Tag Archives: Special Collections

Anderson Freeman Resource Center Opening Weekend!

Two distinguished alumni are returning to Middlebury as the faces of the Anderson Freeman Resource Center, celebrating its opening weekend to coincide with Alumni of Color and Martin Luther King Weekend, January 15-17, 2016.

Mary Annette Anderson and Martin Freeman represent the struggles and triumphs of the beginning of diversity at Middlebury College, and Special Collections & Archives is pleased to see their impact on College history continue in the form of the new Resource Center.

 

Mary Annette Anderson, class of 1899, was the first woman of color to graduate from Middlebury College. She earned the title of Valedictorian and went on to teach as a university professor in New Orleans and Washington, D.C.

 

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Martin Henry Freeman graduated from Middlebury in 1849 and became the first African-American Professor and College President at the all-black Allegheny Institute (later Avery College) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. An advocate a movement of black Americans to Africa, he himself relocated to Liberia where served as a professor and later President of Liberia College in Monrovia.

 

The opening weekend festivities begin with a keynote address by UCLA and Columbia Law School professor Kimberlé Crenshaw at 7pm in Mead Chapel. On Saturday professors, alumni, staff, and students will speak about the “History of Diversity and Student Activism at Middlebury College” at 12:30pm in Wilson Hall, followed by an official opening ceremony at Carr Hall and a talk by Professor of History William Hart on these two iconic alumni at 2:30pm.

For more information visit the events calendar or AFC’s official Facebook event.

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.

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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).

Turkey on Film: Delicious Dinners in the 16mm Archives

Thanksgiving Day meals are not complete without a perfectly cooked turkey. In these two clips from 16mm reels the Middlebury College Archives, we see both students and the administration sharing in the enjoyment of Thanksgiving’s most iconic fowl.

First, we join the College’s 10th President, Paul Dwight Moody, as he carves a turkey in the late 1930s or early 1940s. This event may have been part of any number of alumni turkey dinners that Moody attended over his presidential tenure.

Next, we find a student in a 1950 promotional film for the College savoring a chef-prepared turkey meal. The clip goes on to highlight the focused work ethic and “enduring zest” for scientific experimentation exemplified by mid-century Middlebury’s  “ambitious youth”.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Middlebury College Football, 1947

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The 1947 Panthers were led by coach Walter “Duke” Nelson (far top left) through a comeback season to the state championship.

 

Though today’s Middlebury College football team stands as a formidable member of the NESCAC, the lineup that went on to win the 1947 state championships may not have seemed quite so promising at the start. Having consisted mostly of Navy men who could only practice after supper and on Saturday at the conclusion of WWII, the 1946 team had played a hard-fought four-game season with only one win. Thankfully, Class of 1932 alumnus Walter “Duke” Nelson returned to Middlebury to coach the program the following year and had a record enrollment of over 600 men to pick from.

 

Two players from the 1947 lineup practice the skills that won them the state championship.
Two players from the 1947 lineup practice the skills that carried them through their historic season.

 

This recently-uncovered clip from a 16mm film reel in the College Archives shows the inexperienced yet rising stars of the team at play as Coach Duke led them in their historic comeback. With footage from several home games (including one attended by Gov. Ernest W. Gibson), the clip captures the momentous nature of the season, thanks in part to dramatic cutaways capturing sports headlines that chronicled the team’s journey.

 

 

Raising the Relief: The Journey of the Winged Genie

When the capital of the Assyrian Empire was moved in the 9th century B.C.E. to what is now Nimrud, Iraq, a new palace for King Ashurnasirpal II was built and adorned with ornate alabaster reliefs. One such carving, which depicts a winged deity pollinating a date palm tree, became Middlebury’s first art acquisition when it was bequeathed to the college by alumnus Rev. Wilson A. Farnsworth in 1854.

 

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Winged Genie Pollinating the Date Palm. Alabaster, 90 by 94 inches. 883-859 B.C.E. Photo: Middlebury College Museum of Art

 

Rev. Farnsworth had been serving as a missionary in eastern Turkey when the archaeological exhumation of the old palace was taking place and managed to secure one of several unearthed slabs. Now known as the “Winged Genie,” the carving contains a cuneiform inscription extolling the wonders of the king. Upon purchase, Rev. Farnsworth had it cut into sections that could be more easily transported on camelback to the coast. After a long sea voyage, the relief found its way onto a wall in the Library of the Department of Pedagogy in Old Chapel.

 

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The “Winged Genie” slab was gifted to Middlebury College by Reverend Wilson A. Farnsworth, Class of 1848, seen here at age 87 in 1910.

 

By 1936, a college newsletter lamented the lack of attention given to the artwork by students and alumni, adding that “occasionally some archaeologist who [had] never heard of Middlebury’s football team, its summer schools, its mountain campus or its academic rating [would arrive] to do obeisance” to the carving. Perhaps in a move to raise the relief’s profile, it was hung in the entryway of the newly-constructed Munroe Hall in 1941. As the following clip from the College’s 16mm film archive demonstrates, people were more than happy to become familiar with the carving.

 

After gaining recognition from the college community and a fair amount of wear and tear, a campaign was launched in 1988 to raise funds for the cleaning and conservation of the slab. Complete with a new steel frame, the Winged Genie is now on permanent display in the Middlebury College Museum of Art where students and archaeologists alike can offer their obeisance.

 

Removal of Winged Genie from Munroe Hall
Twenty one segments of the slab are carefully removed from Munroe Hall by Museum staff Ken Pohlman and Harvard conservator Henry Lie for transport to the conservation lab at Harvard University. Photo by Eric Borg, February 1990.

 

Be sure to attend the November 5th lecture, Ancient Near Eastern Art—in New England and in the News, to learn more about the legacy of Near Eastern Art in American museums from Prof. Susan Ackerman of the American Schools of Oriental Research and Prof. Shalom Goldman of the Middlebury Department of Religion.