Tag Archives: Special Collections

Mead Chapel Centenary: Then & Now

In celebration of the 100 year anniversary of the completion of Mead Chapel and Hepburn Hall, Special Collections presents a series of posts featuring interactive before-and-after imagery of these Middlebury icons.

Built with the help of a $60,000 donation from former governor Dr. John Mead to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his graduation from Middlebury in 1864, Mead Chapel was dedicated on June 18th, 1916 and marked “the completion of two years’ work and its entrance into the history of Middlebury as a meeting place for religious worship by faculty and students.”

Below is an interactive slider with images of Mead from the archives (tap or click on the bar to slide between images). The before image comes from the scrapbook of Arthur Thomas Vaughn, Class of 1917, and shows scaffolding around the spire. The after image is a 1916 postcard marking the completion of the chapel.

 

Sources:

Stameshkin, David M. 1985. The Town’s College: Middlebury College, 1800-1915. Middlebury, VT: Middlebury College Press.

Dedication of Mead Memorial Chapel.” The Middlebury Campus, June 21, 1916.

S6 Scrapbooks Box 92, Special Collections & Archives, Middlebury College.

A12 PF Mead 1916 02,  Special Collections & Archives, Middlebury College.

 

“Shall we their fond pageant see?” A Midsummer Night’s Dream May 5-8!

While our February Folio fever has passed, the Shakespeare celebration continues with the theater department’s upcoming production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Come watch the latest show in the long legacy of Shakespeare at Middlebury with performances at 7:30pm Thursday-Saturday, May 5-7 and 2pm Sunday, May 8th in Wright Theater!

MID_127_15_MSND_Art_v14-OL

And be sure to catch Special Collections’ archival exhibit featuring historic costume and set designs of past Middlebury Shakespeare productions! On display for a limited time in the atrium of Davis Family Library.

Middlebury's 1971 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream
Middlebury’s 1971 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
TheTempest1978
Original watercolor costume design by legendary Middlebury costume and set designer Capp Potter for the 1978 production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Romance of the Skies: Middlebury College Observatory

In 1936, Middlebury chemistry professor John Haller spent three months grinding a 12.5 inch parabolic mirror which he donated to the College under the condition that an observatory be built on the knoll north of Pearsons Hall.  A simple frame was soon constructed and the mirror was installed in a 10-foot-long Newtonian telescope under a dome built by Guatemalan amateur astronomer A. R. Ibarguen.

Astronomy had been studied at Middlebury since the early 1800s when the Old Chapel cupola served as an observatory. Upon its completion in 1937, the new observatory hosted weekly meetings of an extra-curricular course called Romance of the Skies which combined celestial observation with lectures on the history of astronomy and mythology of the constellations.

This recently rediscovered 16mm film reel in the College archives shows unique interior and exterior shots of the observatory as well as students using sextants near Wilson Hall.

Despite these promising beginnings, by 1970 the observatory was little-used and had fallen into disrepair. Settling of the foundation made rotating the leaky dome difficult and wasps had built nests in the barrel of the telescope. But interest in astronomy was growing at Middlebury after the recent successes of NASA’s Apollo program and the building was refurbished. Professor Heller’s original mirror and other optical instruments had thankfully been safely stored away from colonizing wasps and were reinstalled.

Although Middlebury’s octagonal dome on the hill was torn down to make way for the construction of McCardell Bicentennial Hall, a new observatory was built atop that same science center and has been serving stargazing students, faculty, and the public since 2001.

Be sure to visit the Middlebury College Observatory during one of their Open House Nights this spring to get your own glimpse into the Romance of the Skies.

 

Sources

Prof. John Haller Builds Telescope and Observatory.” The Middlebury Campus, January 27, 1937.

Star Gazing.” Middlebury College News Letter, March 1, 1937.

Would You Try to Reach Jupiter with a Rig Like This?Middlebury College Newsletter, Jul 1, 1971.

 

Stacks & Tracks the WRMC Radio Hour celebrates National Poetry Month with guest DJ, Karin Gottshall

Join us this Wednesday, April 13, 2016 at 12p-1p when Stacks & Tracks, the Special Collections & Archives radio show, celebrates National Poetry Month with Karin Gottshall, poet, Visiting Lecturer in English and American Literatures, and director of the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Bread Loaf. It will be music to your ears, promise.

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 6.29.32 PM

Wednesdays 12p-1p, live at 91.1FM or live-streaming through iTunes or online.

First Folio Festival Thursday!

Join us this Thursday February 18th to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the First Folio! exhibit at the Middlebury Museum of Art.

Starting at 4:30pm in the Center for the Arts lobby, there will be musical and theatrical performances, guided tours of the exhibit with professors of English and American Literature Timothy Billings and James Berg, children’s activities with Page One Literacy, and sweet and savory Renaissance refreshments.

FestivalPoster

Shakespeare’s First Folio at Middlebury – Keynote Wednesday and more events to come!

This February, one of the most important books in the history of English literature is coming to Middlebury. This year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and to honor the centuries of the bard’s influence, the Folger Shakespeare Library is sponsoring a national tour of their collection of First Folios.

FSL logo

Considered one of the most influential books in the world, the First Folio includes 36 Shakespeare plays, 18 of which had never been printed before the First Folio in 1623. Without the First Folio, all of those plays – including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, As You Like It, and more – might have been lost forever.

From February 2-28, Middlebury College will serve as the Vermont site of the national tour, displaying the First Folio at the Middlebury Museum of Art.

TitlePageFirstFolio_FirstFolioFolger

To kick off this month of celebration, James Shapiro, Columbia University professor and renowned Shakespeare scholar, will give a lecture on Shakespeare’s role in American history on Wednesday February 3rd at 7:00pm in the Concert Hall.

Visit go/shakespeare for more information about events throughout the month of February, including a First Folio Festival on Thursday February 18th at 4:30pm in the Center for the Arts Lobby.

The Ski-Minded College: Winter Carnival 1950

This clip from a recently rediscovered College promotional film produced in 1950 shows how students at “one of the most ski-minded of American colleges” took advantage of all that a Vermont winter has to offer. The dulcet narration guides us through a tour of the Snow Bowl and introduces us to the Winter Carnival, “the highlight of the year, [in which] fine competitive skiing is combined with the tops in social events.” The clip also captures student broadcasters just a few months after the founding of WMCRS, the college radio station that has gone by the call letters WRMC since 1952.

Be sure to join Special Collections on February 26 during the Winter Carnival in Crossroads Cafe as we present a special screening of newly-discovered films from the college archives (follow us on Facebook or check the Carnival schedule for an exact time). Spanning the 1920s to 1950s, this assortment of sound and silent footage captures the full range of Middlebury’s historic wintertime fun— from synchronized skiing to cigarette pack snow sculptures!

 

Sources

College Stations Changes Name.” The Middlebury Campus, October 9, 1952.

Lemcke, Ted, “WRMC Elects New Board; Plans to Enlarge ScheduleThe Middlebury Campus, May 16, 1957.

 

Students are “Southbound for Christmas” ca. 1930, captured on film

This recently rediscovered clip from the 1930s in the College’s 16mm film archives shows the once-bustling Middlebury train station with students eagerly boarding a southbound train home for the holiday break. The footage also captures views of notable town architecture including the conical spire that once capped the Battell Block before it’s removal after a 1950 hurricane and  the residence of George Harvey years before it became the Fire and Ice restaurant in 1974.

As fall semester comes to a close, be sure to affix a Middlebury pennant onto your luggage, don your fur coat, and board the southbound train home for holidays!

Sources

Langrock, Joann. Middebury Stores and Busineses. Middlebury: Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, 2002.

New book art in Special Collections

Last week we shared our newest oldest acquisition, a cuneiform-inscribed baked clay tablet from around 2,000 BCE, and today we feature our newest new acquisition, two works by Brian Dettmer.

IMG_4095

Brooklyn-based book artist Brian Dettmer transforms books into art pieces, carving into them to uncover new meaning in the pages and to redefine the book’s role as an cultural object and knowledge repository.

Pictured above, and on display in the Special Collections Reading Room are The Smaller Big Fun Book, 2012 and Manual of Engineering Drawing, 2010. Come take a look!

Disclaimer: While we appreciate these works of book art, we do not endorse such work with any Library materials. 

A “first-rate beer” voucher, 2,000 years overdue

In special collections, visitors often ask us, “What’s your most expensive item?” Or sometimes: “What’s the oldest thing you have?”

In late November, we acquired our newest, oldest thing: a baked clay tablet that originated in ancient Mesopotamia (current-day Iraq), from roughly 2,000 BCE. This small tablet (measuring just about 1 inch x 1 inch and pictured here) is incised with cuneiform script, considered to be one of the earliest forms of writing.


With the help of Middlebury alum Seth Richardson, Class of 1990, a historian of the ancient Near East at the University of Chicago, we’re learning more about our new acquisition. Likely in British and American hands since the early 20th century, our tablet is essentially a beer coupon. That’s right. Based only on preliminary examination, Dr. Richardson translated the first line: “3 liters of first-rate beer.”

And as it turns out, the Western tradition of beer brewing began in Mesopotamia between 3500 – 3100 BCE. How do we know? Largely from cuneiform tablets like ours, which contain detailed records around beer production, the delivery of raw materials (barley, yeast, bread, flour), and the trading of beer products. Like apple cider production in colonial New England, ancient Mesopotamians lacked clean water, but had an abundance of grains and the know-how needed to ferment them. And they had the earliest known written alphabet to boot.

Funds for the purchase of this item were gifted by Jeri Bapasola, French School, 1978.

References

Beer in the Ancient World.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Accessed December 3, 2015.

Damerow, Peter. “Sumerian Beer: The Origins of Brewing Technology in Ancient Mesopotamia.” Cuneiform Digital Library Journal, no. 2 (2012).