Tag Archives: College Archives

Digital Projects & Archives Librarian Patrick Wallace featured on Archive-It Blog – Unauthorized Voices in the Archive: Documenting Student Life in Middlebury College’s Community Web Archive

Read it on Archive-It’s blog or below!

Source: Archive-It Blog – Unauthorized Voices in the Archive: Documenting Student Life in Middlebury College’s Community Web Archive

 

Unauthorized Voices in the Archive: Documenting Student Life in Middlebury College’s Community Web Archive

The following is a guest post by Patrick Wallace, Digital Projects & Archives Librarian at Middlebury College.

 

In November 2015, as I stepped into my position as Middlebury College’s first digital archivist, our Director of Special Collections approached me for ideas on how to begin work toward three mutual goals: providing boldly promiscuous, public access to our digital collections; preserving born-digital and web content; and, including fuller representations of student life in the college archives. Like many institutions, Middlebury’s previous efforts to preserve institutional memory emphasized – at least implicitly – the authorized, public face of the college: official publications, administrative business, sanctioned student activities, and so on. The college archives therefore represented a mostly sanitized view of campus culture, a clean and uncontroversial history that we in Special Collections found unacceptable at a time when student protests over issues of discrimination, violence, gender and sexual identity, racial diversity, and a host of critical social justice issues were shaking up campuses nationwide, and as Middlebury was making conscious institutional efforts to improve on-campus diversity, inclusivity, and community wellness. Subsequently, our first major initiative toward change was the Middlebury College Community Web Archive, which began, and remains, a central effort by the college archives toward constructing a more just institutional memory.

 

Queer Faces of Middlebury, a student-created photographic narrative documenting diversity among students, staff, and faculty.

 

A major goal of the project has been to capture and preserve discussions happening in Middlebury’s culturally diverse activist margins. Student debate and activism happens in large part online, especially via Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Tumblr, and other social media outlets. Students often speak more freely in these virtual spaces than they might, for example, in the editorial pages of the college’s newspaper or in an institutionally-sanctioned town hall discussion. As a long time fan, I had been suggesting that the Internet Archive would play a central role in our digital collections strategy from the time of my job interview, and the ideas behind the Community Web Archive delivered a perfect justification for partnering with Archive-It.

Identifying and collecting student-created content from unsanctioned online sources (e.g. sites outside of our institutional web domain, or social media feeds from organizations unaffiliated with the college) was a clear priority, but not without a host of risks and difficult choices: we had concerns about unfairly appropriating student voices for our own work; we wrung our hands over how to organize potentially controversial materials; we discussed concerns about administrative pushback; we worried about inspiring resentment or mistrust in students who were critical of the establishment to which we in the archives are certainly beholden. As archivists and curators, we have immense power to shape history. It is my decided opinion that participating in the soft censorship of omission in deference to a personal fear of backlash is grossly unethical. Therefore, the famous words of computing pioneer Grace Hopper–“it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission”–have been a central guiding principle of our digital collections strategy.

 

Image from a student created “disorientation guide” questioning institutional efforts at improving campus diversity (disorientmidd.wordpress.com).

 

Yet, the archives are also an institutional authority, and when our artifacts represent voices set in opposition to that same authority, it is imperative that we remain sensitive to the risk of exploiting or misrepresenting student experiences in our collections. Organization and definition presented an immediate challenge. YouTube channels by Middlebury’s acapella singing groups could certainly live comfortably and uncontroversially alongside the Mountain Club’s Facebook account. But what about a pseudonymous student’s blog post about the failed and traumatic institutional response to their sexual assault? What about an environmentalist polemic that cast Middlebury – the first school in the country to offer an undergraduate degree in environmental studies – and its administration in a less than favorable light? What about the website of a satirical publication that, while venerable on campus, is run independently of the college?

To answer the question of classification, I proposed that we turn to our original goal – to provide a full and honest view of student life – and make the choice not to impose artificial distinctions. Theater and mountaineering have long been a part of the “college experience” at Middlebury, but so have sexual violence and racial discrimination; to suggest otherwise would be fundamentally disingenuous and contrary to our aims. We reached out informally to a number of students and recent graduates, and encouraged them to speak with their peers in turn; all agreed that a boldly inclusive collection was the best solution. To be honest, I still do not know if this is a representative view among the student body, much less among the administration. However, I firmly believe that the Middlebury College Community Web Archive is the most radical, candid, and diverse sampling of student voices ever collected by the college archives.

 

Documenting broccoli served in a Middlebury College dining hall (proc-broc.tumblr.com).

 

Another key question was how to identify URLs for preservation, and do so in a way that allowed student participation in the curatorial process. An initial set of seeds was proposed by our Special Collections’ postgraduate fellow, Mikaela Taylor, a recent graduate who was aware of popular student publications and activities that might escape the attention of other library staff. However, we did not want all of the curatorial decision making to come from within the archives. We set up a Drupal form for URL submission linked from the library website, and Mikaela led promotional efforts encouraging students to submit their favorite websites, blogs, and social media feeds. The form is designed to be simple; aside from the site URL and a field for descriptive information, the form asks simply if the submitter has rights to the site content, and if not, whether or not they know who does. As a rule, if a URL is submitted by a Middlebury community member, it is included in the archive; we have chosen not to crawl perhaps half a dozen because their size or document count was more than our Archive-It subscription can currently accommodate.

One of our notable promotion campaigns came at the end of the spring semester, when graduating seniors traditionally post “crush lists” – creative posters listing platonic or romantic crushes from their college years – in common areas. A mock crush list created by Special Collections listed some of our favorite sites included in the web archive, with links to the submission form. The response was good, and provided URLs for several sites now in the collection. When facilities management began taking down the crush lists, students began posting scans and photographs to Tumblr; the site URL was submitted to the archives and added as a seed. Out of over a hundred seeds being crawled, only the crush lists site has been kept out of the public archive, because of concerns over privacy.

 

Middlebury’s URL submission form for students & faculty.

 

Work on the archive continues, and we are adding more seeds while actively developing workflows to bring WARC files from Archive-It into our nascent institutional repository. As I write this, the Middlebury College Community Web Archive contains 138 seeds (97 public) totalling over 53GB of data and a million documents, with an incredibly broad range of content: a collection of animated GIFs lampooning the college experience at Middlebury; local news articles about racist attacks carried out against a student government candidate via YikYak; blogs by students studying abroad that focus on cheese and textiles in different countries; Facebook pages representing Middlebury’s Black Student Union, LGBTQ+ activist groups, local musical acts, theater troupes, and fossil fuel divestment initiatives. Adding descriptive metadata remains a work in progress, but more than half of the public seeds include fairly rich descriptive information.

Submissions keep coming in and our promotional efforts have not abated. We are proud of the work our partnership with Archive-it has facilitated, and certainly hope our collections provide future researchers, students, and alumni with as much fascination and insight as we in Middlebury College’s Special Collections and Archives have gained through their development.

 

Stacks & Tracks, on the radio. Tune in.

Stacks & Tracks.
The Special Collections & Archives radio show.

We’re back.


From the bowels of the library basement come wonders like you’ve never seen. (And still can’t, because it’s radio.)

Wednesdays, 12p-1p

91.9FM | iTunes radio | listen online | on your phone

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WRMC Radio Studio, 1970. From the College Archives Photographic File.

Visit us. Monday-Friday, 1-5p. You never need an appointment, or an excuse, to stop by.

One Giant Leap For Mankind, and for Special Collections (ArchivesSpace has landed.)

When astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the first human steps on the moon on July 20, 1969, Armstrong famously uttered, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

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Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the moon, courtesy of NASA.

47 years later, Special Collections & Archives launched ArchivesSpace (go/aspace), a search tool that organizes the diverse and unique archival and manuscript collections stored in the Davis Family Library on the Lower Level. (If you want to be fancy about it, these are called Finding Aids, or inventories made by archivists to help navigate a collection.)

Learn more about ArchivesSpace here.

Search ArchivesSpace now, contact special collections to learn more, or visit us for a personal tour of ArchivesSpace and of our collections.

Mead Chapel Centenary: Then & Now Pt. II

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.

Below is an interactive slider with images of Mead from the archives (tap or drag the bar to the right and left to slide between images). The before image was taken in 1942 while the after image shows the chapel and the surrounding (or should we say obscuring) landscape as it looks today.

 

A new 48-rank chamber organ was installed in Mead Chapel in 1970 after the condition of the original had deteriorated beyond repair. Music director Emory Fanning recalled that at the start of one performance on the dilapidated instrument, 12-inch blue flames had shot out of the motor before it was turned off, a prayer for the dead was recited, and it was turned back on for the remainder of the performance — which continued without a hitch.

The interactive slider below shows the dramatic presence that the new organ holds in Mead, having covered up the window above the altar. The before image is a 1919 postcard showing the interior of the chapel while the after image shows how it looks today. Other changes include balcony seating and updated lighting fixtures.

 

Sources
The Organ in the Chapel.” Middlebury College News Letter, July 1, 1969.
A12 PF Mead 1942 02,  Special Collections & Archives, Middlebury College
A12 PF Mead 1919 01,  Special Collections & Archives, Middlebury College

New Special Collections exhibits just in time for summer!

Currently populating the glass cases of Davis Family Library are Margaret Armstrong book covers and historic postcards. Don’t miss the chance to see them before heading out for the summer!

As part of American Studies professor Ellery Foutch’s AMST 101 course, American Holidays, students researched holiday postcards from our collection, exploring how symbols and themes reflect the cultural mores of turn-of-the-century American life.

The postcards they studied and their comments are on display in the library atrium.

To compliment this exhibit, college archivist Danielle Rougeau curated and designed an exhibit featuring postcards and scrapbooks from the archives. The postcards capture Middlebury College’s landscape and characters as well as the role of postcard correspondence through history.

Postcard from Marjorie Phelps, class of 1917, to her mother. As she mentions, she and her roommate are pictured on the reverse.
Postcard from Marjorie Phelps, class of 1917, to her mother. As she mentions, she and her roommate are pictured on the reverse.

Rounding out our summer exhibits is a tribute to Margaret Armstrong, curated by Joseph Watson and designed by Danielle Rougeau. Margaret Armstrong (1867-1944), one of the most accomplished book cover designers of the early twentieth century, produced cover art and illustrations for over 270 books.

Come to Special Collections to see a selection of her cover designs and learn more about her life!

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Can you tell which cover Margaret Armstrong didn’t design? Come to Special Collections for a closer look and the answer!

 

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!

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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.

Observatory Fever

The Middlebury College Observatory, GIF-ified here by Special Collections Film Preservation Assistant Sam Cartwright, opened in 1937 and was torn down to make way for the construction of McCardell Bicentennial Hall. Read Sam’s blog post, Romance of the Skies to learn more. Then, get your celestial body to the new Middlebury College Observatory during one of their Open House Nights. The first is scheduled for Friday, May 29th from 9:00PM-10:30PM.

 

Middlebury College Observatory, c. 1940
Middlebury College Observatory, c. 1940