Behind the scenes of the Presidential Portraits Tour

This week’s post was written by Caroline Turner ’17, a volunteer in the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections and a future archivist!

When I first heard the presidential portraits were getting moved out of the library, I was initially stunned and more than a little unnerved. How would I be able to work on the first floor without the presidents smiling down encouragingly (or glaring down ominously)? To me, the portraits represented Davidson’s leadership and tradition as well as the college’s arc through time. As a history and art history double major, I felt like the portraits held a special place all together on the library wall, watching all the students working (or socializing). But as I found out more about the project, I knew I wanted to get involved.

Former Presidential library corner

Former Presidential library corner

Portrait of Walter Lingle - holding students to higher standards.

Portrait of Walter Lingle – holding students to higher standards.

I work with Jan Blodgett in the Archives on the second floor of the library, and with Lia Newman in the College Art Galleries over in the VAC. By working in both environments, I had learned the tools of both trades, which would come in handy as I navigated between the art and the history. I was tasked with researching each president and his experience at Davidson and then writing the accompanying label for the portrait, including information about the president’s life and presidency, as well as tidbits about the artist and portrait itself. Each president would be given a new place of honor based on his personal legacy, and I would connect the place to the president in the label.

I worked from most recent president (Thomas Warren Ross), backwards. I began by pulling out each president’s clipping file from the archives and reading through. I expected to quickly find, somewhere near the back of the file, a summary of each president’s contributions to Davidson, perhaps with an announcement of his retirement. But as I opened each file, I found masses of information and I quickly forgot my plan to skip to the back. Often there were cautious announcements of the new president, clipped from The Davidsonian and The Charlotte Observer. Who was he? What will he do? What has his experience been? Then I found invitations to inaugurations, wrapped in tissue paper. Then came the pictures of each president at athletic events, the Cake Races, and speaking at Commencements. These middle pieces were filled with gems.

Tom Ross penned this Davidsonian article to introduce himself.

Tom Ross penned this Davidsonian article to introduce himself.

One of my personal favorite finds was a debacle resulting from President Bobby Vagt hosting a party for graduating seniors. The Charlotte Observer wrote an article titled “Beer, pizza at college bash? Yes, and president’s buying,” in which the author tsked tsked for a president caring more about being popular among, and having fun with, students than about being respected and attending to important college business. Comments streamed in supporting President Vagt, and admiring his dance moves. One local said parents should be grateful their children were attending parties with the “best qualified chaperone.” It was clear from the other notes and Davidsonian articles that I found in President Vagt’s file that the students held him in high regard.


Charlotte Observer headline

Charlotte Observer headline

President Vagt in a more serious pose

President Vagt in a more serious pose


Another fun moment for me was finding out that one of the portraitists never existed. When I got to Dr. Grier Martin’s portrait, I searched for information on the artist, Charles J. Fox. I found some scanty information on how he was a New York businessman and artist, but not a whole lot more. But then I found that Charles J. Fox was actually a pseudonym for Leo Fox, who was actually a New York businessman. He had photographs sent to him for portraits but then sent them right on to Irving Resnikoff, a Russian immigrant. Resnikoff was trained as an artist in St. Petersburg and left Russia in 1917 to go to New York City. He never met any of the people he depicted in portraits, which included many leading figures in government, including John F. Kennedy as well as our President Martin.


D. Grier Martin portrait.

D. Grier Martin portrait.

I also enjoyed delving deeper into the history of Davidson and realizing how different the College was in its earlier days. I had to blink when I read one quote from a student who said that Reverend John Rood Cunningham “possessed a magnetic presence when riding his horse” and I suppressed a chuckle when I read that President Morrison (who reigned over Davidson from 1836-1840) was in charge of corporal punishment of the 60 boys that attended. He accompanied his physical punishment with a long prayer for the penitence of the sinning boy. One source noted that many boys simply requested two beatings if they could skip the prayer.

Davidson's first president as painted by his daughter.

Davidson’s first president as painted by his daughter.

I found that poring over the presidencies gave each president a more individual life. No longer were they a row of former presidents scolding me for going on Facebook when I should be writing my history essay. Now I think of Reverend Cunningham when I pass by Belk, which was built during his presidency. I think of  the raving reviews of students and faculty alike of President Vagt’s “Donut Wednesdays” when I pass through Chambers lobby. I think of Dr. Kuykendall when a friend discusses their Dean Rusk grant, since the Dean Rusk Program was established under his leadership.

To me, the presidents have become individual leaders and representations of Davidson’s evolution. I hope that their placement and labels encourage students to learn more about the College’s history and connect more with each president. Hopefully the presidential portraits will no longer be just faces of presidents past, but instead will become individuals with stories and experiences that connect with current students, faculty, staff, and visitors.

Happy Retirement, Bill Giduz!

This week marks the retirement of Bill Giduz (Class of 1974), the roving campus Director of Photography & News Writer. Bill on his bike, trekking around campus in search of the best photos, has been a familiar sight to many Davidsonians throughout the years. Bill’s author biography for the Davidson Journal, written in 2014, describes him this way:

Bill Giduz’s association with Davidson began in 1970 when he enrolled as a freshman. Nine years later he attended his fifth reunion, learned of an opening in the communications department, and has now worked gratefully in that office for 34 years. He commutes on two wheels, juggles on Sunday afternoons and regularly plays basketball with much quicker young men.

He is also a joggler, as chronicled in the Huffington Post in 2015. While Bill is most familiar as the person behind the camera, this week’s blog reflects on his years at Davidson through another lens – pictures of Bill Giduz, rather than by Bill Giduz! Fortunately we have several images of Bill throughout his Davidson career in the archives:

The first image of Bill Giduz comes from the 1970 Wildcat Handbook, the freshman handbook at Davidson.

Just two years later, this is Bill as a sophmore in 1972 – one of the advantages (or disadvantages) of retiring from your alma mater is that there many pictures in the archives to draw upon.

Bill’s senior photo, in the 1974 Quips and Cranks.

Ten year alumni reunion for the Class of 1974, April 1984. Bill is on the far right.

Two images of Bill Giduz from the college’s personnel directory, 1983 – 1990.

Bill with Eugenia Deaton, then Vice President of First Union National Bank in Davidson, on the occasion of her birthday and retirement in 1985.

Rusk Scholars in 1986, pictured with their host families, including Bill and Ellen Giduz. Ellen is currently the manager of the Davidson and Cornelius branches of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, and previously worked at Davidson College as a librarian, visiting lecturer, and adjunct professor.

Davidson employees gather around a cake with icing spelling out “Congratulations Davidson, 2,007,481, 41.7%” at a Development retreat in 1986. Bill is seated far right, next to the cake.

The faculty/staff intramural basketball team in 1987. Bill is on the far left.

Undated (circa early 1980s) image of College Communications staff. Bill Giduz is in the front, and Melanie Bookout, John Slater, and Pat Burgess are in the back.

Personnel directory photographs of Bill, 1990 – 1996. A handwritten note on the back of these photos reads “Zoro!” [sic], likely a reference to the 1950s TV series.

College Communications staff in front of the Copeland House in 1990. From left to right: Jerry Stockdale, Bill Giduz, Pat Burgess, Barbara Mayer, Amy Burkesmith, Michele Miller, and Mike Van Hecke.

The most recent personnel directory photograph of Bill Giduz that we have in the archives is this one from 1996 – 1999.

Bill Giduz and Meg Kimmel stand with a student at the Belk Scholarship Awards Ceremony in 2000.

Bill Giduz has been a valued member of the staff of Davidson College for 37 years, and will continue to be a important part of the Davidson community – happy retirement, Bill!


There’s an irony in the heading Extracurricular.  The Davidson Encyclopedia has 4 new entries on student extracurricular activities –in that they were written as curricular requirement. Students in a first year writing class on Leisure and Play spent weeks last fall learning about Davidson history through the lens of out of class experiences.

They worked in teams around 4 topics: honorary fraternities, independent student organizations,  oversight or coordinating boards, and political engagement.  Each group focused on a subset of organizations developing brief histories and sharpened their archival skills finding photographs and scanning Davidsonians.

The activity planning boards group wrote about the Interfraternity Council (once known as the Pan-Hellenic Council and now part of Patterson Court Council), the Publications (now Media Board) and the Union Board (still functioning as the Union Board).  They discovered stories of streaking and frolics, self-selection controversies and literary magazines.

Frolicing with flowcharts in 1992

Frolicing with flowcharts in 1992

Research around honorary fraternities focused on the sciences, economics and music with Sigma Pi Sigma, Gamma Sigma Epsilon and Omicron Delta Epsilon and Phi Mu Alpha. Unexpected stories uncovered for this group included Davidson’s role in publishing a chemistry journal (serious work but with a few chemical jokes added in),  our first female professor in economics,  outdoors experiments on Chambers lawn, and the tradition of interfraternity sings.

ODE in 1966

ODE in 1966

Changes in student social life and service activities in the 21st century made some of the experiences of around independent student groups intriguing for our student researchers. Anyone remember Lingle Manor, Alpha Phi Omega or any of the co-ed eating houses:

Lingle Manor the building, home once to Lingle Manor, the student organization.

Lingle Manor the building, home once to Lingle Manor, the student organization.

Today’s students found more in common with the political and social groups. Although only one group, the College Republicans, still exists, the concerns of the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) and Just Peace continue in new expressions.


You are invited to explore these new encyclopedia entries and the intersection of the history of extracurricular life and current writing curriculum.

Teachers & Lake Norman

What do you get when you bring 5 public school teachers to the archives?

An amazing amount of energy and a wonderful set of lesson plans designed around Lake Norman topics. Working with Dr. Hilton Kelly, professor of Sociology and chair of Educational Studies, the archives staff reached out to teachers to help us add a collection of learning activities to the Under the Lake site.

Celia Arch presenting her lesson plans

Celia Arch presenting her lesson plans

Along with gathering photos and stories about the lake, the we wanted the website to be a source for research and teaching. How better to bring the lake into the classroom than by having practicing teachers design and create online lessons?  Supported by the Duke Energy Foundation, we recruited local teachers. The 5 finalists were an amazing group and covered the full range of education – kindergarten to high school, mathematics to ESL to social studies and earth sciences. Together they created 11 different lesson plans, some with multiple activities.

Erik Dykes convincing fellow teachers and Little Library staff that maps and math can work tofgether.

Erik Dykes convincing fellow teachers and Little Library staff that maps and math can work tofgether.

The teachers are Celia Arch, Eric Dykes, JoCelyn Roundtree, Carolyn Singleton, Erika Williams.  In one intense week, they learned about Lake Norman, explored the website, learned WordPress and built their lessons. On Friday afternoon they presented their work to their peers and members of the library staff.  The instruction librarians came away with a great respect for the teachers grasp of pedagogy and some new ideas to try out on our students.

As part of the project, the archives team added a collection of digitized area maps to the website.  Included are Lake Norman maps, county maps, town of Davidson maps and college campus maps.

1963 map of newly created lake.

1963 map of newly created lake.

While the activities are geared toward classroom learning, anyone can test them out. Try brushing up on your math skills or write your own essay, draw a cartoon, share a rainy summer afternoon with a child learning together or explore the history the maps show us.

The lesson plan creation team: Eric Dykes, Celia Arch, JoCelyn Roundtree, Erika Williams, and Carolyn Singleton

The lesson plan creation team: Eric Dykes, Celia Arch, JoCelyn Roundtree, Erika Williams, and Carolyn Singleton


Digitizing “An Old Family Friend”: The Aubrey Neblett Brown, Jr. Scrapbook

This week’s post was written by Nancy Lingle, a volunteer in the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections. Nancy is a May 2016 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a Masters of Library and Information Studies degree, and works at the Davidson Branch of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Library.

Photos from a road trip with college buddies. The scores from an all-important football game.  Notes about family and friends.  An advertisement for shoes for $16.50.  Ticket stubs from a concert.  For many of us, these phrases sounds like things we might see on a typical Facebook or Instagram post.  But in this case I’m describing a book; to be more specific – a scrapbook from a member of the Davidson College Class of 1929. A scrapbook that does not belong to my family, but now feels like an old family friend.

Aubrey Neblett Brown, Jr's senior portrait, from the 1929 Quips and Cranks.

Aubrey Neblett Brown, Jr’s senior portrait, from the 1929 Quips and Cranks.

I came to know this scrapbook through a class assignment.  I am not a Davidson College student.  (In fact, based on my SAT scores, I’m pretty sure I would never have been admitted.) In pursuit of my MLIS degree at UNCG, I took a class in digital libraries. One option for my final class assignment was to find a local library and ask to work on one of their digital projects.  As a resident of Davidson and having been married to someone with long ties to the college, I was familiar with the archival work that the Davidson College Library had produced.  With fingers crossed, I emailed Jan Blodgett, the college archivist, and offered my services.  Jan, along with Sharon Byrd and Caitlin Christian-Lamb graciously tossed around some possible project ideas that I could work on.  They came up with digitizing a scrapbook, one of the 279 that have been collected by or donated to Davidson over the years. These scrapbooks are stored in the college archives – a veritable treasure trove of documents, photographs and other ephemera related to town and gown.

At first, I was slightly surprised by their choice of this project. With all the “important” books, manuscripts and photos that need to be digitized, I thought digitizing a personal scrapbook was something that should possibly be further down on the priority list.  How wrong I was.

Advertisement for women's shoes for , from a program for "The Girl Friend" at the Auditorium Theatre

Advertisement for women’s shoes for $12.50 to $16.50 , from a program for “The Girl Friend” at the Auditorium Theatre pasted onto page 79 of Aubrey Neblett Brown, Jr.’s scrapbook.

Why scrapbooks?  The reasons are many. Scrapbooks give us a more personal account of a period in history.  We can see what was important to an individual at a given time.  Newspaper articles, dance cards, photos showing clothing, hats and shoes all come together to paint a detailed picture and give us a higher degree of insight than a standard text book can offer. Digitizing a scrapbook, while adding descriptive and searchable metadata, adds to our collective resources and knowledge sharing abilities.  By making these resources available to the public, we can give others the opportunity to access material that would otherwise be nearly impossible to see.  Many college and university libraries have been working on digitizing their scrapbook collections. These scrapbooks are in very fragile states; their aging pages crumbling, disintegrating a little more every time we open each archival box. Preserving them for future generations is a worthy task.

The Process

Caitlin was very familiar with the Davidson scrapbook collection.   She herself had worked on a similar project when she was a graduate student at Simmons College so she understood with great clarity the details involved.  Of all the choices under consideration, we decided to digitize the scrapbook of Aubrey Neblett Brown, Jr. It had lots of nice details, many different types of items and at 82 pages, it seemed the perfect length. The goal was to preserve the scrapbook in a way that makes you feel like you are turning the pages of the actual item – viewing the scrapbook as it was intended to be seen.

Page 25 of the Brown scrapbook, with photographs of many Davidson College campus buildings and hand-drawn pencil animals (including two wildcats).

Page 25 of the Brown scrapbook, with photographs of many Davidson College campus buildings and hand-drawn animals (including two wildcats).

First came scanning. Each page of the scrapbook (and each page of each pamphlet or brochure within each page) was scanned and saved as a TIFF file.  The pages had to placed carefully on the scanner in an effort to keep them as intact as possible.  Sometimes we found pages stuck together either due to the adhesive (mucilage) or a staple.  Caitlin, using a scalpel with surgeon-like precision, removed the staples so we could easily access the individual pages. Sometimes items fell off.  Often I had to lift one delicate yellowed newspaper clipping to access another one beneath it.  One time, a headline that had lain folded for umpteen years crumbled in my hand.  While I felt terrible, it also made me realize how important it is to scan these documents so they can be preserved before more disintegration takes place. It turns out this 82-page scrapbook was really 311 pages when all was said and done. Scanning took 24.75 hours.

TIFF files are wonderful at preserving details but are also very large. The Omeka site we were using to host this project has a limitation in file size, so I converted each TIFF to a JPEG.  This is a fairly easy process and took only 5.5 hours.

Next, using Dublin Core, I added metadata to each page so the information could be found.  Some pages were relatively easy since they contained only one or two items.  When questions arose, Sharon patiently looked over my shoulder and help guide me to the correct description. The pages that were most challenging were ones that held copies of plays and programs containing the names of the actors, dancers and musicians.  Since our goal was to make the items searchable, I had to add each name that I found on each page. Mr. Brown loved to attend plays.  On page 79 there are 5 different play programs.  Since I was working on this project only 5-6 hours per week, it would occasionally take me that amount of time to add the metadata for just one page. Total time for adding metadata:  32 hours.

Page 79 of the Brown scrapbook - five play programs and a whole lot more!

Page 79 of the Brown scrapbook – five play programs and a whole lot more!

Finally, as I was wrapping up my semester, the metadata was complete.  With Caitlin’s expertise and guidance, we turned the project live (8.25 hours) just days before my semester ended.  Total time to digitize the Aubrey Neblett Brown Jr. scrapbook: 70.5 hours.

What Did I Learn?

Academically, I learned about the digitization processes, about different hosting sites, about the ways different institutions use Dublin Core as a metadata scheme, all the variables involved and the decisions that need to be made when creating a digital library project.

I also learned about life in Davidson from 1924 – 1929.  I learned that Mr. Brown kept a tidy room – there’s a note from Mrs. Black the dormitory supervisor telling him so. (Personally, as the mother of a college-age son, I find this extremely hard to believe.)  Photos told me who Mr. Brown’s friends were and what they did for fun; from building a snowman to attending plays and debates as well as coming up with the attributes for the “ideal woman”. I learned that Efird’s Department Store in Charlotte sold almost everything and that even though the Ziegfeld Follies were famous, the creators of the brochures still spelled that eponymous name incorrectly (as “Ziegfield”).  Among the various letters and cards there was a note about Mr. Brown’s disappointment over the new college president, Dr. Walter Lee Lingle, my husband’s grandfather, and how he wished it could have been someone from outside and not a Davidson graduate who was taking on the position.  (No hard feelings – I promise.)

Page 27 from the Brown scrapbook

Page 27 from the Brown scrapbook, showing scenes around campus (including snowman-building and one of the live wildcat mascots).

Mr. Brown’s documentation of the road trip he took with friends back home to Mineral Wells, Texas was one of the highlights of the scrapbook.  There are photos of the car (which he later sold for $60.00), a map of their route, and postcards he acquired at places he stopped along the way.  It was amazing to me that these postcards, many in color, have retained their vibrancy even after all these years.

What I felt the most as I delved into this scrapbook was the sense of innocence, the love of family and friends, the love of sports, the overall “collegiate spirit” vibe that I felt during my own undergraduate days and see now with my son and his friends.  This “innocence of youth” of Mr. Brown and his friends is juxtaposed with an impeding sense of sadness since we know what is about to happen in the world later on in his 1929 graduation year.

A few weeks ago I ran into William Brown at the Davidson Public Library where I currently work. William is the son of our scrapbook creator and the Director of the Knobloch Campus Center and Student Activities at Davidson.  I told him about the project and thanked him for sharing such a wonderful resource with the college archives and now, thanks to digitization, with anyone who is interested.  He smiled and he talked about that road trip his father took to Mineral Wells.  It turns out that his father didn’t return home again for over 50 years.  When he did, things had changed so much that nothing seemed familiar. Having access to those photos and postcards now seems even more poignant.

Pages 53 and 55 of the scrapbook, detailing the road trip from Davidson to Mineral Wells

Pages 53 and 55 of the scrapbook, detailing the road trip from Davidson to Mineral Wells, TX and including a newspaper clip advertising Brown’s sale of the group’s 1922 Ford Model T.

The Future

Now with one scrapbook project under their belts, I hope that the Archives and Special Collections Department can continue this project with the help of students and volunteers.  Knowing the time and resources it takes to digitize one scrapbook; from computers and scanners to hosting space and librarian oversight, the archivists can better plan how this project fits in with their other projects and goals.

Many thanks to Jan, Sharon, and Caitlin for their guidance, support and allowing me to work with them on bringing this scrapbook to digital life.  You can access the digital version of the Aubrey Neblett Brown, Jr. scrapbook here.

Color Our Collections: A Coloring Book of Images from the Davidson College Archives and Special Collections

Earlier this semester, a number of archives and special collections created coloring books featuring images from their collections, inspired by the New York Academy of Medicine and the Biodiversity Heritage Library’s #ColorOurCollections coloring fest. At the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections, we noticed the amazing coloring books on Twitter but hadn’t had time to put one together ourselves. However, when we received a copy of Wake Forest University’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library coloring book in the mail (courtesy of Chelcie Rowell – thanks Chelcie!), our student volunteer was intrigued and asked if she could work on a Davidson version.

Regular readers of Around the D will have already seen some of Caroline Turner’s (Class of 2017) work – the athletics timeline Caroline created was the subject of a recent blog post. Caroline has been volunteering in Archives & Special Collections since last September. Once she had completed the athletics timeline, Caroline combed through rare book and college publications, looking for images that could be decolorized and turned into candidates for the coloring book. She then wrote blurbs to go along with each image, explaining what it was and what part of the collection it hailed from.

The cover of Color our Collections: A Coloring Book of Images from the Davidson College Archives and Special Collections.

The cover of “Color our Collections: A Coloring Book of Images from the Davidson College Archives and Special Collections.”

While compiling the coloring book, Caroline found more images than she could use, so I’ll share the “extra” coloring panels here on the blog, with Caroline’s captions:

From the 1895 Quips and Cranks - Caroline's caption: ". The image of the College of Medicine opens the 1895 issue’s section on the students that were a part of the college, with a humorous message."

From Quips and Cranks – Caroline’s caption: “The image of the College of Medicine opens the 1895 issue’s section on the students that were a part of the college, with a humorous message.”

"The image of the page signaling the start to the athletics section featuring a track athlete is from the 1900 edition. The Davidson College Archives houses editions of Quips and Cranks from 1895 to the present."

“The image of the page signaling the start to the athletics section featuring a track athlete is from the 1900 edition. The Davidson College Archives houses editions of Quips and Cranks from 1895 to the present.”

"A decorative image from a Quips and Cranks issue."

“A decorative image from a Quips and Cranks issue.”

"This image is from a decal from an artifact from the Special Collections."

“This image is from a decal from an artifact from the Special Collections.”

You can download the “extra” coloring panels from this post, and the whole coloring book to print at home here, or pick up a copy in E.H. Little Library – while finals are going on, we’ve been putting out copies of the coloring book in the lobby downstairs!

Looking Back (and Forward) to Archives Month

Every October is American Archives Month and North Carolina Archives Month, and here at the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections we’ve been celebrating the occasion in some way or another for the past seven years. However, for Archives Month 2015 we decided to really commit to Archives Month and experiment with some new methods of outreach and new collaborations. We’re a small shop (3 FTE), so I figured sharing our planning process and evaluating our activities at this halfway point between October 2015 and October 2016 might be useful for other archivists considering participating in Archives Month next year.

The 2015 North Carolina Archives Month theme was “Celebrating Archives: North Carolina Arts, Crafts, and Music Traditions,” so our first step was to sit down and consider what materials we have related to arts, crafts, and music in North Carolina. That led to planning one of our earliest events in the month, Mandolin Madness on October 5th.

Flyer advertising Mandolin Madness.

Flyer advertising Mandolin Madness.

Mandolin Madness featured biology professor Dr. Karen Hales and Davidson alumnus Mike Orlando (Class of 2001) playing a mix of traditional bluegrass and more modern Southern songs in the Rare Book Room. The concert was preceded by a brief talk by College Archivist Jan Blodgett on the history of music at Davidson, and a small display of music and music-related materials from the archives. About 30 people attended, and we have been told by many that we need to repeat this event in the future.

We don’t have very rich art collections in our archives, but we do have art galleries on campus, so I began conversations with the director of those galleries, Lia Newman, over the summer. Lia was completely on board to collaborate, and suggested that we have a month-long show on North Carolina artists in the college’s collections, curated by current students. That resulted in the Archives Month Art Show, curated by Kate Hall and Lee Summerell (both Class of 2016), which hung in the lobby of Chambers Building in October. Kate and Lee selected six works, focusing on (according to the panel text they wrote) “primarily on artists who lived, worked, or studied in North Carolina. North Carolina has a rich history of artistic excellence. In the 1930s through the 1950s, the Black Mountain College hosted many prominent figures in the development of Modern Art. Josef Albers served on the college’s faculty where he taught Robert Rauschenberg and helped shape his later artistic theory.” In addition to pieces by Albers and Rauschenberg, the show included works by long-time Davidson College art faculty member Herb Jackson (Class of 1967), William Ferris (Class of 1964), and two Charlotte-area artists, Ce Scott and Juan Logan.

A panoramic shot of the lobby of Chambers during the Archives Month Art Show.

A panoramic shot of the lobby of Chambers during the Archives Month Art Show.

Lia Newman also suggested that we host a panel on art and archives, which would tie-in well with the exhibition running in the art galleries from September 10th through October 25th – Regina José Galindo: Bearing Witness. I put together and moderated a panel entitled “Art, Archives & Documentation” that featured Lia Newman (Director and Curator of the Art Gallery), Dr. Alison Bory (Assistant Professor and Chair of the Dance Department), and Dr. Jan Blodgett (College Archivist). That panel, held in the art galleries on October 21st, preceded performances by three Charlotte-based performance artists (John W. Love, April Marten, and Jon Pritchard). Although attendance was only a handful of people, the conversation was rich and feedback from the small audience was very positive.

Flyer for Art, Archives & Documentation on October 21st.

Flyer for Art, Archives & Documentation on October 21st.

In addition to planning new outreach initiatives based on the theme for North Carolina Archives Month, we also experimented with two new ideas outside of the theme that met with varied degrees of success. When I was training international student orientation leaders for a nighttime glow-in-the-dark campus history tour in August 2015, I kept on being told that the students wanted to hear more stories about Davidson College’s past. “Why haven’t we been told about this before?” one student demanded, when I explained the 1854 student rebellion. Their eagerness to learn more sparked an idea, and our department decided to plan a monthly archival storytime – Stories from the Archives kicked off on October 1st. We aimed to hold the event the first Thursday of every month, with stories provided from Archives & Special Collections staff and students, faculty, and community members who had done research on Davidson’s past. The storytime atmosphere was enhanced by a donation of carpet squares for listeners to sit on, given by Drew Kromer (Class of 2019).

Flyer for the second Stories from the Archives.

Flyer for the second Stories from the Archives.

While I still believe that Stories from the Archives was a good idea, we discontinued the series after three months due to low attendance. I’d love to relaunch it in the future, but we need to re-tool how we advertise and plan the event, and potentially hold it once or twice a year instead of monthly.

We also chose to launch a departmental Instagram account during Archives Month, which has been much more successful. We now have received a number of reference questions based on Instagram posts, and are able to reach current students and alumni in a new way. This semester, the Instagram account garnered a new kind of student attention – after a class visit to the Archives & Special Collections, students in Dr. Amy Kohout’s ENV 340: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral asked to take over our account for a week, in order to promote their class pop-up exhibit. ENV 340’s posts are currently populating the Davidson Archives Instagram until May 3rd!

While planning new events and new forms of outreach, we also stuck with some tried and true methods – we held Ghosts in the Library for the 7th year in a row, participated in #AskAnArchivist Day on October 1st,  and I wrote a blog about a seminal figure in the Music department’s history, James Christian Phofl. The blog also served as a collaboration of sorts – I ran my early drafts by music professor Dr. Neil Lerner, who had done research on Pfohl before and provided helpful tips. Ghosts in the Library, an annual night of telling of ghost stories in the Rare Book Room, had its usual excellent attendance – roughly 30 people showed up to hear ghoulish tales.

As we look forward to Archives Month 2016, our department learned a few lessons from last year:

  1. Throw things at the wall and see what works: Several of our initiatives were new ones, and turned out quite well – Mandolin Madness, the Archives Month Art Show, and the Instagram account all had excellent returns on our investment of time.
  2. Don’t be afraid of failure: Stories from the Archives and Art, Archives & Documentation both suffered from low turnouts. While both events were enjoyed by those who attended, we need to evaluate if the problem with these events was that the concepts didn’t appeal to the Davidson audience, or whether they could be advertised better.
  3. Plan well in advance: Some of our attendance pitfalls may have been mitigated if we had planned better – perhaps flyering in the dorms, or making announcements to classes who visited the Archives & Special Collections in the weeks prior. We also potentially could have sought funding for food, which can be a draw – none of our events or initiatives had any cost other than staff time.
  4. Reach out to new people or groups for collaborations. One of my favorite parts of Archives Month 2015 was working with the art galleries – we hadn’t previously done much collaboration with them, but the theme for North Carolina Archives Month gave me a good reason to seek out a partnership with the director. Archives Month can be a great foot in the door for folks you want to work with but haven’t had a chance to yet.
  5. You don’t have to do everything during Archives Month: In some ways, we bit off more than we could chew during Archives Month 2015 – planning four events, coordinating one art show, writing one Archives Month-themed blog, participating in #AskAnArchivist Day, and launching a new social media account was a lot to take on while we all continued our regular duties. Some of our most successful outreach events this academic year actually took place outside of Archives Month (such as this month’s Race At Davidson panel, a collaboration between the Archives and the Tau Omicron chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha), and sometimes it will make more sense to plan an outreach initiative to align with an institutional anniversary or the availability of collaborators. October is Archives Month, but any and every month can be archives outreach month.


Once Upon a Timeline

Readers of Around the D get to be our test audience for a new timeline on the Archives and Special Collections site.  Thanks to the diligent and creative work of  student volunteer and student athlete, Caroline Turner ’17, we are launching a history of athletics at Davidson through a timeline with photographs and brief descriptions.

Caroline Turner using her J S Timeline skills

Caroline Turner ’17 using her TimelineJS skills.

The timeline includes the obvious — first football game, flickerball and 2008 March Madness– and some fun bits, like our year with 7 sets of twins playing on varsity teams.  We invite you to explore the timeline and remember we have more on sports in the Davidson Encyclopedia –feel free to explore there as well. Let us know –what more needs to be included (comments to are fine).

To whet your enthusiasm, try this quiz:

Is this the live cat from the 1920s or 1960s?

Is this the live cat from the 1920s or 1960s?


What year was the Athletic Association founded?

What year was the Athletic Association founded?


What year did these guys take to the college diamond.

What year did these guys take to the college diamond?


What's special about this team?

What’s special about this team?

Searching for Jane

No cookies this week but a little more on researching aspects of women’s lives–this time looking for Jane Austen in the college’s curriculum. Given that full coeducation came late to Davidson (unofficially co-eds have been on the scene since the 1850s, officially since the 1970s ), it would not be surprising to find women writers, including Austen, slow to appear on class reading lists.

A little searching turned up that should Davidson students in 1888 have made it to Chapter 6 “Our First Great Novelists” in their assigned textbook Nicoll’s Landmarks of English Literature, they would have encountered some faint praise of her work. Naming her “a greater novelist” than either Fanny Burney or Miss Edgeworth, Nicoll brief summary of her work concludes “In her chosen walk of fiction,  truthful pictures of the 0rdinary, middle-class society we see around us, Miss Austen has not equal; and the extent to which she succeeds in interesting us in her annals of humdrum, commonplace English life is the highest tribute to her genius.”

Title page for English textbook used in 1880s and 1890s.

Title page for English textbook used in 1880s and 1890s.

English literature first invaded the classical curriculum of Davidson in the 1870s; John Milton and Francis Bacon opened the way to survey classes for prose and poetry; Shakespeare soon earned classes of his own.  By the 1930s, the English department had expanded sufficiently in number of faculty and course listings to provide students with deeper encounters with novelists.

1929 Catalog listing announcing the new course The English Novel to Hardy.

1929 Catalog listing announcing the new course The English Novel to Hardy.

Changing course numbers and faculty (James Purcell succeeded William Cumming), the English Novel to Hardy remained a department fixture into the 1970s.  Purcell added to the number of women writers being taught with his Women in American Fiction course introduced in 1973. The course readings included both male and female writers while focusing on women as characters. Four years later, Assistant Professor Georgiana Ziegler offered a course focusing on women as writers.

1977 course description returning Austen to the classroom.

1977 course description returning Austen to the classroom.

The course description identifying the instructor as “Miss Ziegler” was not a slight but a reflection of the era when all faculty were listed as Mr. or Miss. A decade later, Ziegler’s replacement in the course was Ms. Mills, who kept women writers before students into the 1990s.

Ziegler and students in an outdoor class session - perhaps discussing the English countryside of Austen

Ziegler and students in an outdoor class session – perhaps discussing the English countryside of Austen

The British Novel returned to the curriculum by 2000 and in 2001-02 the list of advanced English seminars included ENG 472 Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy: Sex, Politics and the Novel.

In 2010, Austen jumped from the confines of English into Theatre with a production of Pride and Prejudice.

Playbill for fall 2010 production

Playbill for fall 2010 production

This search for Austen was not exhaustive. Despite the best efforts of archivists to document curriculum, there are limitations.  At Davidson, we have a full run of catalogs which provide listings of course titles and brief descriptions but very few syllabi before 1994.  If the course listing doesn’t name an author, we can’t know for certain what was taught. Fortunately for this search, our catalogs are online and searchable. And another library has done the work of digitizing Nicoll’s Landmarks, giving us a way to look at what the students of the era saw.

We might have a notion of what students thought about Austen but the literary magazines of the day are not quite as accessible yet.  If the Davidson Monthly has articles on Austen, it will take a longer and slow search to find them!



Beacon Hill Cookies

When we began our Recipes from the Archives blog series a year ago, the Archives & Special Collections team had a few aims: we wanted to experiment with a new way of making our archival collections accessible and interesting, and we (well, mostly me) wanted to learn more about historic cooking and connect with small town southern culture. But it wasn’t lost on us that the vast majority of the recipes in our collections come from women – in fact, shining a spotlight on the women of Davidson was an explicit goal. March is Women’s History Month, so it’s an excellent time to reflect on how our archival cooking experiment has been going since the first entry in March 2015 (Ice Box Pudding #1), and share some of the research challenges we’ve encountered.

For this week’s recipe, I revisited the 1965 The Village Cook Book: Recipes from the P.T.A. Pantry, Davidson, North Carolina and selected Elizabeth Proctor’s “Beacon Hill Cookies.” The members of Davidson’s Parent-Teacher Association gathered recipes from women in the town and compiled a cookbook as a fundraiser for an American flag for the auditorium and a recorder and filmstrips for the library of Davidson Elementary School.

"PTA Cookbooks To Buy School American Flag," from the February 25, 1965 issue of the Mecklenburg Gazette.

“PTA Cookbooks To Buy School American Flag,” from the February 25, 1965 issue of the Mecklenburg Gazette.

The PTA’s Village Cookbook was organized by and contributed to solely by women, and one of the challenges our team faces when selecting recipes is figuring out who each individual woman was. If she was married, the recipe-contributor is generally referred to by her husband’s last name and first and middle initials. Many of the women active in town organizations that compiled cookbooks were wives of faculty members, and their records are the easiest to uncover – we have employment records and reference files for all past faculty members, which often includes information about and pictures of the faculty member’s spouse. We have other sources to gather further information about spouses of faculty members, as well as women living in the town who had no employment connection to Davidson College – the published histories of the town and college (Cornelia Shaw’s Davidson College, Mary Beaty’s A History of Davidson College, and Jan Blodgett and Ralph Levering’s One Town, Many Voices) often includes stories about women whose names crop up in our cookbooks, and if the individual was active in town clubs or societies, we can often learn more about her through the manuscript records we have from the town Civic Club, Senior Center, or one of the town book clubs.

In the case of this week’s recipe-submitter, Elizabeth Proctor, information was harder to find. The Proctor family collection consists of two letters, one to Elizabeth from her mother, and one from her brother G.D. Proctor to their mother. There is not a lot of information about the family – we know that members of the family lived on South Main Street from roughly 1919 until at least 1965. Elizabeth’s name did not come up in any of my searches through town club rosters, or in any of the Davidson histories.

G.D. Proctor's letter to his mother in Davidson, October 1941.

G.D. Proctor’s letter to his mother in Davidson, October 1941.

The two letters themselves also do not reveal much information – G.D.P. sent a letter to his mother from the Veteran’s Hospital in Roanoke, Virginia on October 8, 1941. The letter contains interesting tidbits about war games across North Carolina in advance of the U.S.’s entry into World War II, and contains references to his sister, Elizabeth:

“I hope Lizzie can get my book – tho I doubt that it can be found, since more than 100 years have elapsed since it was published. I received the magazine that Lizzie sends me – and am glad to get it… Lizzie stated that you had trouble with your head in the mornings. Writes, GDP Received Lizzie’s letters”

The other letter in our collection is from Mrs. Proctor to Elizabeth, sent April 16, 1951 from Alexandria, Virginia. The contents of the letter concerned buying clothing for Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s health – her mother mentions a fever and the cold weather possibly being to blame.

The envelope from the April 1951 letter from Mrs. Proctor to Elizabeth.

The envelope from the April 1951 letter from Mrs. Proctor to Elizabeth – note the P.O. box, as going to the town post office to collect mail has remained a tradition in Davidson today.

Outside of these letters, we know very little about the Proctor family. The 1920 census tells us that Elizabeth’s parent’s were Adolphus R. and Phinny R., and her father worked as a carpenter. The rest of the family consisted of her older brother Shirley R., and younger siblings Cynthia E., Dewy G. (likely the G.D.P. from the letter in our collections), Janice M., Sidney E., and Helen C. All family members were listed as being born in North Carolina, and Elizabeth and Cynthia both gave their occupations as teachers at the “graded school.” By 1930, the census only records Adolphus, Phinny, Elizabeth, Janice, and Sidney as living in Davidson, and Elizabeth no longer listed a profession. Elizabeth was 32 in 1930, making her probable birth year 1898.

Other news that made it into town/college newspapers and notes from Mary Beaty’s A History of Davidson College: Sidney Proctor made the fifth grade honor roll in 1919; in November 1922, Elizabeth’s younger sister Helen participated in a Girl Scouts entertainment; in March 1923 Elizabeth visited “friends and relatives in Denver” (likely Denver, North Carolina, from The Davidsonian); and in 1926 Helen Proctor attended “Eastern Carolina Training School at Greenville, SC” (Also from The Davidsonian, possibly referring to the forerunner of East Carolina University, the East Carolina Teachers Training School in Greenville, NC). Records of the Davidson College Presbyterian Church list Elizabeth and a Mrs. G.D. Proctor as members. We also came across references to the family phone number through copies of Southern Bell Telephone Company records.

Miss Elizabeth Proctor's recipe for Beacon Hill Cookies.

Miss Elizabeth Proctor’s recipe for Beacon Hill Cookies.

I chose to make Elizabeth Proctor’s recipe for Beacon Hill Cookies from the PTA cookbook because I was intrigued by the title of the cookie – I used to live in Boston, and worked in Beacon Hill for nearly two years. Unfortunately, I ran into similar dead ends when exploring the history of Beacon Hill Cookies as when our team was investigating the Proctor family. It was difficult to track down references to the recipe and its history, although my coworker Sharon Byrd did find a mention of  Nabisco producing a cookie called “Beacon Hill” on the Cambridge Historical Society’s “The History of Candy Making in Cambridge” page. It’s likely that the Nabisco Beacon Hill Cookies are the same or similar to the recipe that Elizabeth Proctor was making in Davidson.

My Beacon Hill Cookies, in a Tupperware and on a plate.

My Beacon Hill Cookies, in a Tupperware and on a plate.

Beacon Hill Cookies are very easy to make – the meringue style cookies have very few ingredients and a short baking time. I used walnuts as the chopped nuts in my version, since Elizabeth Proctor’s recipe doesn’t specify a type of nut. My cookies turned out very flat, so I think I didn’t beat the egg white-sugar mixture for a long enough period of time. However, despite being flat and misshapen, the Beacon Hill Cookies do taste very good!

I hope that sharing our research process and the lack of information about some of the townswomen in Davidson illustrated a point – writing women’s history and telling women’s stories often requires reading against the grain and looking for references to women and their lives in unexpected places. While the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections often has rich materials on local women, particularly spouses of faculty members who were active in the local book clubs, finding out information about women of color, unmarried women, and women not active in town organizations can be difficult or impossible. For all our work digging up references to the Proctor family, we still don’t know when Elizabeth Proctor passed away, or any details of her life before her family moved to Davidson (circa 1919). The Recipes from the Archives blog series has certainly served as a way for me to learn more about women in Davidson from the 1920s until the 1990s, and to learn more about how food was made during that time period, and I hope it’s done the same for our readers!