Category Archives: Uncategorized

New Publications Added to Digital Collections

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In August, three new publications were added to our Digital Collections: Prometheus, Static, and the Blue & Gray Press. These publications, all from different decades of Mary Washington’s history, provide unique insight into campus life and events. All of the publications are available as full-text PDFs that can be searched and viewed directly in the digital collections and/or downloaded. In addition to the added discoverability of having these publications online, the digital files are actively preserved to prevent future data loss.

Screenshot of the University Publications digital collection. Ten sub-collections, representing ten individual publications, are displayed.

The University Publications collection continues to be updated with new digitized collections.


Check out the following publications in our Digital Collections:

Cover page of a Prometheus newspaper issue, displaying the newspaper header at the top and a large photograph of Bonnie Raitt performing on stage.

The Prometheus was published from October 1977 until October 1978.

The Prometheus was a progressive-activist student newspaper published bi-weekly from October 1977 to October 1978. It was published concurrently to the Bullet, the “official” student newspaper. Prometheus staff included Michael Mello ‘79, who went on to become an attorney, professor and criminal justice system activist.

Front cover of a Static issue, displaying the title in white letters against a black background.

The Static was the official newsletter of WMWC.

The Static was the official newsletter of campus radio station, WMWC, published from October 1991 through 1994. The newsletters often included program schedules, commentary, upcoming releases, and more. For more information about the history of WMWC, check out our Spring 2021 guest blog post by Ryan A. MacMichael ‘98: WMWC: Forgotten Campus Legacy, 1939-2021.

Cover page of a Blue & Gray newspaper issue, displaying the Blue & Gray Press newspaper header and two cover stories.

The Blue & Gray Press is the current student newspaper at the University of Mary Washington.

The Blue & Gray Press is the current student newspaper at the University of Mary Washington. Since this paper is a continuation of the Bullet, it is published in the “Student Newspaper” collection along with its predecessor. This collection will continue to be updated as new issues of the Blue & Gray Press are published. Current articles are always available on the Blue & Gray Press website.

September 3, 2021

Celebrating our Fifth Anniversary

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Before 2020 ends, I wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate the 5th anniversary of our Spinning Wheel blog. Named for one of Mary Washington’s oldest icons (present on the University’s first seal), it connects us to the school’s founding in 1908. But more importantly, the wheel’s forward motion symbolizes the University’s many changes through the years and beckons us to explore new, exciting ways of providing researchers with access to our collections and in meeting our preservation goals.

Thank you to each of you that have joined us on our blogging journey, as we write about the collections, UMW history, digital projects, new accessions, exhibits, services, records management, student reflections and more. This year has been difficult for everyone, and the staff in Special Collections and University Archives are grateful that our posts are an additional way we can communicate with each of you.

So whether it is to learn about our new projects, like this year’s captioning of the James Farmer Lectures series or revisit old favorites, like our post from Reunion Weekend’s History Harvest, we invite you to join us  here in 2021.

Happy Holidays!

December 18, 2020

Summer Reflections during COVID-19

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Written by Special Collections & University Archives Student Aide, Megan Williams,’21

The Coronavirus pandemic has challenged and changed our world in unprecedented ways. It definitely also changed the plans I had for this year!

When the University closed I decided to take some time off from my work in Special Collections and University Archives to focus on my courses and apply for museum internships. This time was useful for my schoolwork, because last semester I was working on four different research projects! Additionally, it allowed me to find some unique and exciting internships. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 all the internships that I applied for were canceled leaving me without an internship for the summer. Luckily my position in Special Collections and University Archives was still open, allowing me to do some work in my field of interest.

Working over the summer was definitely an interesting experience, because I completed most of my hours from home. As most know from this whole experience working from home has its benefits and its downfalls. One of my favorite things was being able to have my Miniature Dachshund puppy, Blu, as my co-worker! While it was fun to work from home with him, I missed being able to work with items in the collection.

A daschund sleeps next to a computer.
My remote co-worker, Blu.

For the limited time when I was on-site at the Library, I worked on inventorying the student and faculty directories and accessions.

Student directories on a table.

But for most of the summer, the closest I got to items in the collection was going through editing the items in the History 298 Michael Mello Collection. Mello was an alum who advocated against the death penalty and other issues related to criminal justice. The items in this collection are primarily newspaper clippings and legal writings that Mello kept in detailed binders.

The purpose of this project is to get students in History 298 to digitize, transcribe, and describe items within the Michael Mello Collection. Since this site has been created over time by different students, the metadata is not always consistent. Having inconsistent metadata creates an issue for researchers accessing the content. Therefore my role for the summer was to go through the site’s 221 items to make sure that the proper metadata fields were filled out and that the transcripts were complete. This project was a lot of work and is definitely an ongoing one.

HIST298 Michael Mello Collection site

While the past six months have not been what I or anyone expected for 2020, I have definitely learned a lot from this experience! I am excited to see what the rest of this year brings and hope to be back on campus full-time come January of 2021. To those reading this post – stay safe, remember to social distance, and that it’s a great day to be an Eagle!

October 16, 2020

Special Collections & University Archives: Fall 2020

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Tomorrow begins the first day of classes at Mary Washington, and it will be different from any semester in the history of the University.  The first three weeks of the semester will be conducted remotely, and then there will be a window when students are able to return to campus before continuing their education remotely again after Thanksgiving.

Students and staff are masked ready for the opening of campus.

Tomorrow also marks the first day Special Collections & University Archives will be open by appointment to UMW students, staff and faculty since March 18.  In accordance with the University’s Return to Campus plan, our department has instituted guidelines to protect the health and safety of our researchers.

Special Collections & University Archives Reading Room

On-site access will be by appointment only at Appointments will allow for cleaning in between researchers and give staff time to pull your materials in advance. As a precautionary measure during COVID-19, collections materials will also be quarantined following use. Researchers are required to wear a face covering, maintain 6 feet of physical distance from others during their visit, and wash their hands when handling materials.  Our SC&UA reading room and Digital Archiving Lab are both small, interior spaces and access will be limited to one person at a time along with a staff member.

Social distancing 2 person capacity sign

The SC&UA staff will continue to assist you remotely, as we have been all summer, and are available for research assistance and consultations by Zoom, Teams, or email. You can also access our many digital collections remotely.

Continue to contact us remotely with your research, instruction and digital archiving needs and thank you for your patience as we adapt our services in this uncertain environment. 

August 23, 2020

A Call to Contribute

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Today, we are all finding our way through a crisis that future students and scholars will be studying in the years ahead. We know that it is important to preserve as much of the record as possible for future researchers. Staff in Special Collections & University Archives are archiving the University’s response to COVID-19. However, there are important materials that we cannot collect without your help: individual stories. If you’re a UMW community member and have been keeping a record of these events and how they’ve impacted your life, please consider donating them to University Archives in the future. If you haven’t, please consider this a call to write and help us document this unprecedented global crisis.

Photograph of student sitting at the reading room table, holding and studying small bound materials from University Archives.

Archival materials detailing the University of Mary Washington’s history are used in many research projects.

Many of you love to use pencil and paper, and we would be happy to archive original documents and creative works. For example, University Archives currently has over 80 scrapbooks in our collection spanning the decades of UMW’s history. Many represent other major events in our history, such as World War II. Today’s students, staff, and alumni spend hours perusing these materials and we can only imagine that future additions to this collection detailing recent world events will be studied in much the same way. Primary source materials in Special Collections & University Archives can inform many student projects, such as the 2014 digital history project, Century America: The State Normal School and Fredericksburg, VA, 1914-1919, which discusses the impacts of World War I and the Spanish influenza on the college and community. If you keep a handwritten journal, sketchbook, diary, scrapbook, etc. and would like to donate scans of the item but keep the original, that would also be great! Once your journal is complete, we would be happy to create high-resolution scans in the Digital Archiving Lab and return the original to you.

One image showing both a left and right page of a scrapbook. One large black and white photograph is pasted on each page. In both photographs, a group of women are standing around a counter. The counter has a large "V" on the front of it. Above the photograph on the left page, the word "Stamps!!" is written. On the right page, the word "Bonds!!" is written above the photograph.

This “Victory Book” details students’ relief efforts during World War II. It is just one scrapbook among many in Special Collections & University Archives.

There are also many who prefer to create records through a digital medium, such as blogging or podcasting.  We are able to archive many of these formats as well; in fact, that is how we accomplish much of our current collecting. As the majority of news, announcements, and reactions to COVID-19 are published digitally, we are actively using our web archiving tools to collect websites, videos, social media, and more. Take a look at our UMW Blogs collection to see how your website might look in a digital archive, or view our web archives to see some of the digital information we are gathering.

A screenshot of an archived version of UMW's Twitter feed. It has a yellow banner across the top of the page warning users that this is an archived page and may not contain the most recent information. The top post on the Twitter page is UMW's March 18th message, announcing UMW's decision to not return to normal operations this semester.

Web archiving technologies allow Special Collections and University Archives staff to collect historically important changes to UMW’s web presence, such as updates on the University’s operating status via Twitter.

If you decide that you would like to record these events but aren’t yet sure about donating them to University Archives, we understand, and we’re happy to provide any help that we can. The Library of Congress offers an exhaustive list of personal archiving tips, covering a wide range of formats. We also recommend for archiving your own website. If you would like to read more about other universities’ efforts to archive the COVID-19 crisis, projects at Indiana University Bloomington and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee are great places to start!

If you have questions about archiving your content (or anything else!), please contact us at We are all still working remotely and will respond to your inquiries. For more information about Special Collections & University Archives resources and services during this time, please visit our “Online Resources for Faculty and Students” guide.

March 26, 2020

Preserving the History of UMW’s Stafford Campus

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Written by Caitlin DeMarco, Stafford Library Assistant

While the campus in Fredericksburg, with its clock tower and old buildings are familiar to many, down Route 17 in Stafford there exists another, smaller campus. Originally called the James Monroe Center, the Stafford Campus began holding graduate level classes with the opening of the South Building in 1999. In 2007 the North Building opened, providing the campus with, among many other things, the large University Hall that has been used for everything from job search forums to blood drives. The North Building was renamed the Gates Hudson Building in 2015. 

Commencement, Stafford Campus South Building, 2003

Commencement, Stafford Campus South Building, 2003

Graduate classes were joined by professional studies classes when the name changed from the James Monroe Center to the College of Graduate and Professional Studies. Graduate classes are often held at night, and students commute to the campus, often after work and from areas further afield, even from Washington D.C. and the surrounding northern Virginia counties.  

For the past few years, I have been helping process the Stafford Campus Records, mostly containing documents from the early years of the campus. The collection consists of several boxes of early photographs, as well as VHS tapes of the groundbreaking and other events on the campus. Stafford Library also has records detailing how the different programs on campus were accredited, as well as the  correspondence of people influential to the creation of the Stafford Campus, such as Meta Braymer, the former Vice President for Graduate and Professional Studies. The Stafford Campus Records can be viewed by request at the Stafford Campus Library.

Meta Braymer and Virginia State Senator John Chichester cut the ribbon for the opening of the South Building, 1999

Meta Braymer and Virginia State Senator John Chichester cut the ribbon for the opening of the South Building, 1999

As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Stafford Campus, it is remarkable to trace its beginnings through pictures and records. A lot of work and heart went into creating this campus, and I have enjoyed sharing and preserving its history for the future. 

The Stafford Campus Gate Hudson Building built in 2007

The Stafford Campus Gate Hudson Building built in 2007


August 16, 2019

Commencement: Mary Washington Style, 1911-2019

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In celebration of Mary Washington’s 108th Commencement, Special Collections and University Archives staff curated the exhibit, Commencement: Mary Washington Style, 1911-2019. On display through July 31, the exhibit highlights Mary Washington’s Commencement changes and milestones through the years.

The exhibit includes the University’s first commencement program and one of its earliest diplomas.

Photograph of the light tan cover of the First Commencement Program, 1912

First Commencement Program, 1912

Professional Elementary Certificate, State Normal School, June 10, 1912

Professional Elementary Certificate, State Normal School, June 10, 1912

In 1910 the State Normal & Industrial School for Women (University of Mary Washington) was approved to offer professional elementary studies. This program proved to be very popular, certifying graduates for primary and grammar school teaching. University Archives’ earliest diploma is from this period, 1912, and these first graduates completed their studies in 1911. The first students to complete the longer two year Normal School program graduated in 1913. The class size numbered thirty-two, and all students were from Virginia.

Other “firsts” and traditions showcased in the display are:
Graduation in the Amphitheatre

The Amphitheatre was completed in May, 1923, and that year graduation moved from Monroe Hall to the “Open Air Theatre”. The Battlefield,, 1923

Amphitheatre, The Battlefield, 1923

The Amphitheatre was completed in May, 1923, and that year graduation moved from Monroe Hall to the “Open Air Theatre”.

The Daisy Chain tradition

One of the annual events of the early commencements was the creation of the daisy chain. It was the task of the freshmen to gather daisies and tie them into bunches, fashioning the finished chain. Graduates receiving two-year diplomas carried the chain into the amphitheater and laid it on the sides as a decorative backdrop. The daisy chain continued to be a feature of Class Day exercises until 1942.

One of the annual events of the early commencements was the creation of the daisy chain. It was the task of the freshmen to gather daisies and tie them into bunches, fashioning the finished chain. Graduates receiving two-year diplomas carried the chain into the Amphitheater and laid it on the sides as a decorative backdrop. The daisy chain continued to be a feature of Class Day exercises until 1942.

The First African-American Graduate and Early Male Graduates

The Battlefield, 1968 and 1971

Venus R. Jones, ‘68 (left) was Mary Washington’s first African-American graduate, earning a degree in Chemistry in 1968 after just 3 years. Jones would go on to earn her MD from the University of Virginia’s medical school, breaking gender boundaries at the graduate level. 

Joseph Grimes (right) was one of four male Mary Washington graduates, receiving his history diploma in 1972. However, back in 1929, President Combs allowed male students to attend in the summer only. Many of these men completed their degrees in the 1930s through their summer school attendance.

First Graduate Level Commencement

The James Monroe Center (now the UMW Stafford Campus) walked their first graduate students in 2001 on Ball Circle. Through the years the graduate commencement ceremonies have been held at both the Stafford and the Fredericksburg Campuses. 

James Monroe Center Graduation, 2003

James Monroe Center Graduation, 2003

Introduction of the Eagle Pipe Band

Eagle Pipe Band, Commencement, 2006

Eagle Pipe Band, Commencement, 2006

The Eagle Pipe Band, suggested by piper and Chemistry professor, Dr. Ray Scott, was an immediate success, becoming a regular part of Commencement since its initial 1993 performance.

UMW Graduate waving, Class of 2016

UMW Graduate, Class of 2016

The history of graduation at Mary Washington is much more expansive and rich than can be captured in this short post. So stop in this summer and see “the rest of the story” along with many of  the original diplomas, documents, and photographs in Special Collections & University Archives.

“Congratulations, Class of 2019!”

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

Currently all UMW Commencement Programs are digitized and available online at:

Special thanks to Caitlin DeMarco, Stafford Library Assistant, and Ilana Bleich, Special Collections Student Assistant for their research assistance on Commencement: Mary Washington Style, 1911-2019.

May 10, 2019

Preservation Week 2019

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Each year at the end of April, cultural heritage institutions around the world celebrate Preservation Week, a time when places such as libraries and museums work to bring awareness to preservation issues affecting collections everywhere, even personal collections held by individuals. Without long-term care and preservation planning, many of the items we feel are important and should be saved for personal or community memories will find themselves in precarious situations, from uncontrollable environmental disasters to fast-paced innovation leaving obsolete technology in its wake. While the care and maintenance of our materials can sometimes feel overwhelming, even the smallest steps can make a big difference!

Official logo for Preservation Week. The main text is "Preservation Week" with smaller text just above it that says "Pass it on" followed by a trail of dots that fall into an hour glass. The URL to the ALA's preservation week webpage is at the bottom.

April 21-27 is Preservation Week this year. You can find out more information by visiting the American Library Association’s Preservation Week resource page.

A good place to start for the long-term preservation of important physical and digital materials is simply awareness, which is what Preservation Week is all about! Did you know that storing photographic prints in acid-free enclosures is better for long-term security and stability? Did you know that you can create archival captures of your website, even if you don’t plan on continuing to host or update it? If so, please share with your friends and family! A lot of individuals who aren’t regularly involved in cultural heritage fields may not even know about the possibilities for preserving their treasures, so just talking about preservation and doing some brief research can have a positive impact on the outlook for many of these items.

Once long-term preservation is on your mind, it’s time to create a plan. It’s okay to start small, and the plan might even be to move a few digital files off of your desktop to external hard drives and cloud storage. (Just remember the principle behind LOCKSS, or Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe)! You might also consider prioritizing your items, whether that means the time that you can spend ensuring their preservation or the funding it might take to have more complex items digitized for you. It’s also important to take a proactive approach to preservation. For example, you might be going back and preserving items that you created or acquired years ago, but what about that website you will be starting on tomorrow? Building preservation into your project plan from the start could reduce accidental losses later, or scrambling to find preservation tools at the last minute.

Screenshot of the library's digital collections page, featuring thumbnails of six different UMW Blog sites that have been archived.

If websites are created with preservation in mind, it can be easier to archive them later. Check out some of the websites Special Collections staff have been able to archive at

Finally, proceed bravely! It can be intimidating to try and figure out the best way to preserve and care for your materials, particularly if it involves complex, new technologies, but there are lots of resources out there and professionals in the field willing to help. You might even try making it a goal to attempt one new tool or technique a month to preserve your materials. (We’ve recently been testing out for preserving individual websites!) A great place to start is the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services “Saving Your Stuff” or our own Digitization Tips post. And, don’t forget, you can always stop by your local library or museum for additional help with finding resources!

Photograph of the Digital Archiving Lab, showing a room with computers, flatbed scanners, a large book scanner, and a large wall-mounted monitor.

Staff in the Digital Archiving Lab are happy to help with your digital preservation questions. Make an appointment by emailing

April 25, 2019

Digital Archiving Lab Intern, Spring 2019

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Written by Digital Archiving Lab Intern, Shaheen Fazel ’19.

In January of 2019, I began interning with the Digital Archiving Lab at Simpson Library. My background includes working and volunteering at public libraries and museums; however, I had absolutely no prior experience working with digital archives and collections. Simply being involved in this type of environment was incredibly educational.

My major is in Sociology, and I am minoring in Museum Studies. I pursued this internship in hopes that it would give me the experience of working in an archival setting. I was hoping to have an understanding of how a digital archive works. This internship has helped me decide that I am definitely planning on pursuing a Master’s in Library and Information Science, as I would like to become a librarian in the future. Working in the Digital Archiving Lab, I was able to experience different types of work that a digital archives and library deals with every day.

Some of my duties for this internship included digitizing and processing materials, specifically photographs from the UMW University Relations & Communications photo collection. I also had the responsibility of creating and writing descriptive metadata to go along with each of the photos. This eventually will be uploaded in the UMW Libraries’ Digital Collections for everyone to see. Scanning these photos was a great experience, as I had previously never dealt with handling items that have been significant to UMW’s history.

Before the semester ends, I will also have the opportunity to create my own exhibit! I will be able to freely pick the subject of my exhibition. Creating an online exhibit will allow me to understand what it is like to construct and display a public collection. However, the most interesting part of this internship so far is looking at every single photograph and the context behind it. Some of the pictures that stood out to me the most were group photos of students and/or alumni taken at special events, such as Homecoming and Reunion Weekend.  It’s amazing to see different generations of Mary Washington alumnae and students over the years. The photographs across the decades show how much the University has changed!

A photograph of about 23 alumni standing in front of a brick building for a group photo.

The class of 1942 gathers for a photo at the 1987 Mary Washington College Homecoming. UMW University Relations & Communications collection, Special Collections & University Archives.

Photograph of a large group of alumni sitting and standing close together for a group photo. They are in front of a tent on a large, grassy hill.

The class of 1977 gathers for a photo at the 1987 Mary Washington College Homecoming. UMW University Relations & Communications collection, Special Collections & University Archives.

Overall, I’ve learned so much about the programs and technology used for this internship. I’ve become more comfortable with Adobe Photoshop, as well as using Microsoft Excel. I was able to learn the archival practices in regard to digital preservation and organization! Due to my experiences interning for the Digital Archiving Lab, I feel as if I have developed skills and knowledge. This internship position has also further shaped my goals in terms of my future career as a librarian.

April 1, 2019

Archives in the News

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Happy new year, everyone! After a snowy start to the semester, classes began here at UMW on Tuesday and we’re all excited to dive into our 2019 projects. We’ve got a few interesting things coming up that we’re looking forward to sharing with our community, and it’s already shaping up to be a busy year. While we work away on our endeavors and hammer out the details of future blog post topics, we wanted to share with you some neat ways archives and special collections have popped up in the news lately.

Copyright law enthusiasts and lovers of archival materials celebrated this January 1, known in some circles as Public Domain Day. January 1, 2019, marked the first time in over twenty years that published works entered the public domain. This means that works from 1923, previously covered by copyright restrictions, are now freely available for anyone to use! Duke University Law’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain has a very informative site explaining why 2019 is such an important year in copyright law.

The list of newly open materials includes films by Charlie Chaplain, literature by Edith Wharton and Virginia Woolf, and a song called Yes! We Have No Bananas. But this is just a small sampling of the thousands of works that now reside in the public domain. Duke’s site lists many more, and an article from Motherboard provides some helpful tips about how to download all the new free stuff.

Title page of a book that reads: The World Crisis v. 1, 1911-1914, by the Right Honorable Winston S. Churchill. First Lord of the Admiralty 1911-1915. New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1924

The World Crisis, by Sir Winston Churchill, is now one of the books freely available in the public domain.

Going much further back in the archives than 1923, NPR recently reported on a discovery that could change the way scholars understand the production of medieval illuminated manuscripts. Scientists discovered lapis lazuli in a dental sample of an 850-year-old female skeleton. Considering the extreme expense and relative unavailability of lapis lazuli at the time, the discovery suggests that the woman may have been a scribe, countering the somewhat prevailing idea that it was only male monks responsible for the artistry seen in medieval texts. The theory, noted in the article, posits that the artist would moisten the tip of a paintbrush in her mouth to bring the bristles to a point. The pigment would leave behind a residue that built up over time.

An example of a medieval illuminated manuscript, depicting ornate text and four scenes in the life of David, enclosed in a large decorative letter "D".

An example of illuminated manuscript. Saul and David, in “The Bohun Psalter and Hours” (England, 14th century): London, British Museum, MS Egerton 3277, f.29v

The last interesting little item we’d like to bring to your attention is one that hits close to home for those of us who work in archives and otherwise help preserve cultural history. Earlier this month, the New Yorker published an article describing a “lost story by Sylvia Plath.” A researcher “stumbled over it” while studying Plath’s archives, housed at Indiana University in the Lilly Library. The New Yorker’s treatment of Plath’s early work, “Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom,” is a good and worthwhile read, but even better is the response from the library’s twitter account.

That’s right, everyone–items in archives are definitely not lost! We’re always exploring ways to increase the discoverability of our collections for our many users. In the spirit of discovering that which might be “lost,” we invite you to explore our digital collections and our finding aids, and to come visit us in person here in Special Collections!

January 17, 2019