Apr 242015

Here in the Kreitzberg Library, we’ve had construction on the brain for the last few months. Every day brings new sights, sounds, and walls that weren’t there before! You can keep up with the latest news on the library’s renovation blog.

It’s so exciting to watch the transformation to a state-of-the-art 21st-century library happen right under our noses. We thought this would be a great time to share some images of Norwich under construction throughout its history. A lot has changed in 200 years!

Building under construction

Alumni Hall under construction, 1905

Work crew in front of excavated hillside

Excavation for either Carnegie (later renamed Chaplin) Library or the heating plant, circa 1905-1907

Building foundation under construction

Foundation for Carnegie (later renamed Chaplin) Library, circa 1904-1905

Building under construction

Construction of Taylor Riding Hall, 1920. The riding hall was later converted to a hockey arena, and the Kreitzberg Arena now occupies this spot.

Team of horses and men at excavation site

Excavation for Sabine Field, circa 1921

Steel building frame

Steel structure for the new Jackman Hall, circa 1965

Apr 202015

For the last few weeks, we have been highlighting the members of our wonderful University Archives staff. The newest member of our staff, Alison, joined us in January as the Archives Associate. She is currently studying for her Master of Library and Information Science. To wrap up our “Meet the Archivist” series, Alison agreed to share with us about her experience at Norwich so far!

Why did you want to go to library school? I decided to apply to library school after volunteering at my local library.  I tutored elementary school kids, held a workshop on digital resources, and inventoried materials for the archive.  I applied to library school because I wanted to be able to connect people to information and inspire a love of learning.  My first library job was working at the University of Washington and I found I really enjoy working with college students.

What do you enjoy most about working in the Norwich Archives? My favorite part of working in the archive is working with students and helping them learn how to use archival material in their homework and research.  Sometimes archival reference questions can be teaching moments as well. Many of our visitors have never used archival sources before.

What has been the biggest difference between working in a library and an archive? The biggest difference for me has been the amount of time I spend with patrons.  When I worked in a library, I only spoke to people briefly to answer questions or check out books.  In the archives I get to spend more time getting to know our patrons and the projects they are working on. I love seeing returning visitors!

What is your favorite part of the University Archives collections (so far)? My favorite part of the archives has been working with our manuscript collection.  It is something I have never done before and it is really fascinating to read an original document written in the 1800s.  It has been fun trying to decipher Alden Partridge’s handwriting!

Apr 102015

Happy Friday! We’ve been making you read a lot lately, so we thought we’d “ring out” the week with some neat things to look at instead!

Have you ever wondered what it looks like inside the Adams Carillon Tower, which stands to the east of Jackman Hall? Our Digital Collection features these great photos of the bells’ installation in 1956:

Workmen moving a large bell

Installation of carillon bells, 1956. Click to view in our Digital Collections.

Bells on a crane next to a building frame

Installation of carillon bells, 1956. Click  to view in our Digital Collections.

Man inside a bell tower.

Installation of carillon bells, 1956. Click to view in our Digital Collections.

Mar 312015

One of our goals on this blog is to pull back the curtain on the work we do in the University Archives. A lot of people wonder what an archivist does, so we thought we’d introduce ourselves and explain why we love our jobs! 

How long have you worked in the Norwich University Archives and what is your role? I joined the Norwich family in October of 2003. My first years here were spent building the archives program and ensuring we followed professional standards and best practices and developed sound policies to guide and govern our work here. Initially the staff was just me – now we are a staff of four and I act as Head of the University Archives.

Why are you an archivist? Because nothing thrills me more than creating order out of chaos. We have more than 1,700 boxes of records here in the archive – that requires a whole lot of organization! When I was a very little girl I would stick little masking tape spine labels on all my Little Golden Books. I still have those books! I’m lucky – working in this field was a true calling.

What is the best part of your job? Teaching –no question! I love to work with our students and our faculty to create just the right class to help students learn archival literacy skills: the terminology, organization and how to navigate our collections. It’s an awesome moment when a student works with a primary source, perhaps a letter written by a fellow student nearly 200 years ago, and connects via a common human experience (girls, mischief, etc.). Our students will smile in recognition and it lights up my life and reminds me why I do what I do.

What is your favorite part of the University Archives collections? This is like choosing your favorite child! My favorites tend to evolve as the collection grows or my work takes me deeper into various parts of it; however, this photograph has been a favorite of mine for at least ten years.

Surveyors working in a field near cows

To me, this image is a poignant summary of who we are (via the elegant military uniforms), where we are (our rural location – cows graze peacefully alongside the students), and what we do here, our instructional mission (students doing field work in surveying, which has been taught here at NU since the beginning).

Mar 242015

We’ve often wondered where Alden Partridge’s nickname of “Old Pewt” came from. Was it because of his steely will or personality? Was he an avid pewter collector? Well, now we have an answer! Drumroll please…

It was because of his terrible handwriting! In a reminiscence published in the 1898 edition of the University history, Luther Marsh, class of 1829, recalled that “the nickname had been given him because his signature looked as much like ‘Pewter’ as anything else.” We dug up some examples of Partridge’s signature from the time that Marsh was attending Norwich, and we are inclined to agree! See for yourself:

Manuscript with portion highlighted by red box

Click to enlarge

Manuscript with portion highlighted byr ed box

Click to enlarge


As we continue the process of digitizing and transcribing Alden Partridge’s letters and papers, “Old Pewt” has already developed a bit of a reputation among the Archives staff for his atrocious handwriting. Imagine how tickled we were to discover that it’s a reputation he’s held for almost 200 years!

Mar 172015

One of our goals on this blog is to pull back the curtain on the work we do in the University Archives. A lot of people wonder what an archivist does, so we thought we’d introduce ourselves and explain why we love our jobs! 

How long have you worked in the Norwich University Archives and what is your role? I’ve worn a number of different hats since I came to Norwich in 2008 to help organize our extensive photograph collection. In my current role as Archivist for Digital Collections and Access Services, my time is split between providing assistance to researchers, establishing a web presence for the University Archives, and making more information about our collections available online. Since the launch of our Digital Collections last year, my biggest focus has been on improving and growing the number of documents and photographs we make available through the site.

Why are you an archivist? A combination of happenstance and a love for history. Although not the path I originally thought I’d take, internship and volunteer opportunities steered me towards the archives profession. I’ve become a big believer in the role that archives play not just in retaining the “interesting” tidbits of history, but also in safeguarding documents that can be vital for preserving an organization’s identity over the long term as well as providing context for future decision-making.

What is the best part of your job? I love the experience of seeing others discover and make use of our collections. Whether it’s the realization that you can understand and relate to someone’s life 200 years ago or the moment a major connection is uncovered, it is a great feeling to be along for the ride when a discovery happens.

What is your favorite part of the University Archives collections? This is a question I can never answer consistently! Through my work with researchers, I am constantly getting a glimpse into what’s exciting to others and learning more about our collections myself.

For example, I’ve recently spent a lot of time with a collection of negatives kept by former university physician, Dr. Edgar Hyde, during his service as head of the 91st Evacuation Hospital in World War II. This riveting collection began attracting interest almost as soon as we were able to put the collection guide online. And every time we get a new nibble – I get to discover a little more.

Cluster of tents and clotheslines

World War II field hospital in Casablanca, from the Edgar Hyde Photographs

Another favorite that I’ve kept coming back to are the letters written between cadet Samuel Pitkin and his mother and sister in 1822. Everything from Pitkin’s drawings and penmanship to his detailed descriptions of cadet life to his close relationships with family back home make these letters a treat!


Note: Our Digital Collections site has a new URL. Nothing about the site itself has changed, but you can now access it at archives.norwich.edu–super easy to remember! Please take a moment to update any bookmarks or links you may have.

Mar 102015

The curtain is falling on the most tragic and stupendous drama ever enacted on the stage of the world. The stories that the actors will tell will be interesting for generations.

Norwich Reveille editors, November 1918

Last week, I shared this photograph of Gus Nelson as one of my favorite items from our collections. It shows an American soldier in France on Armistice Day, bearing witness to history as so many Norwich men and women have and continue to do today.

World War One soldier eating on a fence

Click to enlarge

The story of Gus Nelson’s experience overseas during World War I is documented extensively in our collection of his personal papers and photographs, as well as a series of articles in the former student newspaper, the Reveille, that I’d like to share with you today.

Nelson was an editor of the Reveille, and when he had to ship out to France in the middle of his Norwich career, he left with a promise to send back dispatches from the front for the Reveille to print. The result is a series of four detailed and eye-opening articles that were printed from November 1917 to November 1918, detailing his experience from the troop transport ship to the trenches. You can use the following links to read each of them on our Digital Collections:

This last installment was written before the armistice and published shortly after, accompanied by the above quotation from the editorial staff, which rings true today. We hope you will take a moment to read Gus Nelson’s story in his own words.

Mar 052015

One of our goals on this blog is to pull back the curtain on the work we do in the University Archives. A lot of people wonder what an archivist does, so we thought we’d introduce ourselves and explain why we love our jobs! 

How long have you worked in the Norwich University Archives and what is your role? I came to Norwich in June of 2013 and have been in the role of Outreach Archivist for the last nine months. In addition to running this blog, this means that I handle all our events and marketing, as well as coordinating with people and campus offices who want to use our archival resources for major projects. Basically, I do everything I can to get the word out about how great the Archives is!

Why are you an archivist? I love helping people understand how real and relevant history is—that it’s not just an abstract idea, but it’s made up of photographs, letters, diaries, scrapbooks, and documents that you can touch, read, and use to understand people’s personal experiences.

What is the best part of your job? Watching someone uncover a major revelation during their research—that “aha moment” is pure joy for anyone who works with students, as we do so often. Any time I can tell someone’s really excited about history, I’m a happy camper.

What is your favorite part of the University Archives collections? We get this question a lot! I love it when I come across unusual  documents that illuminate the personal side of an historical event or time period. For example, when preparing for an exhibit last year, I fell in love with a letter that one of our alums, John Finn, wrote home during World War II describing how he felt sympathy for the German children he was meeting overseas, and struggled with the strict policy against interacting with them. I also adore this photo of Gus Nelson, class of 1924, wearing a big grin while overseas on Armistice Day, 1918:

World War One soldier eating on a log

Click to enlarge


Feb 252015

You’ve probably noticed that lately we’ve been highlighting a lot of content from the manuscripts on our Digital Collections site. That’s because we’re so excited about the strides that have been made in making Alden Partridge’s correspondence available to the University community, near and far. We recently hit a milestone in that process that we are so delighted to share with you–we found the earliest reference in our founder’s letters to the institution that would become Norwich University!

Handwritten manuscript letter

Click to enlarge


The letter in question is dated September 24, 1817. In it, Cyrus Partridge writes to Alden that the gentlemen of Norwich, Vermont are excited about the prospect of a military school being established there, and have offered financial pledges toward that goal. You can read the whole letter here!

Partridge would be court martialed the following month, his affiliation with West Point finally coming to a close. The correspondence that is available online now covers this momentous event as well as the year of 1819, when Norwich marks its founding. While the first bricks were laid in 1819, no students enrolled until 1820.

We hope that you continue to enjoy the increasingly rich resources on offer through our Digital Collections! We are so proud of the hard work that’s gone into making the University’s archival collections available to her friends around the globe.

Correction: This post previously stated that no bricks were laid for the construction of Norwich University until 1820; the first bricks were laid in August 1819. We regret the error.

Feb 162015

Letters from two of our early presidents to Alden Partridge are available to view and read on our Digital Collections site. Captain Partridge corresponded with Thomas Jefferson in 1815, and with James Monroe from 1813-1817, when the future president was serving as Secretary of War and Secretary of State.

It’s fun to note the postal markings on this 1815 letter from Thomas Jefferson–where the postage should be marked, the word “free” has been written in, alluding to Jefferson’s franking privilege–the right of all former presidents to use the postal service free of charge for life! The right applies to first ladies, too–Jacqueline Kennedy famously lost her franking privileges upon remarrying.

Envelope exterior

Cover page of letter from Thomas Jefferson to Alden Partridge, showing franking marks. Click on the image to view in our Digital Collections.