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Raising the Relief: The Journey of the Winged Genie

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

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.


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.


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.

Special Collections & Archives Celebrates Founder’s Day

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

To mark Founder’s Day, the original Middlebury College Charter signed by the Governor of Vermont on November 1st, 1800 will be on view in Special Collections on Nov. 2nd. Stop by and see it along with other documents from the College Archives that date from the time of our founding.

Can’t make out the cursive? Read the transcript here.


This document represents both the incipit of our College’s narrative as well as the laborious road to the college charter itself. After two failed petitions to the Vermont General Assembly in 1789 and 1799, Middlebury faced opposition from the institution that received the first university charter, the University of Vermont. Though UVM had been chartered in 1791, the institution’s doors had yet to open at the time Middlebury petitioned to open the College. In fact, they had yet to elect a president or establish a college edifice. Fearful of losing their state funding and lands, UVM sought to prevent a new college from forming. However, due to the state’s population increase (Vermont’s population grew from 84,000 to 154,000 between 1791 and 1800) and UVM’s slow start, there was a clear need for a place to educate Vermonters at home. Middlebury, with its newly constructed Academy Building (a $4,150 project funded by public subscriptions) founded by Gamaliel Painter, proved the perfect place to serve the College and Vermonters at large. Thus, the town’s college was founded with the signing of the charter, just 39 years after the town itself was chartered.


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

Happy Hallowe’en from Special Collections and Archives: Student Costumes Through History

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Today’s dose of Special Collections spookiness comes from our series, From the College Archives, curated by Josh Kruskal, ’15. Josh drew on 200 years of Kaleidoscope yearbooks in search of quotidian and familiar moments, captured across time.










Telephone System Disruption

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

The campus telephone  system had a large data loss over the weekend.  Our vendor is adding back the data, but it will take several hours to do so.  At present the following functions are affected.

  • Extensions that were newly assigned or changed location since June 2012 may have no dial tone or are not assigned to the correct location.
  • Incoming calls not answered are diverting to the main campus voice mail greeting instead of an individual’s personal voice mailbox.
  • Outgoing toll calls cannot be made by dialing 9.  A telephone authorization code is required.

Another update will be posted later this evening.


Peggy Fischel

ITS Telephone Services

Library & Information Technology Services 2015-10-23 11:15:34

Categories: Midd Blogosphere


October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Join your colleagues from both the Middlebury and Monterey campuses for a presentation and discussion on critical cybersecurity issues including phishing and cracking.

  • On October 29th at 12:30 Eastern time, Information Security will host a Cybersecurity Roadshow.
  • You can join the discussion in Lib105A on the Middlebury Campus or on PolyCom 710205
  • Central Monterey meeting location TBD.

Please join us for this discussion. It is open to students, faculty, staff and the community. Computer security is the responsibility of us all.

For more information call Information Security at 802-349-5805

Happy Hallowe’en from Special Collections & Archives: Pumpkins and Postcards and Portents – Oh My!

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

What better way to wish a friend or loved one a “Happy Halloween” than with a postcard depicting a wacky, spooky, romantic Halloween tradition? Today these postcards, now archived as part of a collection of historical postcards in Special Collections, offer a glimpse of Halloween pastimes with Scottish, English, and Irish influences that became party games for early twentieth century Americans.

While we recognize bobbing for apples and roasting chestnuts as typical autumnal activities, these postcards illustrate the soothsaying power Halloween inspires in every household item – from magic mirrors to apple augurs. Who knew that uprooting kale blindfolded in the dead of night could reveal specific details about future loves? Or that an apple peel denotes the initials of your future spouse? Only on Halloween, October’s very own Valentine’s Day.

Nuts, Kale, & Cabbage

Anthropomorphized nuts, paired off with the titles “Uncertainty,” “Hope,” “Despair,” and “Happy Ever After,” represent the practice of interpreting the behavior of chestnuts in a fire. Those participating would assign two chestnuts to a couple and observe whether the chestnuts burned together, jumped apart in the flame, crackled loudly, or came together.

Postmarked 1911
Postmarked 1911, Peoria, Illinois

A couple was said to live a long happy life together if their corresponding chestnuts burned brightly and quietly next to each other, or their relationship would end in disaster if they crackled contentiously and popped in different directions.

In a similar gastronomical theme, partygoers would collect cabbage or kale from the garden blindfolded and ascribe various meanings to the experience. Perhaps in continuation of ancient harvest celebrations, this ritual took on romantic implications in the American Hallowe’en context.


If the selected cabbage or kale was difficult to unearth, it denoted difficulty in a relationship. Kale with clumps of dirt stuck to the roots signified a rich husband, and the size, shape, and taste of the kale foretold the physical attributes and personality of a future spouse.


Open Flames & Apple Peels

Another postcard depicts a daring party game in which a stick was suspended horizontally from the ceiling with an apple impaled on one end and a lit candle affixed to the other. The stick was sent spinning while guests attempted to bite the apple – without getting burned by the candle. The skill with which one could capture a bite indicated their fortune in love, and if a player got burned in the game, he or she was certain to be “burned” by a lover. (Special Collections & Archives does not endorse any of the activities described in this post. Please don’t try this at home.)


Apples weren’t just for group play. An apple peel when thrown over the shoulder could disclose a future spouse’s initials, and an unintelligible result denoted spinsterhood (though the reader could interpret her apple peel liberally).



Postmarked 1912, Brooklyn, NY
Postmarked 1912, Brooklyn, NY


Blindfolds & Finger Bowls

Another fun party game used bowls of different substances, illustrated in these postcards. Blindfolded players would select a bowl, and its contents would reveal their fate. Clear water signified marriage to a young and fair mate, vinegar denoted widowhood, and an empty bowl meant solitude.

Postmarked 1909, Duluth, Minnesota, sent to Cleveland, Ohio


Postmarked 1923, Williamsport, PA, "From a Friend"
Postmarked 1923, Williamsport, PA, “From a Friend”

Mirror, Mirror

Mirrors also took on special powers on All Hallow’s Eve, as depicted on the following postcards.

In fact, your true love’s face was said to appear in a mirror if you performed various activities on Halloween night. Such as, brushing your hair…

Postmarked 1909, St. Paul, Minnesota
Postmarked 1909, St. Paul, Minnesota

…abandoning your party guests to steal to your room with a Jack-o-lantern…


…or, walking down the cellar stairs backwards with a candle in one hand, a mirror in the other, and a mouthful of salt. If you didn’t trip and break your neck, you would live happily ever after with your love until a peaceful, sodium-induced demise.


All in the name of love and the spirit of Halloween!

These lurking mirror-gazers were sent to Jackson, Michigan in 1910 with the mysterious note, as seen below: “GESS WHO I AM IF YOU CAN.”



Arkins, Diane C. Halloween: Romanic Art and Customs of Yesteryear. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing, 2007.

C-132 Historic Postcards & Ephemera, Special Collections & Archives, Middlebury College.

AT&T Enables Wi-Fi Calling for iPhone 6 and up w/ iOS 9.x

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Following T-Mobile and Sprint, AT&T has just enabled a much-anticipated feature called Wi-Fi Calling for people who have an iPhone 6, 6 plus, 6s, or 6s plus running iOS 9.x on AT&T.

From AT&T’s web site…

With Wi-Fi Calling, you can talk and text over Wi-Fi when cellular coverage is limited or unavailable. For example, some indoor locations may be difficult for even a strong cellular signal to reach. Now, with a Wi-Fi connection, you can talk and text in those hard-to-reach places.

  • Wi-Fi Calling is easy to set up and use.
  • Once you set up Wi-Fi Calling, your phone automatically detects when to use it. Wi-Fi Calling will only be used if cellular coverage is weak or unavailable.
  • It works with your AT&T mobile number and compatible device—no new number or app required.

Once you set up Wi-Fi Calling on your phone, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits. Just follow the steps in your phone’s settings to get started.

  • Make and receive unlimited domestic calls within the U.S., Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands at no additional charge.
  • International long distance rates apply for calls made to international numbers.
  • Text messages sent or received using Wi-Fi Calling are counted and charged under your existing rate plan.

Here is a link to AT&T’s FAQ page on Wi-Fi Calling that should answer any questions that you might have.