My Role as a Student Assistant for the Davidson Archives: A Glimpse into Past Projects

This week’s post is written by Monica Nelson, a student assistant at Davidson College’s E.H. Little Library.

For the past two months, I have been employed in the library as a student assistant. Before beginning my current position, I was unaware of the breadth of possibilities encompassed in library work. In addition to the circulation side of the library, I have had experience with the Systems part, as well as working in the Davidson archives department. While working on these projects, I have learned a lot about the history of Davidson unknown to me prior and have gained a deeper appreciation for the rich and unique history of the college.  Below I will outline some of the projects that I have worked on through my past two months at the library.

While I entered the job with some base knowledge of Excel and a meticulous eye for detail, I have gained a deeper understanding of Excel, a background in the functionality of websites, a newfound knowledge and appreciation for Microsoft Access, and an introduction to the workings of Photoshop. As you can see, my job as a student assistant for the archives is something new every day.

Timeline:

The college timeline is in the process of an update in order to be more interactive and to highlight events that are integral to the Davidson community and identity. My work on the timeline has included researching events through the Davidson Encyclopedia to add to the events already present on the timeline. I have added links to these encyclopedia pages as well as relevant images and captions to enhance the experience of viewing the timeline. Through my work in the timeline and Davidson Encyclopedia, I gained my first experience of working with HTML and the functionality of websites.

A screenshot of an event on the college history timeline.

A screenshot of an event on the college history timeline.

 

College Letter Collection:

The college letter collection contains letters written by people from Davidson, many of which have been transcribed and annotated by Davidson College students. This project represented a transition from letters written only by students, to those by students and community members. My job was to incorporate the students’ work of transcription, annotation, and works cited into a post that included the Finding Aid with information regarding the letter(s), the original letters in scanned form, and an attribution statement which acknowledges the student(s) who worked on the specific letter(s). Once all the information had been integrated, I also had to make sure that the landing pages worked correctly, and this was checked through the links which are present on the posts. Each of the pages also followed a certain layout, so ensuring that all the pages followed the same standardized formatting was also one of my tasks.

First page of a letter by Robert Hall Morrison, Jr. (Class of 1868).

First page of a letter by Robert Hall Morrison, Jr. (Class of 1868).

 

Postcard Collection into Omeka:

The archives have hundreds of postcards that are associated with Davidson College. Another task I completed was digitizing these postcards so they could be viewed easily via the internet. Using the scans of the images, I uploaded the postcards along with relevant information including title, subject, description, and rights onto a site which holds the postcard collection. This project included working with a spreadsheet of information, as well as the networked “scans” folder (which contains the scanned postcards), and the Omeka platform (where the postcards collection will be housed and available).

One of the postcards I added to Omeka, titled "Old Well, Davidson College, Established 1837."

One of the postcards I added to Omeka, titled “Old Well, Davidson College, Established 1837.”

 

Summer of Monuments:

A short archival project I completed was called the Summer of Monuments. Wikimedia Commons began a contest called the Summer of Monuments, using the National Registry of Historical Places, which includes four sites related to Davidson CollegeEumenean Hall, Philanthropic Hall, the Historic District of Main Street, and the Chairman Blake House. While an image for Philanthropic Hall was already present, my job for this task was to utilize the archives photograph database in order to find relevant images to place on the website for the remaining three historic places.  Once I had located some images and received approval from the College Archivist and Records Management Coordinator, Jan Blodgett, for their use, I familiarized myself with the uploading procedures of Wikimedia Commons and placed the selected images on the website, after formatting them though Adobe Photoshop. Once approved by Wikimedia Commons, these images joined the other historic places on the Summer of Monuments page.

 

Alumni Citations:

My current project is making the alumni citations available through a database. These awards include the Young Alumni Service Award, the John W. Kuykendall Award for Community Service, the Distinguished Alumni Award, and the Alumni Service Award. In order to complete this project, I am learning learning how to use Microsoft Access and its  various tools (tables, queries, and reports), as well as the continued use of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. The final product will be a searchable database which will contain all those who were granted an award, as well as their citation (if present), which will accentuate the great work done by Davidson alumni.

As you can see, my work as an assistant in the archives has emphasized new skills, while building on past knowledge. The work I am doing is assisting in making the College Archives more accessible to a digitally-savvy generation, since all of what I have done can be found on the internet. I hope you will join me in experiencing Davidson’s distinctive history and check out some of the interesting work being done here!

From Student Letters to College Letters

A small group of student letters became one of the earliest digital collections on our website.  The first letters were selected because we had transcripts available (a result of Mary Beaty’s work in researching and writing her history of the college).

The latest letters were selected because they did NOT have transcripts. They became part of a class assignment to transcribe, annotate and create online access to previously “hidden” correspondence.  With 2 classes working on the project, we expanded beyond student letters to include letters written by faculty, faculty wives, and young women who were tutored by Davidson faculty and renamed the collection College Letters.

The students in Professor Shireen Campbell’s writing classes contributed 24 new letters to the site. In a tip of our archival hats to Dr. Beaty, some of the selected letters came from the research done by Cornelia Shaw for her history of Davidson College.  She contacted former students and faculty asking for their memories of college life and events.

Last page of Professor William Carson's letter written to Cornelia Shaw

Last page of Professor William Carson’s letter written to Cornelia Shaw

Her correspondents include mathematics professor William Carson, Anne Sampson, whose husband John taught French and Latin in the 1870s and 1880s; Mary Scofield Clifford, daughter of a local boarding house owner and aspiring student,  Lucy Russell, daughter of Professor Charles Phillips, and alumni Colin Munroe (1872) and  William Smith (1865).

Carson’s memories include interactions with local African-Americans in his role of supervisor of the college grounds, while Sampson provides some history for Davidson College Presbyterian Church’s change from a college church to a town church.  Clifford reports on her dismissal by Lucy Russell’s father:

I went to Dr. Phillips and asked him to take me as a private pupil in math, but he questioned me as to what work I had done in math, and after I gave him a statement he said I had done fully enough for a woman. I have always felt that it was hard for a woman to be cut out of a chance for a college course of study that stood for something. In my day the schools for girls were not at all thorough.

Portion of Clifford letter

Portion of Clifford letter

Lucy Russell, Colin Munroe and William Smith offer details of daily life but also moments of excitement including a cattle stampede, student trials and the arrival of Colt pistols on campus.

Another set of letters from two brothers, Charles and Walter Leverett, were recent additions to the archives from a Davidson professor (and their relative) Greta Munger.

The writing students did amazing work, deciphering some times difficult 19th century handwriting, learning about Davidson history and college education in general as well as Civil War generals, Yale philosophers, and train travel.

Additional letters transcribed and annotated by the class:
William Johnson (1842) – describing college curriculum
Robert Hall Morrison (1860) – family news, including a report on his father, Davidson College’s first president
Calvin McKeown (1874) – describing faculty and classes
James McLees (1876) – commencement plans
Oni Davis McNeely (1840) -homesick and asking for winter clothes
Professor E. F. Rockwell  asking advice from Benjamin Silliman
Neill A. Smith (1840) b- dispelling rumors of student dismissals
John J. Stringfellow (1860) – memories of pranks
Rev. Samuel B. Wilson – turning down presidency of Davidson College

July Literary Birthdays

I thought we’d pay tribute this month to some authors, born in July, and represented by works in the Rare Book Room.  How many are you familiar with?

July 4 (1804):     Nathaniel Hawthorne – U.S. novelist

July 12 (1817)   Henry David Thoreau

July 15 (1779):   Clement Clarke Moore

July 18 (1811):   William Makepeace Thackeray

July 21 (1889):   Ernest Hemingway

July 22 (1898):   Stephen Vincent Benet

July 26 (1856):   George Bernard Shaw

July 26 (1894):   Aldous Huxley

July 29 (1869):   Booth Tarkington

History of Pendennis / Thackeray

History of Pendennis / Thackeray

Vanity Fair / Thackeray

Vanity Fair / Thackeray

Vanity Fair / Thackeray

Vanity Fair / Thackeray

Vanity Fair / Thackeray

Vanity Fair / Thackeray

Vanity Fair / Thackeray

Vanity Fair / Thackeray

Vanity Fair / Thackeray

Vanity Fair / Thackeray

Vanity Fair / Thackeray

Vanity Fair / Thackeray

The Writings of Henry David Thoreau

The Writings of Henry David Thoreau

The Writings of Henry David Thoreau

The Writings of Henry David Thoreau

The Writings of Henry David Thoreau

The Writings of Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau

The Two Vanrevels / Tarkington

The Two Vanrevels / Tarkington

The Two Vanrevels / Tarkington

The Two Vanrevels / Tarkington

The Two Vanrevels / Tarkington

The Two Vanrevels / Tarkington

Conquest of Canaan / Tarkington

Conquest of Canaan / Tarkington

Conquest of Canaan /Tarkington

Conquest of Canaan /Tarkington

Conquest of Canaan / Tarkington

Conquest of Canaan / Tarkington

The Old Man & the Sea / Hemingway

The Old Man & the Sea / Hemingway

The History of Pendennis / Thackeray

The History of Pendennis / Thackeray

A Visit from St. Nicholas / Moore

A Visit from St. Nicholas / Moore

A Visit from St. Nicholas / Moore

A Visit from St. Nicholas / Moore

The Old Manse/ Hawthorne

The Old Manse/ Hawthorne

Bookplate in The Old Manse / Hawthorne

Bookplate in The Old Manse / Hawthorne

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!

Summer Theatre

Since 1965, Davidson summers have been a bit more dramatic due to Davidson Community Player productions. The company was truly a town-gown collaboration with faculty, students and townspeople combining talents on-stage and back-stage — and usually performed at a Davidson venue. This week the on-campus show is big production of 42nd Street.

The first production was on a smaller scale. The cast of Time of Harvest, written by Davidson professor Wilmer Welsh and directed by Connie Welsh, consisted of Ralph Quakenbush, Martha Lowder, Charles Cornwell, Truscott Rhodes, Carolyn Jones, Jeff Sailstad and Bob Young. (Click on the article to get a larger version.)

Mecklenburg Gazette article on first DCP production in July 1965

Mecklenburg Gazette article on first DCP production in July 1965

The College Archives collection of playbills and programs covers the 1970s to the 1990s. We’re offering a mid-summer stroll down memory lane for summer plays of the 1970s. You can’t by tickets at The Hub any more but you might remember a few names and faces.

The 1971 production was a musical.

Flyer for 1971 Summer show

Flyer for 1971 Summer show

Cast and production staff list, 1971

Cast and production staff list, 1971

1972 brought the ever-popular Our Town.  In 1973, they went for comedy with Garson Kanin’s Born Yesterday with a future mayor (Randy Kincaid) and town commissioner (Cary Wolf) in the cast.

Flyer for 1973 summer show

Flyer for 1973 summer show

Born Yesterday cast and crew

Born Yesterday cast and crew

1974′s production was Truman Capote’s Grass Harp.

Cast and crew for summer 1974 - Grass Harp

Cast and crew for summer 1974 – Grass Harp

1975 brought another tried and true script – Arsenic and Old Lace while America’s bicentennial year turned to historical themes with Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. The 1977 show moved venues. Instead of a stage production in the Cunningham Fine Arts Building, a benefit dinner theatre took over the Union’s 900 room. A western farce, The Death and Life of Sneaky Fitch, helped raise money for the New School House of the Arts. Davidson professors J. B. Stroud and Gatewood Workman made their DCP debuts, while veteran cast member Robert Manning played Sneaky.

Cast for Sneaky Fitch, 1977

Cast for Sneaky Fitch, 1977

George Bernard Shaw took the stage in 1978 with professor Tony Abbott directing the usual mix of town and gown actors.

Program cover for Shaw's Major Barbara

Program cover for Shaw’s Major Barbara

Cast list for Major Barbara

Cast list for Major Barbara

Summer 1979 had book-end productions. The serious Diary of Anne Frank in July and the light-hearted Hay Fever in August.

Publicity for Hay Fever, 1979

Publicity for Hay Fever, 1979

Can you identify the actors?  Bob Manning is in the middle and that’s Zack Long perched on the sofa arm with Lou Green at his side. Who are the others?

Cast list for Hay Fever

Cast list for Hay Fever

DCP’s ambitions grew in 1980 with 3 productions. The Cherry Orchard in June, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf  in July and Step on a Crack in August.

Summer season announcement for 1980

Summer season announcement for 1980

We don’t have a program for Cherry Orchard, so no cast list.  It looks like Casey Jacobus and James Swisher in the scene below but who is the bearded gentleman?

Scene from The Cherry Orchard

Scene from The Cherry Orchard

If you are in town, you are welcome to visit the archives and look at the years 1981-1998 and if you have extra programs from the 2000′s, we love to add to this piece of Davidson history.