Category Archives: Student Aide Posts

Reports from a Student Aide, Spring 2022

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

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

Screenshot of Special Collections and University Archives Digital Collections landing page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 28, 2022

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

Exploring the Scrapbooks in Special Collections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 15, 2021

Recollections from a Lab Aide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 7, 2021

My Life as a Digital Archiving Lab Intern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 15, 2021

“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

Photograph Digitization Project

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Written by Digital Archiving Lab Student Aide, Claire Jackson. 

My very first day of work at the Digital Archiving Lab in the fall of 2019 was packed with a ton of new information. I wasn’t yet familiar with the University’s archives or even how they digitize and make them accessible through their databases. On my first day, I toured the first floor of the library, where Special Collections stores additional photographs, each one depicting a snapshot of Mary Washington’s history. These photographs were taken over the years by official Mary Washington photographers and since printed and organized into folders according to date and subject matter. They range from the trees on campus walk to Commencement celebrations. Each one of these photos held its own meaning to an institution that I had joined just a month prior.

A photograph of the Fitness Center on a sunny day, taken from campus walk near Jepson Hall.

Photographs from the early 2000s show many changes to campus, such as the addition of the Fitness Center in 2004. Photograph by Lou Cordero.

The process of digitizing these photos is what I will detail here. Over the course of the semester, two other student aides and I digitized around 655 photos. The process always started with being assigned a folder that had a label with its title and the cabinet/row it came from. Once a folder was assigned, gloves were worn to take the photo out of its sleeve and to place it on the flatbed Epson scanner in the Digital Archiving Lab. Photos were placed roughly in the middle of the scanner so that there would be room to crop off the side, as well as straighten the image later.

Next, the settings on the Epson scan software were set. Depending on the image, the scan was set for color or grayscale. All photos were scanned at 600dpi and as a TIFF file, both of which are standard for preservation. No additional advancements (i.e. color or backlight correction) were used to digitize the image, keeping it as close to the way it appears. After the settings were set, a preview scan was conducted, which allowed for a crop to be drawn. At this stage, a generous border was used around the image, as an additional crop would be done later in Photoshop. A final scan was done, and then the image was opened in Photoshop.

The first step in Photoshop was to straighten the image. The straightening tool was drawn along one side of the image. Photoshop then automatically turned the image, so the line that was drawn was straight. After this, a final crop was done, still making sure to leave a small white border around the image so that it was clear that no part of the image was cropped out. The image was then saved, compressed to 300dpi, and saved as a JPEG file. 300dpi JPEG files are easily accessible on the web for download, unlike the larger TIFF files. Both the original TIFF and compressed JPEG file were saved onto the archives’ hard drives for storage.

A screenshot of a photograph opened in Photoshop software. The screenshot depicts the straighten tool being used in Photoshop to straighten a crooked image. The image in Photoshop used for this example is of the clock installation in front of Woodard Hall.

The straighten tool in Photoshop is drawn along the top edge of the photo. Photograph by Debra Garrett.

The next step in the process was to upload the images to Omeka, which is a content management system that allows for the creation of private or public digital collections. Each image that was uploaded was done so individually with its own form. Much of the information that was added to this form came from the information supplied on the back of the photograph. Most photographs were labeled with a date, the photographer, and occasionally names of the people photographed. If a title was not supplied, an appropriate one was created by the student aide. The folder name and cabinet number of the folder where this image came from were also put into this form. This step was taken so that if later someone finds this image online and wants to examine it in person, we know where exactly to locate it.

A screenshot of the data entry form in Omeka showing the following fields and values for an example photograph. Some fields have more than one value. The fields shown in this screenshot are the following: Title, "Clock Tower Installation;" Source, "2004-2005, Cabinet 3, Drawer 1" and "Events on Campus;" Date, "2001-04-09.”

A title, the source according to the image folder, and its date were added to Omeka.

One of the most essential pieces of information we put into Omeka included subject headings related to the image. Before processing took place, a list of common subjects, including names, buildings, and campus events, was compiled. This list specified all the names and abbreviations a single item could be called. This is important, because throughout Mary Washington’s history buildings have gone by different names or even a person by their nickname. This list also allowed the aides to know what to pick out of an image that would be important for someone searching for it later. My favorite subject we came up with is “bench sitting.” It really goes to show just how specific to UMW we wanted to be when identifying photos!

A screenshot of the data entry form in Omeka showing the following fields and values for an example photograph. Some fields have more than one value. The fields shown in this screenshot are the following: Subject, "Clock Tower" and “Construction”; Description, "Close up of clock. The clock is embellished with silver details and sits in a wooden carrying crate." and “Image Text: Text on clock face reads: Mary Washington College 1908."; Creator, “Garrett, Debra.”

Subjects according to the index list and a description for this photo were put into Omeka.

Other information that was included in the Omeka form was any text in the photo or on the back, as well as the language it is in. The dimensions and original format were also identified. Once all the information was added, the image was uploaded, and the form was marked as “needs review.” Before these photos with their metadata can be uploaded to Preservica, Special Collections & University Archives staff will review the work of the aides. The process was now done and repeated for a few hundred more photos!

April 16, 2020

Captioning James Farmer’s Reflections Lectures

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Written by Francesca Maisano ’21, Digital Archiving Lab Student Aide.

In preparation for UMW’s Centennial Celebration of James Farmer, Farmer Legacy 2020: A Centennial Celebration and Commitment to Action, the Special Collections & University Archives Department, specifically the Digital Archiving Lab, was tasked with captioning a series of filmed class lectures of James Farmer. These date from 1987, when Dr. Farmer was Commonwealth Professor in History at what was then Mary Washington College. Captioning the videos will make the videos accessible for those who have hearing impairments. Transcripts are also very important to include in audiovisual collections and had been previously created by Laura Donahue ’12, Michelle Martz ’12, Kelsey Matthews ’13, and Caitlin Murphy ’12, students in Dr. Jeffrey McClurken’s 2012 Adventures in Digital History class for their website on James Farmer’s Reflections Lectures.

The basic captioning process went as follows:

First, the videos were uploaded to YouTube. YouTube was chosen as it automatically captions videos, so the words and timings would already be there. However, you have to use Creator Studio Classic, not YouTube Studio Beta, as the latter does not do captioning. This took about 10-15 minutes, as it includes both the time for uploading and processing.

Screenshot of YouTube showing a video is being uploaded, as referenced in Step 1.

Videos can be uploaded to YouTube for automatic captioning.

Then, the automated captions were edited. YouTube automated captions can often not be particularly accurate. However, as James Farmer’s voice was so clear and he spoke relatively slowly, the captions were more accurate. Most of the editing was to add punctuation, which automated captions do not have, and check for spelling mistakes, mostly of names. For example, YouTube does not recognize that Fredericksburg is an actual name, so it would misspell it in the same way in every video (the automated captions may have been wrong, but at least they were consistent!). Another name that YouTube did not recognize was CORE, Farmer’s Civil Rights organization, which it would often misspell as “core,” all lowercase. It also did not recognize another frequently talked about organization: the Civil Rights organization, SNCC. I found it easier to edit wording and adjust timing in YouTube than in Adobe Premiere Pro, so most of the editing was done at this stage. While the times varied between videos, as some were a little shorter than others, and some videos’ captions were more correct than others, it would often take around an hour plus to complete the work.

Screenshot of YouTube in which captions of a video are being edited, as referenced in Step 2.

In YouTube, you can edit automatic captions through Creator Studio Classic.

Once the captions were done, they were downloaded then uploaded with the .mpg clip into Adobe Premiere Pro. The captions were lined up and the wording was checked to make sure nothing had happened between YouTube and Adobe Premiere. One common issue was that instead of quotation marks in the captions there would be stars. Another common issue was that text would stretch nicely across the YouTube video, but on the Adobe video the text would run off the video, the line of text being too long, and then the text would be cut off.

Both of these issues required scanning through the text and editing any mistakes in the captions and adjusting the length of the lines of the text if they were too long, adding another 5 to 20 minutes of time to fully complete the work.

Screenshot of Adobe Premiere Pro in which captions of a video are being edited, as referenced in Step 3.

In Adobe Premiere Pro, captions can be edited after they’ve been inserted into the project.

Finally, the videos were exported with the captions from Adobe Premiere Pro, which embeds the captions into the videos. This took between 3-4 minutes per video.

Screenshot of Adobe Premiere Pro depicting a video being exported as referenced in Step 4.

After uploading and editing videos in Adobe Premiere Pro, the videos can be exported into a single, open-captioned video.

Overall, captioning the videos was both an enjoyable and educational project. While editing, there were times I would listen to a sentence or two over and over again to make sure the wording was correct. James Farmer really was a fantastic orator! I also learned a great deal about the Civil Rights Movement. Growing up what I learned about the Civil Rights Movement was surface-level and never for very long. These videos allow for people to learn and understand the history, events, and people of the Civil Rights Movement from someone who was involved in and personally led the movement. Listening to Farmer made it more personal and impactful to me, as it was not just words in a textbook but a person, with his memories and emotions, talking about his experiences. It was not always pleasant to listen to, as he would talk about discrimination, violent racism, and even death, but I always left more knowledgeable on the subject and ruminating on the past, present, and future.

Both captioned and uncaptioned videos along with the transcripts are now available on Simpson Library’s Digital Collections platform. We would also like to give special thanks to the many colleagues at UMW and other institutions who gave wonderful advice on this process!

November 26, 2019

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

Student Aide, Summer 2019

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Written by Special Collections & University Archives Student Aide, Terra Dickinson

For Summer 2019 I worked as the Special Collections and Digital Archiving Lab student aide helping the department with a little bit of everything throughout my time. I started the summer session by doing small tasks. I inventoried The Battlefield yearbooks as well as The Polemics, created citations of old newspaper articles, documented new accessions in ArchivesSpace, and transferred metadata and pdf files from external hard drives to computers.  

As the summer went on, I began doing projects that took more time to complete. Most included digitizing photographs, scanning Honors theses using the Cobra scanner, as well as fulfilling reference requests. For the Centennial Image Collection project, I took the physical negatives that are stored in the archives and checked that all were scanned and uploaded into the digital collection. There were a few stragglers that still needed to be scanned. Here are some cool ones I added:

MWC Smokestack

MWC Smokestack

Chandler Hall image

Chandler Hall

As for the image requests, I downloaded high resolution files via the Centennial Image Collection. Here’s a photo of Marceline “Marcy” W. Morris, the drum major from Mary Washington’s All Girls Marching Band.  Check it out! I also transcribed the oral history of her time here at Mary Washington

All Girl Marching Band Members. From left to right: Phyllis Maddox, Jean Hawkins, Catherine-Rae Capizola, Maryanne Heatwole, and Marceline Weatherly (Morris), c. 1940s

All Girl Marching Band Members. From left to right: Phyllis Maddox, Jean Hawkins, Catherine-Rae Capizola, Maryanne Heatwole, and Marceline Weatherly (Morris), c. 1940s

My biggest project was the transcription of the oral histories. Spoken language and actual sentences, I found were two completely different things. When transcribing, the transcript shouldn’t include crutch words such as ‘ohs or uhms’, but still it shouldn’t be a grammatically perfect document, it should portray precisely what was said. I completed two transcripts of World War II vets that used the GI bill to attend Mary Washington College and two of their wives interviews as well. The first one took the longest but the more I transcribed the easier it got, but I still got the occasional inaudible! There are many different guides and handbooks to follow from different oral history groups and the Special Collections and University Archives does not have their own handbook yet, so sometimes I had to make my best guess as to what made sense. It was very interesting to hear about how the campus used to be in the 1940s and 1950s.  Who knew that the all-girls Mary Washington College allowed World War II veterans to attend?   

Mary Washington College Veterans, 1948

Mary Washington College Veterans, 1948

This summer working in Special Collections and the Digital Archiving Lab has been a great experience. It was so interesting to interact with people’s memories of Mary Washington and all that has been collected in the University Archives.  


August 1, 2019