Category Archives: New Acquisitions

Celebrating Pride in the Archives: LGBTQ+ Alumni Oral Histories 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 All images courtesy of UMW Special Collections and University Archives.

June 24, 2021

Marching Band Drum Returns Home to University Archives

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Written by Special Collections & University Archives Student Aide, Megan Williams 

Over the summer the University of Mary Washington received a unique transfer from the Music Department to University Archives. James Baker, founder of the College-Community Symphony Orchestra and former Music Department Chair, and his family generously returned a piece of UMW’s history by donating the bass drum from the Mary Washington College (MWC) “All-Girl Marching Band.”

"All-Girl Marching Band" Bass Drum in Special Collections

All-Girl Marching Band’s bass drum

Spanning from 1940 to 1958, the Marching Band was considered a “decided novelty” in the days before almost every high school had a marching band (Alvey 1974, 205).

"All-Girl Marching Band" members marching down the street in Fredericksburg at the annual Dog Mart.

The “All-Girl Marching Band “ in Fredericksburg at the annual Dog Mart, 1955

The founder of the “All-Girl Band” was Ronald W. Faulkner, who came to the college in the fall of 1937. Faulkner was a native of Greely, Colorado, a graduate of Julliard School of Music, and a flutist for the San Diego Symphony Orchestra (Alvey 1974, 204).

Professor Ronald W. Faulkner Battlefield, 1947

Professor Ronald W. Faulkner Battlefield, 1947

When he came to MWC, Faulkner was given the specific task of organizing the instrumental instruction program. In this position, Faulkner was successful in establishing a program. In fact he established a concert orchestra, dance orchestra, and the marching band (Alvey 1974, 203-204). 

When the MWC “All-Girl Band” made its first appearance in 1940, everyone across campus was talking about it. The band “made a colorful appearance,” in their white skirts, blue jackets, white boots and the helmet headdress (Alvey 1974, 205). At the band’s first appearance a “rather prim lady on the faculty complained about the shortness of the skirts.” In response to this comment Mr. Faulkner famously remarked, “I’m glad she doesn’t have to wear one” (Alvey 1974, 206).

The entire marching band posing in their uniforms with the American flag and the Virginia State flag.

The “All-Girl Marching Band” posing in their new blue and white uniforms for the 1955 Battlefield.

The “All-Girl Band” had appearances outside of campus. During the years of World War II, the band played in many parades and rallies throughout Virginia. However, they primarily played in Richmond, Washington D.C., and Fredericksburg. For a number of years the band led Thalhimer’s Toy Parade. This parade occurred after Thanksgiving and marked the beginning of the holiday season (Alvey 1974, 208). The Thalhimer Toy Parade was one of many parades that the “All-Girl Band” performed in. Unfortunately for the “All-Girl Band” they were no longer unique by 1958. This lead to the marching band being discontinued, and the College putting more focus into the concert band (Alvey 1974, 408).

Two band members pose with the band’s instruments and trophies.

Band members posing with the bass drum, other instruments, and trophies.

Once the band was dismantled, the bass drum was stored in Pollard Hall until the 1980s when the building went through a major renovation. During this time, the College had a number of things scheduled to be replaced and updated, most notably the instruments. One of the items was the “All-Girl Band” bass drum. Luckily for Special Collections and the University Archives, President Anderson gave the drum to Dr. Baker who safely kept it through these years.

The thing that makes this drum unique is the signatures. The signatures on the drum include Al Hodge (Captain Video), Bert Parks, Hopalong Cassidy, Johnathan Long, Aldo Ray, Van Johnson, and Bing Cosby. It has been difficult to determine when and where the band got the signatures; however, the Battlefield, the University’s yearbook, has been a useful resource.

From looking at the Battlefield each year from 1940 until 1958 an estimated date range has been determined for when the drum got its signatures. The first signatures to appear on the drum were of Bing Crosby and Van Johnson, an American actor. These signatures are visible in the 1956 Battlefield 

The band posing for the 1956 Battlefield. In this image the bass drum is featured with Bing Crosby’s and Van Johnson’s signatures.

The band posing for the 1956 Battlefield. In this image, the bass drum is featured with Bing Crosby’s and Van Johnson’s signatures.

In 1957, the following year’s Battlefield features the drum with the additional signature of Aldo Ray, an American actor. In the last year of the “All-Girl Band” (1958), the Battlefield photo features the band in one of their signature formations, a heart. As a result of the placement, it is difficult to tell what signatures are on the drum.

The band posing in their signature heart formation. Battlefield, 1958

The band posing in their signature heart formation. Battlefield, 1958

If anyone has information about the Mary Washington College’s “All-Girl Marching Band” or the bass drum, please contact us at And if you are interested in viewing the drum, stop by Special Collections and University Archives during our open hours from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, Tuesday through Thursday or email us if you would like to make an appointment.

Alvey Jr., Edward. History of Mary Washington College, 1908-1972. Charlottesville, VA: University Press, 1974. 

November 3, 2019

New Digital Collection: Friends of the Rappahannock Oral Histories

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It has been just over a year since we launched our new digital collections platform and if you’ve been checking in every now and again, you’ve probably seen our collections steadily growing. One of our newest collections, the Friends of the Rappahannock Oral History Collection, is the result of a collaboration between faculty and students of the University of Mary Washington History and American Studies Department and the Friends of the Rappahannock. These two groups teamed up to conduct interviews with people invested in and engaged with the history of the Rappahannock River. Special Collections and University Archives received the collection of interviews from the Friends of the Rappahannock so that the audiovisual materials could be preserved and made accessible to the public in perpetuity.

Screenshot of the Digital Collections "Browse Archive" page, showing all of the digital collections in the system. The Friends of the Rappahannock Oral History Collection is enclosed in a red box.

The Friends of the Rappahannock Oral History Collection is one of our most recent additions to Digital Collections.

The interviews detail a wide variety of information regarding the Rappahannock River. Interviewees include Bill Micks, Chief Anne Richardson, Harold Wiggins, James E. Pitts, Sr., John Tippett, and Josiah P. Rowe, III. Once the Friends of the Rappahannock Oral History Collection page is open, you can select an interview based on the topic it covers by viewing the list of over twenty main subjects located on the left of the collection homepage. This list can also be helpful to get a general idea of the themes found in the interviews.

Screenshot of the Friends of the Rappahannock Oral History Collection hompage. A red arrow labeled "Topics" is pointing towards the list of subjects covered by the interviews.

When browsing the collection, you can choose which interviews to read or view by selecting the topics you are most interested in, and you can also select more than one topic.

Each interview is available in both video and transcribed PDF format, so a full-text search of the collection is possible by using the search box at the top right of the web page. If you are reading a particular transcript and would like to do a quick search for a particular topic, select the magnifying glass symbol at the top of the PDF Viewer and type in the word or phrase you are looking for. Both the audiovisual and transcription materials are available for download, but streaming is also available for direct viewing on the website.

Screenshot of a transcribed oral history PDF and it's associated metadata in the Digital Collections website. A red box has been drawn around the search box on the embedded PDF viewer to draw attention to it.

The PDF viewer includes a search feature so that you can quickly locate specific words or phrases.

Check out our newest collection and please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at with any questions!

June 27, 2019

UMW Reunion Weekend 2018

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Last weekend, UMW saw another successful Reunion Weekend take place. This year, we celebrated alums from years ending in 3 or 8, although all are always welcome! And as Special Collections & University Archives is a department of all alums, this is an especially fun weekend!

Each year during this exciting event, Special Collections sets up in the middle of the action to conduct our History Harvest. During this time, members of our staff and volunteers are available to take physical donations for the archives, digitize materials to add to our digital collections, and provide answers to any questions related to our collections or Mary Washington history. We also had a pop-up exhibit of a few artifacts from our permanent collection, including beanies and vintage copies of The Bullet (now Blue & Gray Press).

Closeup image of a button that reads "UMW Archives" inside a red heart.

We also had free giveaway items! Above is one of the buttons made by library staff to celebrate the day.

Our visiting alums were really in the spirit! Staff enjoyed speaking with the various visitors to our table about their unique memories from their time at Mary Washington. Many alums gleefully thumbed through pages of past issues of The Battlefield yearbook, searching for old friends and professors, and telling great stories along the way.

Two alumni smile and pose together. Both wear alumni nametags, lanyards, and various reunion weekend pins.

Karen Mary Wands Parker, ’73, and Katya Calvo, ’73, visit the History Harvest table.

Alumni also gifted some wonderful gems to our collections this year. One alumna donated her diploma, excitedly pointing out that she was handing it to me exactly 50 years to the day after it was awarded: June 2, 1968. Another alum donated a fork that somehow found its way out of Seacobeck a few decades ago.

A fork with "MWC" stamped on the handle.

A fork with “MWC” stamped on the handle.

We also received a new beanie for our collection, complete with the student’s original name tag and a copy of “Mouse Week Rules” from September 1969. These are rules for how and when freshmen must wear their beanies, and the punishments for infractions. A freshman found without a beanie might be subject to “sing and dance to entertain sophomores and upperclassmen.”

Red and white MWC beanie with an attached handwritten nametag reading "Mary Lee Stevens, Marshall Hall". The beanie partially covers a piece of paper titled "Mouse Week Rules."

An alum’s donated beanie and the accompanying “Mouse Week Rules.”

Other gifts included a lovely framed print of some of the college’s buildings, a collection of campus handbooks and other publications from the late 60s, and a signed copy of a Dean Edward Alvey book.

In addition, this year, Special Collections & Archives stars Carolyn Parsons and Angie White co-taught a session for the Alumni College. About 35 attendees were present in the Digital Auditorium to hear about the fascinating history of our rare books, archives, and digital collections, and to learn some very useful preservation tips for both physical and digital materials.

If you’re an alum who’s wondering about how to make a donation, or if you’d like to know more about the topics covered in the Alumni College class, please let us know! Our staff is always happy to help.

June 8, 2018

All in a Day’s Work

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On the first day of Reunion Weekend, we had the exciting opportunity to photograph 3D objects in our Digital Archiving Lab when Mary Beth Bush Dore, ’67, brought us a MWC blazer, skirt, and two shirts to photograph. It’s not every day that we work with objects like this, and library staff took the opportunity to get creative with a makeshift modeling studio. Using a coat rack, a silver backdrop fabric, some photography equipment, and a couple of sets of hands, we were able to get great images showcasing outfits from Mary Washington in the 60’s!

Photo Studio

The silver fabric that we had in our offices for exhibits worked great as a photography backdrop!

When we digitize items, we try to capture as much information from them as possible while they are in our hands. We might not have an opportunity to digitize them again, whether it’s because they are being returned to the original owner (as in this case) or they are in a condition that dictates that they not be handled continuously. If we are scanning photographs, we will often scan the back or take notes in a spreadsheet so that we will make sure to record all of the item’s information. In this case, since we were photographing objects, we captured all items individually, front and back. If there was manufacturer information or other details that we noticed, we photographed that as well.

Clothing Items

Three of the clothing items that we received for photographing.

Detail Photographs

When photographing objects, the Special Collections staff capture as much detail as possible, including buttons, patches, and awesome shirt insignias from when Mary Washington was still part of the University of Virginia!

Do you have any UMW history that you aren’t sure can be digitized? Please contact us at and tell us about it. It’s always exciting to try new things in the Digital Archiving Lab, and we can’t wait to see what the next opportunity will bring!

June 22, 2017

Kodak Book Digitization

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Though Special Collections and University Archives is every bit of what we typically imagine – a quiet, beautiful reading room surrounded by rare books and manuscripts – it also encompasses historical collections that we don’t always consider right away: digital. As an avid collector of University of Mary Washington history, our department is always interested in adding to our digital collections, which sometimes means that we create digital copies of unique items and then return the original to the owner. For example, we were recently given the opportunity to scan and photograph Helen Davenport Smith’s scrapbook, courtesy of her daughter, Joyce Lee Smith ’58. Helen Davenport Smith was a 1919 graduate of the State Normal School for Women at Fredericksburg, now known as the University of Mary Washington.

Image of the cover of the scrapbook.

Cover of the scrapbook, with decorative letters spelling “Kodak Book.”

The scrapbook, titled “Kodak Book” after what was most likely the popular camera used at the time, adds a wealth of information to our understanding of how the campus and students interacted during the time. It is filled with photographs of students engaging in various activities, such as gardening and socializing, as well as photographs of Smith’s post-college life and career. A cat portrait even made its way into the book, showing that even one hundred years ago, they were a popular photo subject!

Three photographs of students engaged in various activities.

Three photographs depicting students in various activities, such as gardening and recreation.

Photograph of cat on window

Cats have seemingly always captured the eye of photographers.

In order to digitize the scrapbook, staff used the Cobra Rare Book Scanner in the Digital Archiving Lab. The scanner allows rare books to be opened at an angle so that very little pressure is placed on the spine and binding. While the Cobra allows for glass to be placed over pages to help keep them flat, this book did not require flattening because the binding type and usage caused the pages to stay flat on their own. The scanner has two high-resolution cameras built in that photograph the left and right pages individually, resulting in very high-quality image files that allow for great zooming, printing, and long-term digital preservation. As files were processed after scanning, we used Photoshop to adjust the contrast and colors of images where the ink or pencil was faded in order to make the text more readable.

Image of Cobra Rare Book Scanner

The Cobra Rare Book Scanner has a v-shaped cradle to reduce the stress place on rare books during the digitization process.

Image depicting Photoshop techniques.

The original photograph (left) was processed through Photoshop, highlighting the list of names that were difficult to read in the faded ink.

In addition to 2D scanning, we thought it was important to capture the scrapbook as an object. In order to achieve this, we set up a DSLR mini photo studio and captured the edges of the book as well as its fragile thread binding. Photographing the book as an object will allow users to study the page curves, thickness, and binding, as well as provide context for the individual page images.

Image of pop-up photography studio.

A pop-up photography studio was created in the Digital Archiving Lab to capture the scrapbook as an object.

Image of the Kodak Book binding.

Binding of the Kodak Book captured from the pop-up photography studio.

Do you have any University history that you think should be added to our digital collections? Email us at or stop by our History Harvest table at Reunion Weekend on the morning of June 3rd. The Digital Archiving Lab will be open from noon until 3pm on Friday, June 2nd, if you would like to stop by and see how the digitization process works!


All Kodak Book images are courtesy of Joyce Lee Smith ’58.

May 24, 2017

New Collection Materials

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This post was written by Christine Pace, our Special Collections and University Archives student assistant. Thanks Christine!

I started working as a student assistant in Special Collections and University Archives this fall semester. Since starting, one of my favorite things is seeing first-hand the new items that come into our collections. This year the Department received many scrapbooks and photos. It is amazing to see how students have enjoyed their time at Mary Washington over the years. As I go through these new items, I have been able to see photos of past events and gatherings of former students and see captured the same excitement and fun that I have with my friends through our own events from Devil-Goat Day to sitting on Ball Circle on a sunny day.

These accessions are not only physical items but also snapshots of the past. They tell the stories of Mary Washington traditions and the little moments that can be a reminder of fun times. One of my favorite recent accessions is a collection of photographs from Houston Kempton, a past photographer of The Bullet, known today as The Blue and Gray. Here are just a few pictures from this collection that I enjoyed seeing as I scanned and put them into protective archival sleeves.

Furniture on the Lawn, Junior Ring Week

Furniture on the Lawn, Junior Ring Week

Westmoreland Hall

Westmoreland Hall

Student Jumping

Student Jumping

May 4, 2017

New Accession

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This post was written by Katie Ingebretsen, our Special Collections and University Archives spring semester intern. Thanks Katie!

This semester part of my internship at Special Collections and University Archives included accessioning items into the collection. Accessioning means that I document each new item that is added to the collection, noting the date the item was received, who it was donated by or bought from, where the item is now located and giving it an accession number and description. The accession number is how collection items are tracked and is made up of two parts: one number that refers to the year the piece was accessioned and one number that refers to how many pieces have been accessioned this year (if the item is the 14th piece accessioned this year, the number will be 016-014).

Special Collections and University Archives has received four items this semester. My favorite piece that I accessioned this semester is a small black ceramic piggy bank, circa 1963, with the old school seal on it and the words “Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia” surrounding the seal. The seal is very interesting because it is not the current UMW seal, but the earlier seal featuring both the torch we have on the seal now and a spinning wheel in the background. This dates to the time Mary Washington was a women’s teaching college, and the spinning wheel represents the domestic arts the students learned such as home economics and millinery.

Piggy Bank, 1963

pig 2a

Piggy Bank with early Mary Washington seal, 1963

April 6, 2016

High on Marye’s Hilltop

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Earlier this year, we were delighted when the Alumni Affairs office contacted Special Collections and University Archives to see if we would be able to digitize an old record that had been mailed to them.  They weren’t quite sure what was on the record, but it had the name of Irene Taylor and a date in 1947 written on one side of it.

Image of audio transcription disc

Image of audio transcription disc

After doing a little digging in the University Archives, we determined that Irene Taylor was a well-known alumna from the class of 1947.  A music major, Taylor, along with her friend Jean Crotty, entered an annual song competition between Mary Washington’s dormitories during their senior year.  Taylor and Crotty’s song, “High on Marye’s Hilltop,” was so well-liked that it sparked a movement by students who wanted to make the song the official alma mater of the college.  Ronald Faulkner, the school’s band director, drafted a sheet music copy of the song that was sent to all alumnae chapters.  The chapters overwhelmingly approved of the song, and “High on Marye’s Hilltop” became the official alma mater in 1952.

Irene Taylor

Irene Taylor

Once we knew the background of this mysterious record, we had to figure out how to digitize it.  After further research, we determined that the record was not an LP, but a transcription disc.  This type of media was commonly used during the mid-20th century for recording music, before being replaced by magnetic tape, cassette tape, and eventually optical disc technology. Transcription discs must be digitized with elliptical cartridges, which are made by only a few remaining companies.  After the correct cartridge was procured, the real work could begin.

This disc was in relatively good shape, so after a thorough cleaning, it was ready to be digitized.  After the initial digitization process, additional static was removed to make the song more pleasant to listen to.  The resulting digital file is a wonderful time machine back to the spring of 1947, when Irene Taylor sat down at the piano and recorded the music to “High on Marye’s Hilltop,” the song that would become the soundtrack to student life at Mary Washington.  Please visit Archives@UMW to take a listen!

October 14, 2015

Summer Fun, 1942

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This post was written by Rebecca Arm, our Special Collections and University Archives student aide.  Thanks Becca!

Since the first session of the Summer 2015 semester is coming up, I enjoyed looking at this recreation calendar from Summer 1942’s First Term (June-July), which is a recent acquisition of the University Archives. Summer courses were open to both Mary Washington students and to members of the greater Fredericksburg community, men and women alike. In 1942, everyone was eager to be part of the war effort, so in addition to regular summer courses the College’s summer catalog offered “short practical courses in cooperation with the War Program” in subjects such as stenography, first aid, and radio broadcasting.

Summer 1942 recreation calendar. “This program is planned for YOU. Do take advantages of its pleasures and benefits.”

This calendar was quick to assure students that recreation during wartime wasn’t frivolous, and that President Roosevelt had issued a statement stating that recreation was “necessary and beneficial” to the nation’s efficiency and morale. In June activities included a softball game, picnic dinner, several dances and mixers, and a concert of patriotic music by students and Fredericksburg town residents. July brought tennis and volleyball nights, students versus faculty athletic contests, and more dances, concerts, and sing-alongs.

Students enjoy a swim in the outdoor pool, c. 1945

Throughout the summer movies were shown in the amphitheater, including “Drums of the Congo,” “The Adventures of Chico,” “Road to Happiness,” “Sanders of the River,” and “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” The calendar also suggested that students take advantage of the riding facilities, the log cabin, and the ever-popular outdoor pool.

Lest anyone forget the war effort in the midst of all this summer fun, the calendar also reminded students that war bonds were available to buy at the College Station Post office, and war stamps from the booth in Chandler Hall.

Whether you’re attending summer classes this year or not, I hope you enjoy your summer as much as Mary Washington students enjoyed summer 1942!

May 6, 2015