Lights, Camera, Davidson! “American Animals” is a Sundance Hit

Advertisement for 4/18/18 screening at Our Town Cinemas.Last Wednesday, Davidson College community members had the unique opportunity to attend a free advanced screening of Bart Layton’s most recent film, the true-crime thriller “American Animals” which was filmed on campus during the spring of 2017!

A man in a parka and winter hat stands behind film cameras.

Director Bart Layton outside of Chambers last March.

While the cast and crew were on campus, students had the opportunity to act as extras and intern on set to learn firsthand how film sets function. A question and answer followed the advanced screening and director Bart Layton explained that Davidson’s Archives & Special Collections had the unique feeling they sought when scouting film locations at colleges and universities and appreciation for student employees who “ask the right questions.” Filming took place outside of Chambers and inside the E.H. Little Library, particularly the Davidsoniana Room and the Rare Book Room.

Look for how familiar campus spots were transformed for film!

The film, starring Evan Peters (“American Horror Story”), Barry Keoghan (“Dunkirk”), Blake Jenner, and Jared Abrahamson is based upon the “Transy book heist.” In 2004,  four students robbed Transylvania University’s special collections of several rare books and were arrested after attempting to auction their stolen goods at Christie’s auction house in New York City.

Film crew set up in front of Chambers.

“American Animals” will not be the first retelling of the tale. Chase Allen II, one of the original four heist members, published the story of the heist as his first public acknowledgment of the crimes after declining all interview opportunities. Allen’s telling of the story, entitled Mr. Pink: The Inside Story of the Transylvania Book Heist, was published under the pseudonym “Chas Allen” in 2010.

The film opens in select theatres on June 1! Click here to read a review from Variety.

Library Directors of the Past, Present, and Future: Welcome Lisa Forrest!

On July 1, Lisa Forrest of Hamilton College will become the second Leland M. Park Director of the Library and Davidson College’s fifth Library Director since its founding in 1837.

Portrait of a white business woman with short blonde hair in a gray blazer and purple blouse against a light blue background.

Lisa Forrest

Forrest’s career prior to Davidson includes service as the director of research and instructional design for Hamilton College’s Burke Library and as an associate librarian at SUNY Buffalo’s E.H. Butler Library.  Ms. Forrest has been honored with the Excellence in Library Service Award from the Western New York Library Resources Council and as a fellow of the EDUCAUSE Leading Change Institute.

As Davidson College and other elite institutions of higher learning explore the future of facilities built around books in the digital era, Forrest’s expertise in both traditional and experimental models of teaching, learning, and research in the liberal arts will be of great service.

Past Library Directors of Davidson College

Sketched portrait of a woman in early 1900s attire, reads: "MISS CORNELIA SHAW LIBRARIAN AND REGISTRAR A faithful friend and true advisor to every college man"

Cornelia Rebekah Shaw, 1907-1936.

The Library Director position was inaugurated by Cornelia Rebekah Shaw, who was elected “Librarian and Registrar at a salary of $900.00 per annum” on May 28, 1907. Shaw’s twenty-nine year career on campus was notable in many respects–she was the college’s first woman employee, first librarian, first registrar, and first secretary to the President. She was well respected by all on campus and her hospitable service to the library made her well-known as every student’s best friend. In fact, the college yearbook Quips and Cranks, was dedicated to Miss Shaw in 1912. During her time, Shaw oversaw the movement of the library’s collection of little more than 10,000 volumes from the “Union Library” room in Chambers  to the Carnegie Library, which has served as a guest house since 1942. Shaw’s history of the school, Davidson College, was published in 1923 with a foreword from College President Henry Louis Smith (1901-1912) and can be found in the Davidson College Special Collections.

Portrait of Chalmers Gaston Davidson smiling in from of a campus building, appears to be either Phi or Eu Halls. Black and white.

Chalmers Gaston Davidson, 1936-1975.

Following Miss Shaw’s retirement in 1936, Davidson College’s longest serving Library Director began service: Chalmers Gaston Davidson ’28. Affectionately known across campus as “Dr. D,” Davidson was the college’s first professional librarian, he earned his Master’s in Library Science from the University of Chicago in 1936. When Dr. D’s career began, the library was very small and not the hub of student life as it is known today. The collection was a mere 39,000 volumes, the annual materials budget was $3,500, and there was only one other employee: assistant librarian, Miss Julia Passmore. However, barring the years Dr. Henry Lilly took over the position whilst Davidson served in WWII, Davidson revolutionized the library space, including overseeing the move to the Grey Memorial Library in 1941. Not only was Davidson also a member of the college History department, but by 1961, he had grown the annual library budget to $41,000. Perhaps Dr. D’s success was in his blood, given that he was a direct descendant of William Lee Davidson, the college’s namesake.

Headshot of a laughing man wearing glasses, black and white.

Leland M. Park ’63, 1975-2006.

The 1974-1975 school year brought much change to the Davidson library: Dr. D retired, Leland M. Park ’63 became the new Library Director, and the E.H. Little Library was dedicated in September of 1974. Park earned his Library Sciences degrees from Emory University and Florida State University before serving as Library Director for 31 years. At his retirement in 2006, the Quips and Cranks yearbook staff elected to dedicate their volume to Park and his service to the school and the Library Director position was named in his honor.

Portrait of Gillian Gremmels. Woman with black glasses, wavy brown hair with bangs and a pink blouse against a black background.

Gillian “Jill” Gremmels, 2007-2017.

In 2007, Gillian Gremmels was named the first Leland M. Park Director of the Library. Unlike her predecessors, Gremmels was neither an alum of the college nor a long-time resident of the area. Gremmels was raised by two professors on the campus Iowa’s Wartburg College, is a descendant of Wartburg’s founder, and continued on to attend the school and act as their Library Director. Although currently on sabbatical from the mentoring seminar faculty of the Association of College and Research Libraries and after serving Davidson College for ten years, Jill Gremmels will serve the Dean of Cowles Library at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa beginning on July 1.



College Library times 4

Did you know that the E.H. Little Library is not the first building to house the college’s library collections?

In fact, there were three before it.

"Old Chambers"

“Old Chambers”

The first physical space to house the book collections of the college, was in the Library Hall in “Old Chambers,” the building which burned in 1921 and was replaced with “New Chambers,” the building on campus today.  The first building to be built on campus as a library was the Carnegie Library, completed in 1910.

Carnegie Library

Carnegie Library

In 1941, the second library building opened, the Hugh A. and Jane Grey Memorial Library.

Grey Library

Grey Library

And, our present library building, the E.H. Little Library, was completed in 1974.

E.H. Little Library

E.H. Little Library

That doesn’t mean that the former library buildings are no longer here.  Carnegie is now the Carnegie Guest House, and Grey became the student union for a time and is now the Sloan Music Center.

If you’re around, come by the library after the new year and see the display in the Rare Book Room with pictures of the libraries and some of the books from the original collections.

Uncovering the Unknown: Artifacts Excavated from Beneath the Sparrow’s Nest During July 2017

Small brick building with a covered doorway, one window and a chimney.

The Sparrow’s Nest, unknown year.

This past July, although activity had slowed down around campus for the summer, a renovation crew discovered that there was much of interest below ground. Specifically, beneath the Sparrow’s Nest. At first glance, the Sparrow’s Nest does not look like much. It is a small, brick cottage nestled between Belk Hall and Vail Commons, across from the Lula Bell Houston Laundry. During the school year, any glimpse of activity in or around the building. To the untrained eye, the Sparrow’s Nest appears to be unused, perhaps simply a storage room. However, the history of the Sparrow’s Nest reveals there is much to be learned about its history with reference to Davidson College and the town of Davidson itself.

During renovations in July, Barbara Benson, Director of Building Services, and David Holthouser, Director of Facilities and Engineering, informed the College Archives & Special Collections that the crew found more than the expected decay of an old building. Whilst removing the termite-damaged floor system, the renovation crew from Physical Plant discovered a myriad of artifacts from former inhabitants of the Sparrow’s Nest. Currently, the building is used as a Physical Plant facility. Prior, the Sparrow’s Nest served as a Campus Security Office from 1974 to 1990. It was acquired by the College in 1908 and continued to serve as a boarding house for some time after its acquisition.


A bearded gentleman in a suit sits with his left arm folded on the armrest.

Reverend Patrick Jones Sparrow.

A green plastic bag with broken animal bones and glass pieces. A clear plastic bag with old, worn pairs of shoes.

The shoes. bones, and personal belongings found beneath the floor of the Sparrow’s Nest in July.

The house originally served as slave/servants’ quarters for Thomas Williams Sparrow (1814-1890.) Thomas was brother to College co-founder Patrick Jones Sparrow, who taught Ancient Languages at the College from 1837 to 1840. Thomas W. Sparrow married Martha Lucinda Stewart (1820-1905) and together the two ran a boarding house for the college students in a house on North Main Street. In the May 1912 edition of D.C. Magazine entitled “Memories of the Fifties,” J.J. Stringfellow from the Class of 1850 recalls that the Sparrows were nicknamed “Uncle Tom” and “Aunt Tom” by students. Stringfellow describes them as “always kind in treatment and generous at table” and continues to compliment their hospitality saying, “No boy of that olden time can ever forget their famous molasses pies.” Thomas Sparrow is buried in the Davidson College cemetery.

As for the children of Thomas and Martha Sparrow, their daughter Helen married J. Wilson McKay, D.D. from the Class of 1870. He went on to be the president of the Board of Trustees for some time. Their son, John Sparrow (1845- October 30, 1883) was a bit of a troublemaker and was eventually expelled from Davidson College. In 1866, John Sparrow eloped with Helen Kirkpatrick (1847-1900), the daughter of the College President of the time, John Lycan Kirkpatrick. John and Nellie had seven children. Their four daughters were named Anna, Marry, Mattie, and Nellie; the latter married Wilson McKay, the son of Dr. McKay who had been President of the Board of Trustees. John and Nellie also had three sons: Robert Gordon, Thomas Hill, and John Kirkpatrick Sparrow. Although Thomas Hill Sparrow did not attend college at all, his two brothers did. John Kirkpatrick Sparrow was a member of the Davidson Class of 1901 but did not graduate. Notably, Robert Gordon Sparrow was the Valedictorian of the Class of 1888 and long-held the record for the highest grades ever received at Davidson College.

Three rows of young men in suits stand in front of windows.

The Class of 1888. Robert Sparrow is pictured second from the left, seated in the first row.

There is great evidence of the Sparrows’ slaveholding practice. In an essay entitled “My Unreconstructed Grandmother” by Mary Sparrow Harrison, she describes the attitudes and experiences of her grandmother, Martha Lucinda Stewart Sparrow. Mary remembers Martha as a distant, unaffectionate grandmother who was proud, yet hardened by her Southern heritage. According to Mary, Lincoln’s name was never mentioned in their household but that former slaves continued to visit her grandparents annually for years after the Southern “surrender.” Following the death of John Kirkpatrick Sparrow, Mary’s father, a former slave traveled from South Carolina to grieve with “Miss Martha.” According to Mary, he had been a wedding gift from College President John Lycan Kirkpatrick to Martha. Mary writes that the older gentleman had accompanied her father during childhood, young-adulthood and even during when he joined the army in 1862. Of the relationship between this man and her family, Mary writes, ” I do not know how long he stayed with the family after the end of the war or where he went or how he knew that “Miss Martha” need him that day, but I do know that the meeting between those two—the proud reserved women and the ex-slave and friend who had learned of her sorrow and had come to comfort her left an indelible impression on my child-mind.” Perhaps the artifacts discovered beneath the Sparrow’s Nest holds answers as to that gentleman’s identity and his experiences being enslaved and freed by the Kirkpatrick-Sparrow family. In order to continue following the story of the Sparrow’s Nest’s purpose throughout the centuries, follow the blog-tag: “Sparrow” or the hashtag: “DavidsonHistoryMystery” on Instagram and Twitter.

Guest Blogger: Amanda Scott, May 2017 graduate and future librarian, On the Path from Chambers to Main Street

1903 Souvenir Album cover

1903 Souvenir Album, Campus View Looking West from Chambers

Every day I walk the path from Chambers to Main Street, past Oak and Elm, Phi and Eu. The path is incredibly familiar, and thus it was a surprise to realize that the photograph of a tree lined path from a 1903 view book is the same walk, only missing the benches, well, and the bricks paving the path. Phi sits at the end of the path, almost blocked by trees. As other photos in the view book show, the only change in Phi and Eu is the landscaping around them. Though the view book exclusively documents the heart of Davidson’s campus, Phi and Eu are the only buildings in this view book to remain completely unchanged. The original Chambers still stood in 1903, and would for eighteen more years, and Rumple and Martin were replaced by new buildings serving the same purpose. Some of the reference points used in the view book no longer even exist. Shearer was torn down in 1960, to be replaced by Cunningham, and the ivy-covered Morrison Hall came down in 1945.

1903 Souvenir Album, Hall of the Philanthropic Society

1903 Souvenir Album, Hall of the Eumenean Society

1903 Souvenir Album, Shearer-Biblical Hall – Erected on the Site of the “Old Chapel”

1903 Souvenir Album, The New Dormitory Building

The view book boasts of recent improvements to the college. Among other changes, within the last four years, Shearer, the original Martin, and a so far unnamed new dormitory were built. The dormitory, later dubbed Rumple, was well equipped, with running hot and cold water and radiator heating. It was also wired for electric lights, as the college planned to soon build a power plant. Despite the new building, the college was having a housing crisis, and the calls for enough funds to build another dorm were beginning to grow desperate. Rumple sat where Little is currently located, and I found it interesting to compare the two buildings. Rumple was large at the time, housing sixty students, while Little holds seventy-five. Both buildings follow the same aesthetic of other dorms along dorm row, but while Rumple started the look, Little merely matched the buildings already built. Chambers also needed to be renovated—after nearly fifty years of use, the building could use some work.

1903 Souvenir Album, The Chambers Building – Erected in 1857

My attention kept getting drawn back to the images of the original Chambers. The tallest building on campus poked over the treetops, appearing in several shots. Before looking at this view book, I had never seen a picture of Old Chambers, despite hearing many campus stories about it. In one of the pictures, you can see the large columns that still haunt the lawn in front of the present Chambers. The building is different in some ways from present Chambers, smaller and not quite as cohesive, but the buildings still look similar. Then and now, Chambers remains the center of campus, even as the building itself is destroyed and rebuilt.

Studying in the Library: A Picture Post

Tomorrow is Reading Day, which means finals are just around the corner for Davidson College students. Students do their work in a variety of locations, although the library has always been a popular study spot – there have been four libraries throughout the history of the college: Union Library (a consolidation of the literary societies library collections in Old Chambers Building, 1861 – 1910), Carnegie Library (now the Carnegie Guest House, 1910 – 1941), Hugh A. and Jane Parks Grey Library (now the Sloan Music Center, 1941 – 1974), and E.H. Little Library (1974 – present). This week, we reflect on images of students studying in the library throughout the years:

Three students at a table in the Carnegie Library (now Carnegie Guest House), circa 1916.

A crowded studying scene in Carnegie Library, 1917.

Students working at a table in the old Davidsoniana room in Grey Library, date unknown.

A busy day in the reading room of Grey Library, circa 1960.

A more somber nighttime scene in the Grey Library reading room, circa 1960.

A student studies at a table in Grey Library (now Sloan Music Center) while wearing cowboy boots, 1968.

Students read in the Grey Library smoking lounge, date unknown.

A student reads in front of the large windows in Little Library, circa early 1970s.

A group of students gather at the circulation desk in Little Library, September 18, 1974.

Students study on the upper and lower levels of E.H. Little Library, 1977.

Three students work in an aisle of Little Library, circa early 1980s.

Two students study by a window on the first floor of Little Library, with Chambers visible in the background, 1980s.

A student uses the microfilm reader in Little Library, circa 1980s.

Two students use a computer in Little Library, circa 1993.

Good luck to all Wildcats on their final exams, papers, projects, and theses!

Then and Now

An offer to provide a brief history of a newly renovated building on campus provided the perfect invitation to do a little visual comparisons.  The newly renovated building started life as a post office and now houses IT staff.

Mail time in the 1960s

Mail time in the 1960s.

Students traditionally filed over at 11am to pick up their mail.  The 1958 post office boasted air conditioning – with a unit visible in the upper left.   To get in all the boxes for students and towns people, narrow halls were necessary.

Newly renovated space for IT

Newly renovated space for IT

No narrow halls now. Instead the floor plan offers flexible spaces, brighter colors and we hope better air conditioning.  Coming back, it made sense to check out changes in the library.

Little Library main floor

Little Library main floor

Opened in 1974, the library featured display cases and shelves of books and magazines as well as study tables.

Little Library main floor in 2017

Little Library main floor in 2017

In 2017, the library still has magazines but they share space with dvds. There are fewer book shelves and more computers.

Library's social study space in 1977

Library’s social study space in 1977

Students could chose between a balcony overlook or getting closer to the windows.  President’s portraits overlooked the students.

Same space in 2017

Same space in 2017

Newer furniture — some of it on wheels. White boards and new art on the walls compete with the views and computer cords drape across it all.

The view out this window has changed with the new Wall Academic Center.

Dave Grant teaches in the dogwood dell outdoor classroom

Dave Grant teaches in the dogwood dell outdoor classroom

Instead of a spread of dogwood trees and a circle of benches, students now have an urban-vibe terrace between the wings of the Wall Center.

Davidson goes urban

Davidson goes urban

The view from the front of the library changed as well. Richardson plaza has art while the landscaping by large planters has given way to open spaces.

Low-key version of the plaza

Low-key version of the plaza

A more formal plaza

A more formal plaza

Dogwoods tried to thrive in these planters but mostly didn't

Dogwoods tried to thrive in these planters but mostly didn’t.

Fewer bricks, more grass

Fewer bricks, more grass

The new building has special features including a “green” wall with living plants but in some ways, even with new technology, science labs look like science labs.

Science in the mid-20th century

Science in the mid-20th century

21st century lab - just beginning to be used.

21st century lab – just beginning to be used.

The new building did have a major change reflecting student choices. Students aren’t drinking well water these days but they are carrying a variety of water bottles everywhere.

Drinking fountain circa 1924

Drinking fountain circa 1924

Fountain with water bottle filling option

Fountain with water bottle filling option

Finally, what about leisure time? — Couches are still popular and TV’s got bigger

Ovens Union lounge

Ovens Union lounge

Alvarez Union lounge area

Alvarez Union lounge area

–But table tennis and foosball are still nearby.

Snow! Or a Seasonal Picture Post

While snow is a somewhat rare occurrence in Davidson, it remains an exciting time for the entire college community. This week, let’s take a look at Davidson College dusted with snow throughout the years:

Snowy Main Street in Davidson, March 1915.

Snowy Main Street in Davidson, March 1915.

Three students clear walkways on rails pulled by horses, circa 1915.

Three students clear walkways on rails pulled by horses, circa 1915.

A lone figure walks past Dana Science Building, 1969.

A lone figure walks past Dana Science Building, 1969.

An unknown man leads a burro through the snow near Cunningham, December 1971.

A student leads a burro through the snow near Cunningham, December 1971.

A student walks near Elm Row, December 1971.

A student walks near Elm Row, December 1971.

Two students play in the snow in front of Cunningham, circa 1975.

Two students play in the snow in front of Cunningham, circa 1975.

A snowman in front of Chambers, 1977.

A snowman in front of Chambers, 1977.

The Presidents House looks picturesque in the snow, date unknown.

The Presidents House looks picturesque in the snow, date unknown.

Two students walk near Chambers, 1987.

Two students walk near Chambers, 1987.

A Davidson Wildcat made out of snow! Martin Science Building, circa 1980s.

A Davidson Wildcat made out of snow! Martin Science Building, circa 1980s.

Two students engage in a rowdy snow fight, 1987.

Two students engage in a rowdy snow fight, 1987.

A student works on a snow-cat - possibly the same large one in front of Martin, 1987.

A student works on a snow-cat – possibly the same large one in front of Martin, 1987.

We hope Davidsonians near and far are enjoying their winter!

Davidson on the Cover

Davidson College has often appeared on the cover of publications, particularly local or state magazines. This week, let’s take a look at the covers that made it into our collections:

North Mecklenburg phone book

Students gathered around Chambers Building graced the cover of the July 1977 North Mecklenburg telephone directory.


The Winter 1978 issue of Southeastern Librarian featured E.H. Little Library on its cover.

Southern Living

The October 1980 issue of Southern Living showed Davidson’s fall colors at their best.

March 1981 Choice

This March 1981 cover of Choice shows a student walking in front of Eumenean Hall.

We the People of North Carolina's September 1987 cover showed buildings from several academic institutions across the state, including Davidson's Chambers Building.

We the People of North Carolina‘s September 1987 cover showed buildings from several academic institutions across the state, including Davidson’s Chambers Building.


The State of North Carolina Higher Education Comprehensive Planning Program’s 1993 Facilities Inventory and Utilization Study showed the brand new Visual Arts Center building.

Spring 2004 Collegiate Standard

The Spring 2004 Collegiate Standard cover is a blast from the recent past, showing a group of Davidsonians who appeared on The Price is Right.

November 2008's Lake Norman Magazine featured Davidson's favorite basketball player, Steph Curry.

November 2008’s Lake Norman Magazine featured Davidson’s favorite basketball player, Steph Curry.

Southern Home magazine's May 2009 issue featured a cover story on the President's House: "Davidson's White House."

Southern Home Magazine‘s May 2009 issue featured a cover story on the President’s House: “Davidson’s White House.”

Margaret’s Johnny

The Margaret in question is Margaret Truman, daughter of Harry S. Truman.  She came to campus 67 years ago as part of the college’s Artist Series. Davidson was a brief part of her singing career.

President and Mrs. Cunningham with Margaret Truman. From 1950 Quips & Cranks

President and Mrs. Cunningham with Margaret Truman. From 1950 Quips & Cranks.

Her appearance rated a bold headline in The Davidsonian:

Truman's appearance coincided with Homecoming Weekend

Truman’s appearance coincided with Homecoming Weekend.

The paper reported that while she was on campus, she attended a small reception at the Guest House and a dinner with the president. She was joined by members of the fund-raising Development Drive and “close friends of Dr. Cunningham.”

Front of Truman's concert program

Front of Truman’s concert program

She may have been a popular dinner guest but her performance met with some criticism, including a comparison with a “certain Madame Jenkins who used to convulse her Carnegie Hall audiences with her erratic cacophonies.”  The review continued, “To descend to the serious, Miss Truman seemed to have a technical understanding of what she ought to do, but let’s face it, Miss Truman has simply not got a voice. . . . To me, her German Lieder were most satisfactory. Her feeling for these songs seemed to be free of spurious responses and the comparatively restricted range of these songs seemed to suit a voice which leapt nimbly but unconvincingly over the thin and crackling ice of both low and high registers.”

October 28, 1949 review in the Davidsonian.

October 28, 1949 review in The Davidsonian.

Not reported in any of the papers were the behind the scenes concerns of suitable accommodations for this celebrity.  A townswoman in the know, wrote to her daughter, “I’ve found out the campus as all agog last week when it was discovered that there was no toilet for Margaret Truman. Such hurrying and scurrying. Mrs. Erwin fold me that they said it had to be one nobody had used. So at the cost of $200.00 the college transformed a dressing room near the stage into a “Johnny.” At every party somebody reported on the progress of “Margaret’s Johnny”– well, finally Thursday night, Mr. Hobart sent out a bulletin–all the fixtures had been installed, everything was in readiness– but the thing wouldn’t work!! Great was the concern- Margaret must have a johnny! Well, at the time of the concert, everything was lovely. Shortly afterwards this inscription was found on the newly painted commode– ‘Margaret Truman sat here!’ written with nail polish for all to see! Who would suspect staid, dignified Davidson to be seething with such carryings on! Margaret caused talk, but not like she imagined.”