Today in Special Collections, our oldest text faced the library’s newest technology.
Our cuneiform tablet, a beer token from 2,000 BCE, took a new form when DLA postdoctoral fellow Kristy Golubiewski-Davis captured it in a 3D scan.
To see 3D scanning in action – along with the tablet and other important Special Collections objects – come to Davis Family Library this Friday! Kristy will by demonstrating 3D scanning in the library atrium from 10am-2pm, and Special Collections will host our annual Fall Family Weekend Open House from 1pm-4pm.
And stay tuned for a 3D printout made from the scan coming soon, a plastic facsimile students and researchers can inspect in their own hands!
Every day in the archives, we encounter pieces of history that remind us how our world has evolved over the years, and how some things remain the same through the cycle of seasons. For example, this Middlebury College News Bureau photograph from the summer of 1934 could just have easily been shot yesterday on sunny Lake Dunmore.
The idyllic scene is a timeless representation of Vermont summer, and as we bid farewell to another August – welcoming September’s cool mornings and return of students – we dive into autumn, fighting the urge to cling onto the beauty of summer, for we know it will be back again next year.
In honor of the Vermont primary on August 9th, we remember that every vote counts – even in a small town.
The tiny Vermont town of Somerset (which still exists!) could not be silenced despite losing 50% of their voting population in 1924. In one fell swoop, the town clerk, treasurer, tax collector, constable, and school director departed, leaving the other two legal voters the only residents eligible to cast their ballots.
Though the town currently boasts a similarly small population, we hope they, and all voting Vermonters, make it to the polls tomorrow!
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.”
On that same day, 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.
The Bread Loaf Summer School of English was founded in 1919 in an effort to provide a graduate curriculum similar to the then-fledgling Summer Language Programs which would focus on the study of English literature. Poet Robert Frost became involved with the school in 1921, and over the next 42 years, was influential in its development and the creation of the annual Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He purchased a 150-acre farm near Bread Loaf in 1939 and stayed there every summer.
The Writers’ Conference has been described as combining “a frantic amount of business with an equally frantic amount of fraternizing, revel, and emotional release.” Some of those latter elements were captured in recently rediscovered 16mm film footage from the College archives. Originally split onto two reels, the footage below shows Robert Frost socializing with colleagues on the tennis court sidelines (including his assistant Kay Morrison and writers Louis Untermeyer and Fletcher Pratt) before playing a game against conference director Ted Morrison.
Only a moment of action from the Pulitzer Prize winner is included, but we hope there may be more footage of Frost’s Bread Loaf revelry that still lies undiscovered in the archives like this one, available on our vimeo page.
In the 1940s, a revival in interest in Gamaliel Painter, one of Middlebury’s founders and early benefactors, saw the birth of a new graduation tradition. During convocation ceremonies at Middlebury’s former Women’s College, graduates began passing down replicas of Painter’s cane to the junior class. Today, every Middlebury graduate receives such a replica to keep as a symbol of their alma mater and with which to tap along when “Gamaliel Painter’s Cane” is sung at reunion.
This compilation of 16mm film footage from the college archives shows the cane-passing ceremony as part of convocation processions in the 1940s held behind Forest Hall.
Find out more about the story of Painter’s cane and its place in Middlebury history in The Story of Middlebury’s Cane Tradition a video created by the College’s own Chris Spencer, Stephen Diehl, Benjamin Savard ’14, and Matthew Lennon ’13.
Just as coming across full page ads for Chesterfield cigarettes used to be part and parcel of reading the latest edition of The Campus, pipe smoking was once a traditional part of Middlebury’s graduation festivities. Dating back to at least the 1920s during the “Class Day” activities that preceded commencement, graduates would gather outside to take puffs on long white pipes (sometimes lit by proud parents) before heading off to the alumni barbecue.
This compilation of 16mm film footage from the College Archives captures the pipe smoking tradition from the late 1920s to mid-40s. Although even those graduates who coughed through the smoke appear to have had a swell time, the annual tradition eventually ended in what we can only assume was the interest of public health, since everyone was trying to maintain a good health, with a good nutrition, training with yoga balls and quitting bad habits as this one.
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.
“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
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.
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!