right: 1958, a student reads in a bathtub; 1942, students stuff Christmas stockings; 1962, a pillow fight; 1963, students get rid of their beanies.

Working in Special Collections and University Archives with papers and books from as far back as the late 1400s has taught me that even as times change, human nature doesn’t always change with it. There will always be students who make silly comments to their professors, and there will always be photographs that capture smiles and good times. Here’s to hoping that we bring the best of human nature with us into 2019—no matter what your calendar may look like.

If you would like to see the Men of MWC calendars in person, stop by the Special Collections and University Archives in Simpson Library.

Sources Consulted:
Crawley, William. University of Mary Washington: A Centennial History, 1908-2008. Durham: BW&A Books, 2008.
McDonald, Kathy. “’MWC’ For Sale.” The Bullet, November 15, 1983.

December 6, 2018

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

Fredericksburg’s Flood of 1942

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Again the morning sound of rain! The month of September has brought not only the daily deluge of rain showers but also Hurricane Florence which closed campus last Thursday and Friday. These wet puddles and dreary days are nothing though compared to what the students and residents of Fredericksburg experienced on October 16, 1942 when the Rappahannock River crested at 42.6 feet.

Deemed the city’s “worst catastrophe since the Civil War,” the historic flood streamed into the city. Amid the chaos, the Bullet staff managed to publish an emergency issue, consisting of two mimeographed pages describing the impact of the flood on the College.

Masthead, The Bullet, October 16. 1942Students in Cornell dorm were evacuated in the middle of the night by rowboats and ambulances to other campus rooms on higher ground. The Bullet reported that the water came within inches of flooding Cornell’s first floor, and that all students “conducted themselves admirably with calm and poise” as they were transferred to new rooms with warm blankets.

Cornell, a popular apartment complex at the corner of Cornell Street and Kenmore Avenue that the College used during the ‘40s and ‘50s

Cornell was a popular apartment complex at the corner of Cornell Street and Kenmore Avenue that the College used during the ‘40s and ‘50s.

Sketch of the student evacuation from Cornell, The Bullet, October 16, 1942

Flood waters contaminated the city’s water supply. Students from Willard formed a bucket brigade and passed water up from the outside pool for use in the dorms and Seacobeck. The Health Department was afraid a typhoid outbreak might happen and quarantined students to campus, until they could receive their inoculations. The October 23, Bullet cautioned students to drink boiled water only and to get their shots.

Electricity was also scarce after the flood, but the campus cooking staff managed to get breakfast ready by candlelight, serving the students “crisp bacon with applesauce.” Not all later meals may have been as yummy but were guaranteed to have “proper nutritional value.”

City residents gather downtown near Goolrick’s Pharmacy, 1942 Courtesy of Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc.

City residents gather downtown near Goolrick’s Pharmacy, 1942
Courtesy of Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc.

The College Cavalry unit was applauded for their help during the flood, voluntarily patrolling Kenmore Avenue, directing traffic, and clearing the streets of pedestrians. An additional 200 students worked in the local shelters helping feed those whose homes were flooded and assisting with the typhoid shots.

Floods continue to impact UMW, such as Hurricane Hazel in 1955 when the MWC Cavalry was again called out to provide assistance, and Hurricane Fran in 1996 which caused the area’s 5th worse flooding since 1889.

In 1999 the University chose not to close during Hurricane Floyd and received a lot of negative feedback from the students.

In 1999 the University chose not to close during Hurricane Floyd and received a lot of negative feedback from the students. The Bullet, September 23, 1999

If you want a diversion from listening to the incessant rain and are intrigued to learn more about the major flood of 1942, check out the Fredericksburg Area Museum’s The Fredericksburg Flood of 1942 video and then come see the original emergency copies of The Bullet in University Archives. Stay dry!

Sources Consulted:
Emergency Issue, The Bullet, Oct. 16, 1942
“Fredericksburg Severely Hit By Flood” The Bullet, October 23, 1942
Jett, Cathy. Flood of 1942 was Fredericksburg Area’s Worst Catastrophe since the Civil War, The Free Lance-Star, October 14, 2017 (accessed September 22, 2018)
“Thanks People,” The Bullet, November 16, 1942


September 24, 2018

Dog Days of Summer

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It’s always interesting to read blogs from fellow colleagues across the state, and this summer I’ve been enjoying the College of William and Mary’s Must Love Dogs  series. It’s a dog-lovers delight, and after immersing in their last post on royal pooches, I decided it was time for a  post on UMW’s own canine collections.

One of the most picturesque pups in our collections is Pompey the Little from Francis Coventry’s 1773 book about a lap dog’s adventures in European society. Told from Pompey’s perspective, it is a witty guide to the culture and manners of the period. Simpson Library also has a 1974 circulating copy that you can check out and read further about Pompey’s doggy exploits.

Image of the The grand Pompey the Little

The grand Pompey the Little.

Another much treasured dog photo is this early 1912 image of Fido with his student friends welcoming all to the State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Fredericksburg (UMW).Early 1912 image of Fido with his student friends welcoming all to the State Normal and Industrial School for Women at Fredericksburg (UMW

Campus canine companionship continues through the years, as we see former student John Jolissaint (below), a 100 years later, also enjoying a beautiful day on campus with his dog Lola (Photo by Norm Shafer, 2012).

A student enjoying a beautiful day on campus with his dog Lola

Holidays also provide the perfect photo op for students to include their canine friends.

Not surprisingly, with its many dog lovers Fredericksburg takes top honors as home to the oldest dog mart event in the U.S. The event is still held and will celebrate its 350th anniversary this September. Originating in 1698, the Dog Mart started when the Manahoac Indians of King William County came to the area that would later be called Fredericksburg to trade furs for English hunting dogs. In the late 1940s, the Dog Mart drew huge crowds (up to 15,000 in 1949), and Mary Washington students regularly attended, taking part in the grand event.

Dog Mart Program

Of course, I would be woefully remiss if I finished without including UMW’s current top dog, Oscar, who resides with President Troy Paino and his family at Brompton.

Oscar poses with President Troy Paino, wife Kelly, and daughters, Sophia and Chloe.

If you’d like to see the originals of any of these materials come visit us in Special Collections, I’m sure Oscar and Pompey would approve!

Sources consulted:
“Fredericksburg Dog Mart,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (accessed July 22, 2018).


July 22, 2018

Ghost Goodies and Attacking Aliens!

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Over the years, Mary Washington has gained a reputation for hosting great Halloween celebrations – from the popular Halloweens event described in the eighties as “the biggest party and the biggest weekend of the year” to our current Pumpkin Palooza, a Halloween-themed service day sponsored by COAR to provide safe trick or treating for kids.

Halloweens, 1990

Halloweens, 1990, Centennial Image Collection, Special Collections and University Archives.

Mary Washington Students Participating in COAR's Halloween Festivities, 1998

Mary Washington Students Participating in COAR’s Halloween Festivities, 1998

As an archivist, I am always curious to know, not only what is happening now on campus, but what was happening “way back in the day” on campus. So I searched “Halloween” in our UMW publications database, Eagle Explorer, and the earliest mention of campus Halloween festivities appeared in the 1914 Battlefield yearbook. The dining hall which was then in Willard Hall was transformed with decorations of black cats and pumpkins. Waitresses dressed as witches and carrying brooms served the faculty and students Halloween dinner! What a treat!

Battlefield, 1914

Battlefield, 1914

That same year, local churches banded together and invited students to a Halloween reception where there were “delicious and appetizing ghost goodies – sandwiches, coffee, cakes, ice cream and fruits” and a fortune teller to tell their fate. All in all, it sounds like 1914 was a banner initial Halloween year.

In the years following, dances and dinners proceeded to be the general Halloween fare on campus until Halloween 1938. That Halloween many students had a frightful scare, as they believed Orson Welles’ electrifying War of the Worlds broadcast was real and that aliens were possibly taking over Fredericksburg and the world. A Bullet reporter recounted:

Out in the halls we find the phone booths crammed with people calling mother and daddy, who are probably by now pieces of charcoal. In the parlors, dates cling to each other in the last few minutes. Presently someone bursts forth with the welcome news that it was only a play being broadcast on the radio.
Personally we hope that there is no scare like this again. We much prefer to be scared by the witches and goblins that fly through the night.

As would I! Who would think searching in the archives could be so scary?!
Happy Halloween!

October 30, 2017

A Swim in the Archives

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Summer has most definitely arrived.

Here in the library, it’s chilly all the time and I’m honestly sitting at my desk in a sweater with a space heater at my feet. But outside, the heat and humidity of Fredericksburg in July can make me feel like I live inside a wet sock crammed in an oven.

So for today’s post, I searched through our digital collections for some inspiration on how to beat the heat at Mary Washington. Happily, I found documentation of our friends from the past keeping cool at the various campus pools that students have enjoyed over the years. Sadly, they don’t exist any more, but that won’t stop me from living vicariously through these images.

Down in the basement of Monroe Hall, in the earliest days of the State Normal and Industrial School, you could find students having a swim in their bathing caps and full-coverage suits. It’s not quite poolside in the summertime the way we might think of it today, but it still looks like fun!

This outdoor pool among the trees looks particularly refreshing. These images are circa 1940s-50s, and I think capture a classic, summery vibe.

The chic pool below used to be part of the grounds outside of Framar House. Check out the post from University of Mary Washington: Then and Now for more information and side-by-side images of what the spot looks like today (hint: it probably will not provide this much relief when the heat index is above 100 degrees).

Our students have always been very cool (literally and figuratively).


Happy summer, everyone!

All images retrieved from the Centennial Image Collection, Special Collections and University Archives.

July 14, 2017

UMW Presidents Collections

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Last month, UMW celebrated the inauguration of Troy Paino, our tenth president. Such a milestone in our history serves as the perfect opportunity to look back on the legacy left by our previous presidents. And here in the archives, legacies are our specialty!

The University Archives holds the administrative records and personal papers of all UMW’s past presidents. Some of these collections have been arranged and processed, and you can view the contents of those collections in their respective finding aids. The UMW Presidents Collections page contains a comprehensive list of all nine previous presidents (in chronological order) with links to the corresponding finding aids where available.

The Presidents Collections site also contains links to expanded biographies of each former president. If your memory doesn’t quite go back 109 years and you don’t remember much about our early presidents, it’s a great place to start.

Edward H. Russell (1908 - 1918)

Edward H. Russell (1908 – 1918)

Each president oversaw vital changes to the university. Edward Russell (above) became president very shortly after the school was founded and authorized construction of the very first buildings, Frances Willard Hall and Russell Hall (now known as Monroe). President Russell’s records have been fully processed and described, and you can explore those contents at the online finding aid.

Morgan L. Combs (1929-1955)

Morgan Combs served as president from 1929-1955, and in that time saw a tremendous amount of growth. Many more construction projects took place under President Combs, such as Mason and Randolph Halls, Lee Hall, Seacobeck, and the Fine Arts Center (duPont, Melchers, and Pollard Halls). Also during this time, the school consolidated with UVA and became the liberal arts women’s college. It also took a new name: Mary Washington College.

William M. Anderson, Jr. (1983-2006)

Another of our presidents with a long and notable tenure was William (Bill) Anderson. President Anderson held the position for 23 years and oversaw a great deal more expansion. More buildings sprung up at the campus in downtown Fredericksburg, and the academic offerings grew to include graduate programs that necessitated a brand new campus in Stafford. With this growth came another name change: University of Mary Washington. President Anderson’s collection also has a finding aid online if you’d like to view the contents of those records.

Visit the UMW Presidents Collection site to read about more of our past presidents and see what finding aids are available, or make an appointment to come by Special Collections to view some of our unique materials.

May 19, 2017