Oct 212014
 

We hope you enjoyed our recent post about Professor Kate Donley’s students, who were tasked with creating social media accounts inspired by their research in the University Archives. This is a follow-up to announce that one of the alumni who was a topic of research, Clarence Vitty, can now be found on Twitter–we hope you’ll give him a read and a follow!

True to his interests while attending Norwich in the 1910s, Clarence is following accounts like Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, NCAA Football, and the television show Glee. His tweets showcase a variety of great materials from his scrapbook, with a fun and unique twist. Congratulations to Professor Donley’s students for truly bringing history to life!

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Oct 072014
 

With Family Weekend arriving, we’re feeling another opportunity to reflect on a favorite theme of so many collections of the Norwich University Archives … that our students (and their families!) remain in some essential ways very similar to their counterparts from over a hundred years ago.

Our Digital Collections now includes several examples of letters between young cadets and their parents from the 1820s to 1850s. A particular favorite to check out is Samuel Pitkin, whose detailed messages to his mother, father, and sister included drawings and news for “no one excepting our family.”

Letter from Samuel Pitkin  -- "To be seen and read by no one excepting our family" -- to his mother, 13 July 1822

Letter from Samuel Pitkin — “To be seen and read by no one excepting our family” — to his mother, 13 July 1822 (click on the image to view in our Digital Collections)

Other early NU families to discover include parents and relatives of James Ashton HallEdward CrowellEdward Kelleran HarrisGeorge Olcott, and Elijah Kent Hubbard. When our students read these letters, they often find that the sentiments and experiences are surprisingly similar to their own. We think their parents would likely say the same!

As a bonus example–and one that we hope is not quite as applicable to modern families–here’s a quote from a father’s letter to Alden Partridge that often gets heads nodding and people smiling:

My son whom I intend to send to your school is now at home … he is lazy, I depend on you to break him of that – he is tall and crooked, straighten him …
– David Porter, 2 September 1820

Curious to know how much has (or has not) changed over the last 200 years? Check out some of these letters and let us know if any of their concerns or complaints sound familiar.

The University Archives will be open from 1:00 – 6:00 PM on Thursday and Friday of Family Weekend. We are here to serve the entire Norwich community, and we hope that the parents and families will take the time to become as engaged as their students are in the Norwich story!

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Oct 022014
 
Young people blowing up balloons

Norwich men and their dates prepare for Regimental Ball Weekend, 1967. Click on the image to view in our Digital Collections.

We hope everyone’s getting excited for this weekend’s big event! The first Regimental Ball was held in March of 1960 (the event was moved to the fall in 1964 to spread it out from Winter Carnival and Ring Weekend). The timing coincided with the end of fraternities on campus, and there is some speculation that the hot new addition to the social calendar was intended to compensate for that vacancy.

Newspaper page with photos of college dance

Guidon coverage of the first Regimental Ball, 1960 (click to enlarge)

Coverage in the Guidon declared the first Regimental Ball a great success. Miss Marilyn Adams of “Colby Jr.” (now Colby-Sawyer College) was crowned Queen, and over 900 attendees from Norwich and surrounding colleges danced the night away in Plumley Armory. Check out those ballgowns!

Close up of newspaper page showing photo of dance queen being crowned

General Harmon congratulates Miss Marilyn Adams on being crowned Queen of the first Regimental Ball, 1960 (click to enlarge)

The University Archives staff wishes everyone a fun and safe weekend!

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Sep 302014
 

Fall 2014 is shaping up to be our busiest semester ever for archival instruction! Norwich professors across a wide range of departments have been working with us to enrich their courses with primary source research and hands-on exercises using the historical materials available in the University Archives.

Students in Kate Donley's English 101 class consider how to transform the contents of Clarence Vitty's scrapbook into a modern social media product.

Students in Kate Donley’s English 101 class consider how to transform the contents of Clarence Vitty’s scrapbook into a modern social media product.

We couldn’t resist sharing about the freshman English class we taught last week with Professor Kate Donley, since it’s so relevant to what we’re doing here on our Archives blog. Students took a close look at a collection of historical documents belonging to a Norwich alum or affiliate, and they have been charged with creating a modern social media product (a blog, a Facebook page, a Tumblr account, etc.) that interprets the historical content and provides a snapshot of the person’s life.

Life at a WWII field hospital as documented by former NU doctor Edgar Hyde. Dr. Hyde's collection is among those that Professor Donley's students will be re-interpreting with social media.

Life at a WWII field hospital as documented by former NU doctor Edgar Hyde. Dr. Hyde’s collection is among those that Professor Donley’s students will be re-interpreting with social media.

Working in groups, the students looked at notable figures like Medal of Honor winner James Burt and Edgar Hyde, whose great collection of photo negatives documents his time spent running a field hospital in France during WWII. We can’t wait to see how Professor Donley’s students create contemporary interpretations of these materials. It’s a great reminder that history is truly still alive–and that we ourselves are creating history every day!

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Sep 242014
 

People often ask us about the oldest book in the library. But did you ever wonder about the library’s smallest book? That honor goes to an 1837 edition of Night Thoughts by Edward Young, measuring 3.5 inches high and just 2.5 inches wide!

Miniature book with a ruler for size comparison

Night Thoughts by Edward Young, the smallest book in Norwich’s rare book collection

Books this size are considered “miniatures,” and we have a whole shelving section devoted to them in the University’s rare book collection. It’s amazing to think that this tiny print was set by hand using minuscule hand-carved letter blocks!

Shelves full of miniature books

The University’s collection of rare miniature books

Night Thoughts is a long-form poem that was originally published in nine parts from 1742 to 1745. World War I soldier Edmund Blunden wrote in his memoir that the poem was “a source of comfort during time in the trenches.” Perhaps he carried a miniature edition just like ours in his pocket.

It’s true, great things really do come in small packages!

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Sep 162014
 

With Norwich’s Year of Service kicking off soon, the University Archives was lucky this weekend to host a unique community service event coordinated by our regional professional organization, New England Archivists. Six volunteers from around New England spent the whole day with us on Saturday for a Day of Service, as part of a region-wide event going on at 4 different sites throughout New England. You can read more about the region-wide event here.

Staff and volunteer participants in the New England Archivists Day of Service

NU Archives staff and volunteer participants in the New England Archivists Day of Service

The volunteers at Norwich had a blast transforming our reading room into a “transcriptorium” in a day filled with camaraderie and collaboration. Thanks to the hard work of these professional volunteers,  nearly 70 letters from our Alden Partridge Records have now been transcribed and will help make our growing Digital Collections more searchable and accessible to those with visual impairment, or who simply struggle to read 19th century handwriting!

Volunteers work together to solve a transcription mystery

Volunteers work together to solve a transcription mystery

University Archivist Kelly Nolin is an old hand at training volunteers to do transcription, having piloted a similar project with Professor Brucken’s service learning project last year. We hope to continue involving the community in this project, since transcription is an essential part of taking Norwich’s history and legacy beyond our walls.

Volunteer Lena was thrilled to come across this letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to Alden Partridge

Volunteer Lena was thrilled to come across this letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to Alden Partridge

We are so thankful to New England Archivists and our wonderful volunteers!

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Sep 162014
 

This semester, we are continuing to pilot a program to transcribe some of the handwritten manuscripts in our collections, so that they will be more searchable and accessible when added to our Digital Collections site.

Historical handwriting is something that delights and occasionally baffles us. Elaborate, precise penmanship used to be an essential part of a respectable education. However, just like today, there were always those who never quite got the hang of it. This afternoon we ran across a striking example of this in a folder of letters to Alden Partridge:

Two manuscript letters side by side, one with very neat and one with very messy handwriting

These two letters were both written to Alden Partridge in November of 1814, when he was the Superintendent at West Point. The authors have amazingly different handwriting–proof that our jobs are never boring! Though they aren’t transcribed yet, you can try your hand at deciphering these two letters over at our Digital Collections site. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

 

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Sep 092014
 

While the first-ever rook book is a frequent request of new visitors to Archives, this year we thought we’d try sharing fun facts from other early versions of the cadet handbook. A personal favorite of mine is from the year 1934 when a section on slang first appeared.

Pages of cadet slang first appeared alongside songs and cheers in the rook book in 1934

Pages of cadet slang first appeared alongside songs and cheers in the rook book in 1934 (click to enlarge)

When we pointed out these pages during library orientations last month, definitions like Civilization as “South of White River” or the use of “Cheeseknife” for a saber quickly got some amused attention. As did the fact that the college bookstore was apparently the “Pirates’ Den” in the 1930s and the presence of the US Military slang of “Top Kick” for First Sergeant.

Another turn of phrase from 1934 also caught my eye as I was putting this rook book away later. In 1934, “Joe Cadet” apparently referred to the skeleton in the biological department. Not that long ago, I’d refiled a snapshot of a skeleton in a collection of photographs taken by a student in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Whether this was the very same “Joe Cadet” remains uncertain but the slang does bring up possibilities.

Skeleton photo from the Charles William Otto Photographs

Skeleton photo from the Charles William Otto Photographs (click to enlarge)

 

This is just one example of the information that can be found in past rook books. Come read the rest in our reading room today!

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Sep 042014
 

The Archives Reading Room is bursting at the seams this afternoon with young minds excited to learn about Norwich history!

Students, faculty, and staff researching

Students, faculty, and staff engage with history in the University Archives Reading Room

Gail and Kelly are orienting Professor Lord’s intrepid history students to archival research–the source of all history! We also have members of the campus community here researching the history of Drill Team, several campus buildings, and Norwich’s involvement in Vietnam.

We recently featured some great historical photos of the Drill Team on this blog. If you can’t visit us on the 5th floor of the library, you can always explore this and many other topics on our Digital Collections website!

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Sep 022014
 

It’s the second week of classes here at Norwich, and we thought we’d share some great snapshots of classroom life from the University Archives. For more like these, check out our exhibit on the first floor of the Kreitzberg Library entitled “Back to School with the University Archives,” featuring classroom scenes going all the way back to the 1930s.

Male and female student read a printout from an old monitorless computer.

Cadets read a computer printout during class, 1977. My, how classroom technology has changed! Click on the image to view in our Digital Collections.

Students work at desks set up in a gymnasium.

Cadets take midterm exams, 1963. Click on the image to view in our Digital Collections.

Two young female students working in a science lab class

Vermont College students in a science lab, 1983. Click on the image to view in our Digital Collections.

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