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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Takeaways from Data Driven: Digital Humanities in the Library Conference

This past weekend, Jan, Craig, and I attended (and presented at) Data Driven: Digital Humanities in the Library in Charleston, South Carolina. Similarly to when several team members attended the Society of North Carolina Archivists annual conference a few months ago, I thought it would be interesting to compare what the three of us thought of the conference. We each attended a different workshop, although we ended up in many of the same sessions over the course of the weekend.

Jan’s experience, in her own words:

Going to conferences with themes around things digital and archives can be dizzying.  This conference had ideas galore but what struck me most was librarians and archivists deep commitment to making our collections accessible to a wide variety of users.  As a group we’ve plunged into online descriptions and catalogs, charged ahead adding digital images, and now the call is to find ways to encourage creative reuse of digital materials.  At Davidson, we’ve seen class reunions be very creative with photographs and old Davidsonians and are working with faculty and current students to extend their digital skills and bring new perspectives to Davidson history.

I came away energized by the wonderful projects being created at other colleges but also proud that Davidson is holding our own and that our projects – Student Letters, Under Lake Norman, Davidson Encyclopedia – energized other attendees. One area, in particular, is high on my to list –getting more access oral history collections (watch Around the D for more news on this in the future).

Like Jan, Craig expressed his satisfaction with the conference and the way that our own presentation went. The size of the conference was very manageable – Craig pointed out that roughly 85 attendees was ideal: “Enough people for lots of ideas but intimate enough to get to know people.” Craig attended the “From Theory to Action: A Pragmatic Approach to Digital Preservation Tools and Strategies” workshop, which was the result of an IMLS grant to encourage planning for digital preservation at small and medium-sized institutions. He expressed an interest in trying out the Duke Data Accessioner.  Data curation and preservation was also the theme of one of Craig’s favorite presentations, Liz Milewicz from Duke University’s “Innovate and Curate? Helping Collaborative Digital Humanities Research Persist Beyond the Experiment.” Milewicz and Leslie Barnes advocate for faculty to think about preservation while creating data, and were able to boil down the data curation questions to five or six basics (Craig notes: “I should ask Liz for the questions”). Another talk that inspired the Davidson team was Thea Lindquist, Holley Long,  and Alexander Watkins of the University of Colorado Boulder’s “Supporting Digital Humanists: Taking a Data-Driven Approach to Needs Assessment and Service Design,” which focused on how the Colorado Boulder team sought to discover the state of digital humanities both on their own campus, and in similar institutions by using a variety of methods (environmental scan, a campus scan, campus-wide survey, targeted in-depth interviews, and a symposium). Craig says:

Wow.  This is library service/innovation planning as it should be. They really mapped out a plan, stuck to it and did it in a timely manner. Did it all in 9 months including a 50+ page report/recommendations. I really hope they post their survey instrument on DH interest and needs. I need to further investigate NVIVO coding software for quantifying data.

College of Charleston campus, June 22, 2014.

College of Charleston campus, June 21, 2014.

 

Like Craig, I really enjoyed the talk given by the University of Colorado Boulder team. I thought their characterization of three groups on their campus that should be reached out to – “the usual suspects,”  or those already heavily engaged in DH; “the unknowns,” people working with DH, but not with the library; and “DH interested,” those who interested but not yet engaged – would translate well to similar studies on other campuses (like our own). As several of us around Davidson begin to plan this fall’s THATCamp Piedmont, hearing a bit about about Colorado Boulder’s dh+CU symposium and attending CURATEcamp at this conference gave me some ideas for possible sessions.

In addition to what’s already been mentioned, I particularly enjoyed both of Brian Rosenblum Kansas University Libraries’ talks – “The University of Kansas Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities: A Model for Library/Campus Collaboration in Supporting Digital Humanities,” and as part of the “Teaching Digital Humanities in the Library” session. I was particularly intrigued by his nice summation of DH librarians as “nodes,” whose main job duty is to centralize digital activities on campus and push them forward, and the assignment Rosenblum gave to a graduate course, to read Stephen Ramsay’s “The Hermeneutics of Screwing Around; Or What You Do With a Million Books,” and then well, screw around themselves.

Finally, like most of those following the conference hashtag on Twitter, I thoroughly enjoyed Trevor Munoz‘s keynote, “Data Driven but How Do We Steer This Thing?” The talk left me with a long reading list, but feeling excited and inspired about the possibilities (while more aware than ever of some of the pitfalls) for librarians working in and with digital humanities. Overall, all three of the Davidson attendees felt like we got a lot out of Data Driven, and would love to see the conference become an annual one.