Guest Blogger: Emelyn Schaeffer “Wealth of Colleges: A History of Learning and the Texts that Help Us”

My name is Emelyn Schaeffer and I am from Atlanta, GA. I am approaching my sophomore year at Davidson and I am thinking about double majoring in English and Gender and Sexuality Studies. I am excited about working in Archives and Special Collections this summer, learning more about how the library operates, and discovering more about Davidson’s past.

Davidson’s two libraries, the Main and the Music, house many interesting volumes just waiting to be opened and explored by students eager to learn.  As a student, the Library often feels like more of a social hub than the Student Union, the tables packed with students studying together or planning group projects, sharing fascinations and frustrations about their classes. I have no way of knowing if this is what the library looked like throughout the history of the college, but the Original Davidson College Library gives us a peek into what students of the past studied.

The Original Library used to be housed in the Davidsoniana Room, where the works of alumni and faculty are available for students to use, but was recently moved to the Rare Book Room. This move gave me a chance to compare what my predecessors read to what I read.

Bookshelves containing the Original Davidson College Library and the personal library of President Morrison, the first president of the college

Original Davidson College Library in its new location in the Rare Book Room

 

One of the books we have in common is Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nation, though admittedly the green-covered and gold-embossed copy belonging to the Original Library looks much nicer than my yellow paperback. The work inside the Algebra textbooks also looks rather familiar – one of which, written by Davidson Mathematics professor Major (later General) D.H. Hill, contains the note, “This book was published in 1857 and was considered an excellent text, tho’ it is chiefly notable for the strong sectional feeling it displays (Note Yankee and wooden nutmeg problem 41). James G. Blaine referred to it in the U.S. Senate in an effort to keep alive Northern hatred for the South.”

As is likely expected, there is a plethora of books on historical, religious, and linguistic subjects. Historical texts include Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Jackson, and the Marquis de Lafayette. Students simultaneously studied the history of the Church and natural theology, along with the works of several philosophers. Languages studies included Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.

This is just a sampling of the books the Original Library contains. If you want to learn about this or any of our other collections, you can head on over to our website to contact us or schedule an appointment!

 

Celestial objects, space, and the physical universe as a whole.

The title of this post is from the Oxford Living Dictionary’s definition of astronomy, and this week, millions of people were contemplating “celestial objects.” On Monday, August 21 from 2:30 pm until 3 pm, Davidson hosted its own Eclipse Party on the Chambers lawn.

Davidson Eclipse Party brochure 2017

While Davidson did not experience a total eclipse, the moon still provided intriguing crescent-shaped shadows filtered through the trees.

Shadows on the patio in front of E.H. Little Library from a solar eclipse.

Patio in front of E.H. Little Library

Thanks to Kelly Denzer, Electronic Resources Librarian, for sharing this image.

With the shifting light, several people in the crowd alluded to the variance in the shadows and the speed of those same shadows. With a little help from library resources, it was determined that in 1824, Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel introduced one of the techniques to calculate that speed and that technique is still used today.

Wondering about Davidson students and when they began studying astronomy: 1837. Astronomy was a required course and was part of the original college curriculum. In 1837, it was taught by the first President of the College, Robert Hall Morrison.

First Annual North Carolina Debate Championships: a Window into the History of Debate at Davidson

45 years ago this week, March 24-25, 1972, the First Annual North Carolina Debate Championships were held at Wake Forest University. As A. Tennyson Williams, Jr., then Director of Debate at WFU, explained in a letter sent to debate team coaches and instructors around the state:

“Every debate school in North Carolina is invited to enter 2-man switch-side teams in varsity and/or novice (first year debaters) competition. There will be six rounds of eliminations beginning at the semi-final level (if there are enough teams to merit semi’s) in both divisions. Each school may enter 1 or 2 teams in each division. Please try to provide one qualified judge per 2 teams… I hope you will be able to enter some teams. North Carolina Championships could be an effective tool for building support for debate in the state and within your school.”

Davidson College has a rich tradition of debate, or as it was sometimes known, forensics. Eumenean and Philanthropic Literary Societies, founded in 1837, held both internal debates based on members’ research and formal debates with each other. Although the exact formation date of the official Debate Club on campus is unknown, Davidson students began competing in intercollegiate debate competitions in the 1890s and helped found the Intercollegiate State Oratorical Association in 1890.

A photograph of some debaters on the balcony of Philanthropic Hall circa 1915, from Roy Perry's scrapbook.

A photograph of some debaters on the balcony of Philanthropic Hall circa 1915, from Roy Perry’s scrapbook.

The Debate Club was most active between 1909 and the beginning of World War II, before fading out as student interest waned for the next few decades. The Davidsonian reported on a string of debate wins in April 1924, pointing out that between 1909 and 1924, the college debate teams had entered thirty matches and won twenty of them. The headline of the April 17, 1924 edition of the paper read “Davidson Debaters Down Emory Stars at Queens,” and the lead story crowed about the college’s success:

The rebuttal showed Davidson’s superior strength… It was here that the debate was cinched and even the consensus of opinion of the audience was that Davidson had added another victory to her string of intercollegiate debating wins.
Earlier that month, The Davidsonian reported that Davidson and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill “met in what is believed to be the first inter-collegiate debate conducted in a foreign language in North Carolina. The entire debate was in Spanish.” Davidson debaters lost that one, but the volume of newspaper coverage demonstrates student body interest in the Debate Club.
The 1917-1918 debate teams, standing on the steps of Old Chambers. These student teams won debates with Lafayette College and Roanoke College.

The 1917-1918 debate teams, standing on the steps of Old Chambers. These student teams won debates with Lafayette College and Roanoke College.

However, despite all of the early interest in debate, much of this activity centered around extracurricular clubs and societies and was not necessarily supported by classroom work. The study of rhetoric had been offered from the beginning days of the college, although specific speech and debate courses did not get offered until 1912, when Archibald Currie, who also taught Latin, Greek, mathematics, political science, economics, and education, led the first course in public speaking. After 1920, Dr. Currie dropped his broad Renaissance man duties and retained only his appointments in political science and economics, and the public speaking course was dropped until the 1950s and then offered sporadically until the hiring of Jean Springer Cornell in 1971.

Jean Cornell with members of the debate team in 1976. From left to right: Nancy Northcott (Class of 1977), Eric Daub (Class of 1979), Maria Patterson (Class of 1979), Jimmy Prappas (Class of 1980), and Ellen Ogilvie (Class of 1978).

Jean Cornell with members of the debate team in 1976. From left to right: Nancy Northcott (Class of 1977), Eric Daub (Class of 1979), Maria Patterson (Class of 1979), Jimmy Prappas (Class of 1980), and Ellen Ogilvie (Class of 1978).

Jean Cornell taught speech and debate at Davidson from 1971 until 1987, and directed the department of forensics that would develop into part of today’s Communication Studies interdisciplinary minor. Cornell earned a BA from Ohio Wesleyan University, a MS in journalism from Northwestern University, and a MA in speech from University of Arizona, and taught speech and debate at the University of Arizona at Tucson and Scripps College before coming to Davidson. Cornell served in a leadership role in Delta Sigma Rho – Tau Kappa Alpha (the honorary forensics organization), coordinated Mecklenburg and the surrounding counties’ Bicentennial Youth Debaters in 1976, and served as the editor for the Journal of the North Carolina Speech Communication Association.

Cornell would be prove to be an extremely effective debate team coach, and it was she who received the letter in early 1972, asking for Davidson to join the First Annual North Carolina Debate Championships. The Davidson and Wake Forest teams won nearly all of the honors at these championships, with Davidson’s novice team of Les Phillips and Paul Mitchell (both Class of 1975) taking second place, and the varsity pairing of John Douglas (Class of 1974) and Rick Damewood (Class of 1975) tying for third with a team from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Phillips won first place honors individually in the novice division, and Douglas placed third individually for the varsity division. Both divisions debated the national intercollegiate topic of 1972: “Resolved: That greater controls should be imposed on the gathering and utilization of information on U.S. citizens by government agencies.”

Score sheets from the First Annual North Carolina Debate Championship in March 1972.

Score sheets from the First Annual North Carolina Debate Championship in March 1972.

In late fall 1972, Cornell sent a memo to John M. Bevan, then Dean of Academic Affairs, detailing the debate program and its need for greater funds:

“Needless to say, the weak need not and do not apply. We have had the number one students in the freshman, sophomore, and junior classes as debaters… Due to our limited budget, several of the Extended Studies students have not been able to debate in these tournaments, and we have had to decline invitations to such prestigious schools as Princeton and Dartmouth… In two years (spring, 1974) we should have the manpower and proficiency to have our own tournament for neighboring high school students. Who knows what else we might do? Maybe even become a real power in college debate.”

Four members of the debate team stand behind trophies they won in 1975. From left to right: Gordon Widenhouse (Class of 1976), Paul Mitchell (Class of 1975), Mark Gergen (Class of 1978), and Randy Sherrill (Class of 1978).

Four members of the debate team stand behind trophies they won in 1975. From left to right: Gordon Widenhouse (Class of 1976), Paul Mitchell (Class of 1975), Mark Gergen (Class of 1978), and Randy Sherrill (Class of 1978).

Cornell built a successful debating program, and during the 1970s, Davidson was ranked consistently in the top 20 teams in the “small school” category nationally, and occasionally cracked the top 10. During the 1970s, Davidson debaters won their match-ups roughly 55-60% of the time, and Cornell grew the program through special debate workshops prior to the academic year, as well as through course credits. As part of her work coaching the Davidson debate team, she helped plan the North Carolina Debate Championships in 1978 when they were held on our campus.

Members of the 1976 debate team pose together for the picture. Back row, left to right: Steve Smith, Mark Gergen, Coach Jean Cornell, Robert Enright, and Mike Daisley; middle row: Unknown, Gordon Widenhouse, unknown, unknown; front row: Randy Sherrill, Ellen Ogilvie, Nancy Northcott, and Maria Patterson.

Members of the 1976 debate team pose together for the picture. Back row, left to right: Steve Smith, Mark Gergen, Coach Jean Cornell, Robert Enright, and Mike Daisley; middle row: Unknown, Gordon Widenhouse, unknown, unknown; front row: Randy Sherrill, Ellen Ogilvie, Nancy Northcott, and Maria Patterson.

Jean Cornell retired from Davidson in 1987, moved to Arizona, and passed away in November 2015. Today, the Mock Trial Association carries on the tradition of hosting debate competitions, and the Communication Studies department has expanded its range of academic offerings beyond speech and debate to focus on interpersonal communication, public communication, and mass communication, but still hosts the Speaking Center.

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 in the front of E.H. Little Library - 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 of pride and prejudice

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!

 

 

College statistics – 1916 -2016

The spring semester is officially underway.  Students poured back onto campus over the weekend. Following the pattern of the last few years, there are more students on campus in January than in August.  This happens because more students opt to study abroad in the fall.

Coming across the short article below prompted some thoughts about changes in college statistics.

The college no longer uses the category “Electics.”  This term referred to students who came to take classes but never intended to graduate. The contemporary version of this might be auditors –although most people auditing classes now are already college graduates rather than college age students looking to pick up a few credits.  The college does not count auditors in our student totals.

Davidson College statistics as published in January 1916.

Davidson statistics as published in January 1916.

In January 1916,  the college still offered a graduate degree. Three students “Post Graduates” counted in the Davidsonian’s summary.  Below are the requirements for earning a M.A. – basically a five course addition to a bachelor’s degree. The college expanded the program requiring a thesis in 1919-1920 and 36 hours of classes.  The option for earning a graduate degree ended in 1930.

Davidson's requirements to earn a Master's Degree.

Davidson’s requirements to earn a Master’s Degree.

Geography is another significant change. In 1916 the college boasted students from 12 states and 3 foreign countries.  The 2015-2016 college Factfile compiled in December 2015, reports students from 48 states and territories and 43 countries. One aspect has not changed– students are considered to be from a foreign country based on their (or their parents’) home address and not by citizenship. The 1916 students listed as being from China include Philip B. Price, George Alexander Hudson, and future college physician James Baker Woods. They all grew up in China as missionary kids.  At least two of the international students were citizens – Francisco Del Rio of Cuba and William Yohannon Sayad of Persia. Interestingly, in 1916 and 2016, the foreign country with the largest representation is China.

The map below dates from 1964 and shows locations of Davidson alumni working outside of the USA.  It was accompanied by a 2-page listing of all the names, job titles and cities. The map included two members of the class of 1962 living in Alaska and one living in Washington, DC. There were no doubt more alumni in DC but only one was Secretary of State at the time.

A map with blue ocean and white continents. Red flags marking where Davidson alumni were abroad in 1964

Davidson alumni abroad in 1964.

How many more flags would there be today?

The Science of Archives

No, we aren’t opening a chemistry lab in the archives– but we are moving the archives into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) classrooms.  Davidson’s liberal arts curriculum has always included courses that fall into the STEM rubric. Chemistry, physics, mathematics, and natural philosophy classes stood alongside Greek, Latin, rhetoric, religion, and political economy courses in filling students’ days and heads from the college’s earliest years.

Davidson curriculum in 1845, replete with STEM

Davidson curriculum in 1845, replete with STEM

Still, it is relatively new for the Archives to play a role in these classes.  Other parts of the curriculum– English, Sociology, Education, Theatre, even Africana Studies are our more traditional partners.  With the Under the Lake project, Environmental Studies students both used the archives and added to our research.

Website for Environmental Studies research projects. http://libraries.davidson.edu/uln/student-projects/

Website for Environmental Studies research projects.
http://libraries.davidson.edu/uln/student-projects/

Most recently we have worked with Mathematics, Computer Science and a digital studies class.
For Computer Science 362, the archives provided statistical data derived from our Statistics and Class Events database (Hint: if you want to do a search by year use the format 1915-1916).  We gave them tuition costs, number of faculty and number of students for each year, including for some years the number of students by class.  They took the data and explored the kinds of questions that can be asked and learned out to use different kinds of charts and plots to visualize the data.  Below are some of the class examples:

Graph tracking patterns in tuition and number of faculty created by Brandon Liang for class lab.

Graph tracking patterns in tuition and number of faculty created by Brandon Liang for class lab.

Scatter plot graph on Davidson Dropout Percentage by Academic Year and Class Year created by Courtney Cochrane

Scatter plot graph on Davidson Dropout Percentage by Academic Year and Class Year created by Courtney Cochrane

Chart of Faculty - Student ratio Over Time created by Morgan Spencer

Chart of Faculty -Student ratio created by Morgan Spencer

Graph tracking freshman enrollment and tuition numbers by Dustin Atchley

Graph tracking freshman enrollment and tuition numbers by Dustin Atchley

Bar chart tracking the size of Freshman classes in relation to total student body by Tommy Rhodes

Bar chart tracking the size of Freshman classes in relation to total student body by Tommy Rhodes

Archives staff were invited to hear presentations by the students. We all learned that some of the comparisons provided no useful historical insights, some pointed to anomalies worth further exploration, and some to bad or missing data.  We were inspired to think more about numbers in archives and future CS362 projects.

Over the last 2 years, students in Finite Math collected data from archival sources and created information graphic that highlighted aspects of Davidson’s history. They used alumni catalogs, yearbooks, sports media guides, and catalogs to track Davidson enrollment, student home states, percentages of athletes, and tuition.

Poster using athletic history data researched and designed by math students Ryan Lowe, Peyton Aldridge, and Jack Gibbs.

Poster using athletic history data researched and designed by math students Ryan Lowe, Peyton Aldridge, and Jack Gibbs.

 

Davidson demographics done by Norma Barksdale, Tess Rollins, and David Curtis

Davidson demographics done by Norma Barksdale,
Tess Rollins, and David Curtis

This last week students in DIG 101 used a variety of documents from the archives to learn about scanning and optical character recognition- and in the process learned a little bit about Davidson culture in the 1920s and 1940s and worked with some early handwritten stories by William Styron. At Around the D, we’re doing our best to connect the past and present and to cover the curriculum in the process

Scrapbooking

Around the D is back!  A technical glitch kept us off-line for a week (but happily not one we caused.)  While we haven’t been blogging, we’ve been busy with student projects – focusing on scrapbooks.

Cover of Roy Perry's scrapbook. The cover says, "College D C Memories" with "D C" in red and "College Memories" in tan with a black background. He was a member of the class of 1916.

Cover of Roy Perry’s scrapbook. He was a member of the class of 1916.

Archivists love them and hate them. On one hand scrapbooks can be wonderful documentation of an event, organization or even student life. On the other, they are a mass of glue, photographs, cut up original documents , pins, ribbons, and other odd bits. They can be difficult to store and preserve (all those odd bits falling out of place or photos sticking together). Digitizing them, which seems at first glance a good option, can be amazingly complicated.

Ribbons adorning invitations in Marshall Doggett's (1922) scrapbook.

Ribbons adorning invitations in Marshall Doggett’s (1922) scrapbook.

At Davidson, we mostly love them and have collected a wide variety. The oldest dates from 1898 and is a collection of cartoons related to the Spanish-American War and the most recent covers the Davidson Historical Society up to 2011.

Photos of Davidson students from the 1920's with the corners cut so they are in the shape of long octagons

Cutting photos into shapes isn’t a new phenomenon, Davidson students did in the 1920s.

In between, there are scrapbooks from student organizations – YMCA, Eumenean Society, fraternities and eating houses; from academic departments (Library, ROTC, Theatre); from local organizations (book clubs, DAR, church groups) and from alumni. The alumni ones date from 1908 to 1994 with the 1920s and 1930s being the prime scrapbooking eras for Davidson.

One of 2 scrapbooks from the Battle of Cowan's Ford chapter of the DAR. Three men on spotted horses near to trees

One of 2 scrapbooks from the Battle of Cowan’s Ford chapter of the DAR.

In the last 2 weeks, our scrapbooks have been coming off the shelf and into student hands. Students in Introduction to Digital Art, searched the scrapbooks for images to use in learning new techniques for manipulating photographs. The students in Digital History of American Knowledge used the same books – plus a few more – to practice their metadata skills. Metadata being the current term for cataloging and indexing – coming up with terms to describe items. They will be creating online exhibits around historical documents –moving history into the digital age.

2015 student in the rare book room with scrapbooks from the year 1925

2015 student with 1925 scrapbooks

More Art students will be using the scrapbooks for projects related to Digital Storytelling. In the coming weeks, as the projects for all these classes are completed, we’ll be sharing links to show how something old and can new again and why we keep making space for those messy, complicated and always fun scrapbooks.

October is for Archives-Lovers

October is American Archives Month (and North Carolina Archives Month), and here at Davidson’s Archives & Special Collections, we’ve had a busy few weeks of sharing stories, leading class discussions, promoting archival advocacy, and assisting users! Here’s a few highlights of what public-facing activities each member of our team did this month:

Jan Blodgett, College Archivist and Records Management Coordinator:

Promotional poster from the Charlotte Teachers Institute panel that Jan spoke at.

Promotional poster from the Charlotte Teachers Institute panel that Jan spoke at.

Sharon Byrd, Special Collections Outreach Librarian:

  • Planned Ghosts in the Library event, with assistance from Peer Research Advisors
  • Taught, led discussion, or facilitated: ART 215 Intro to Print Media (Tyler Starr), ENG 240 British Lit to 1800 (Gabriel Ford), LAT 202 Int. Latin (Britta Ager), AFR 101 Africana Studies  (Tracy Hucks)
  • Helped lead an archival donor visit (with Caitlin)
The display Sharon and I set up for a donor visit - we pulled collections and objects to highlight the donors' father (an alumnus), as well as the athletic history of Davidson. There is a football pennant from 1926 showing the score of the game against UNC, Davidson 10 UNC 0. A beanie, 4 baseballs, and other documents.

The display Sharon and I set up for a donor visit – we pulled collections and objects to highlight the donors’ father (an alumnus), as well as the athletic history of Davidson.

Caitlin Christian-Lamb, Associate Archivist (me!):

  • Helped lead an archival donor visit (with Sharon)
  • Gave a campus historical tour and set up archival exhibition for Pi Kappa Phi alumni reunion (1962 – 1969 classes)
  • Spoke on a Society of North Carolina Archivists‘ panel for current University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill SILS students
  • Taught three sessions of  DIG 350 History & Future of the Book (Mark Sample), and one session of HIS  382 Science and the Body in East Asia (Saeyoung Park)
  • Helped facilitate and attended THATCamp Piedmont (see the schedule and collaborative Google docs here) after a few months of serving on the planning committee
  • Met with students for MAT 110 Finite Mathematics class about archives data visualization projects (with Jan)
  • Gave a short presentation on digital archival resources at the monthly education and technology gathering on campus (GitPub)
Pi Kappa Phi Epsilon chapter alumni (class of 1962-69) listen to an overview of what's changed on front campus in the last 50 years.

Pi Kappa Phi Epsilon chapter alumni (classes of 1962-69) listen to an overview of what’s changed on front campus in the last 50 years.

We also have a few more upcoming public events. Tonight all three members of Archives & Special Collections will be at Ghosts in the Library – come to the Smith Rare Book Room on the second floor of the library at 8:00 PM to hear scary stories and eat delicious treats. Tomorrow (October 30th), Jan and I will be participating in #AskAnArchivist Day, a national archival outreach initiative – simply tweet a question and #AskAnArchivist to @DavidsonArchive, and we’ll tell you everything we know! Early next month, on November 8th, the first ever Piedmont Triad Home Movie Day/ Personal Digital Archiving Day will be held at Wake Forest University’s library – HMD/PDAD is co-hosted and co-planned by the archives and library staff of Davidson College and Wake Forest University. Come watch college archival footage, share your own home movies, and learn basic digital preservation tips!

A Computer for Davidson

The archives and special collections staff have previously written here in Around the D about our enthusiasm for and collaborations with the college’s budding Digital Studies initiative. At the end of 2013, Davidson was awarded an $800,000 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant in order to “create a curricular model of digital studies that can be replicated by other small liberal arts colleges.” According to the 2014 – 2015 College Catalog, Digital Studies at Davidson “gives students an opportunity to pursue coursework and research related to the digital tools, cultures, and practices that permeate everyday life” by focusing on three areas: digital creativity, digital culture, and digital methodology.

As we prepare to work with several digital studies and digitally-inflected courses this upcoming semester, we’d like to share a peek into the history of academic computing at Davidson. One of our volunteers in the archives, Loretta Wertheimer (mother of history professor John Wertheimer), came across this October 11, 1962 memorandum from President David Grier Martin (Class of 1932) to all faculty members as she worked on President Martin’s papers:

President Grier Martin's 1962 memorandum

President D. Grier Martin’s 1962 memorandum on acquiring an IBM 1620 for academic use.

President Martin’s closing remark, “that computers will inevitably influence thinking in many fields and therefore it is highly desirable that Davidson students and faculty should have first hand experience with one,” seems particularly apt. We’re looking forward to another semester of the Davidson community experimenting and learning using our now numerous computers – just as we have been for over 50 years!

Maps, Teaching and Archival Field Trips

This week’s post is written by Dr. Anelise H. Shrout, a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of History.

In my perfect world, all history classes would be taught using archival collections, and all history students would learn not just what historians do, but how we do it. This year, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching historical practice through Davidson’s own archives – and particularly through the Davidson College Map Collection and the William Patterson Cumming Map Collection.

1983-84 campus map, with the locations of shrubs marked

1983-84 campus map, with the locations of shrubs marked

On the first day of classes this semester, (and during Caitlin’s “A Week in the life of an Archivist”) I asked students in my environmental history class to describe the most natural space on campus.  Most mentioned the trees, some talked about the cross country trail, and one mentioned the squirrels, but the overall consensus was that plants and animals are natural, and buildings are not.  At the end of class that day, we walked over to the college archives, and spent the remaining time looking at old maps and pictures of the campus.  We perused a tree map from 1962 and a “shrub survey” from 1984 that meticulously noted the position of the plants that make up Davidson’s “natural” environment.  We saw pictures of the “ghost of Old Chambers” and images of the campus entirely devoid of trees. For me, the most interesting images were the might-have-been maps, which showed proposed, but never realized, alterations to the campus landscape (I’m still hoping that they decide to install the once-planned reflecting pool in front of Chambers!)

The still-visible foundation of Old Chambers

The still-visible foundation of Old Chambers

Pedagogically, this exercise was meant to complicate the rigid divide between “natural” and “unnatural” space, but I think that there was also something useful in showing students documents that shape their everyday lives.  Holding the actual maps that dictated which elms be placed in once place, which bushes in another, and how the two trees I’ve often seen supporting hammocks on the weekend got where they are, remind us of Davidson College’s long history, and the generations of people – both students and campus workers – who worked to shape Davidson’s environment as it is today.

An original plan for Chambers

An original plan for Chambers

Maps – albeit much older ones – animated my second archival trip of the semester.  Students in my survey of U.S. history to 1877 are required to write primary source analyses; the first of which must draw from the William Patterson Cumming map collection.  Unlike the campus physical plant maps, these are digitized, and I probably could have run the entire assignment from my classroom in Chambers, reading digitized descriptions and zooming in and out of the Luna map browser.

But, despite digital availability, there is, again, something unique about seeing, and touching the artifacts that you are studying.  By looking at them up-close, my HIS 141 students were able to examine the differences between maps made for ostentatious public display, and those made for everyday use.  They were able to see the hand water coloring on Emanuel Bowen’s New Map of Georgia and the meticulously drafted (though geographically inaccurate) mountains on Jaques Bellin’s map of North Carolina.

bellinmap, Bellin's "La Caroline dans l'Amerique Septentrionale Suivant les Cartes Angloises," 1764

Bellin’s “La Caroline dans l’Amerique Septentrionale Suivant les Cartes Angloises,” 1764

Going to the archives lays bare one part of what historians do, but perhaps most importantly, these trips to view and touch these objects remind us that the artifacts we often see reproduced in books or in excerpt are real objects, used by real people – and in the cases of some of the maps I have the privilege of teaching with, used to explore North Carolina over two hundred and fifty years ago.