Special Collections: Academics and Student Life

Disclaimer: The first time I attempted to write and publish this post, WordPress lost all of my text changes. It was an hour and a half wasted because I couldn’t recover anything and now must rewrite the entire post again. Such a typical Monday.

This past Thursday I went back to Special Collections in order to do some more research for my areas of the site: Academics and Student Life.  Way back at the beginning of the semester, Julia, Jack, Candice, and I visited Special Collections and got some great preliminary information from sources on the homefront experience at the Fredericksburg State Normal School.  I wanted to go back and take a look at some of the catalogs that had not been digitized, due to their fragile condition, and to see if Special Collections had anything about certain clubs, like the YWCA or Red Cross Club.  I took a look at the 1918-1921 catalogs, so that I could compare course offerings during and after the war (and because these are not digitized, with the exception of the 1921 catalog, but it was there while my laptop was not).  It was tedious to go through each catalog, but I found some great information about academics and other areas of SNS life.  The June 1919 catalog lists a War Activities faculty/staff committee, which Bunyan Y. Tyner chaired.  I asked Mrs. Parsons if Special Collections held anything pertaining to this committee, but she said they did not.  We did take a quick glance at Tyner’s papers, but they do not begin until the 1920s.  The June 1919 catalog also has a short section on War Work at the school, and it contains a lot of information about the YWCA’s contribution to the war effort.  In 1918 and 1919, student enrollment in the YWCA was around 75%, and it jumped to 96% in 1920!  This drastic increase surprised me–I would have thought that an increase in membership would have occurred during the war, not in the postwar years.  But, perhaps the YWCA benefited from its great contributions during the war and gained membership afterwards.

Academics-wise, some very interesting changes occurred in course offerings during and after the war.  The most interesting changes took place in the History and Foreign Languages departments.  The June 1920 catalog lists several new history courses, one such being “History Epochs,” which included the recent World War.  The History department also offered several courses on “Hero Studies.”  The American Hero Studies course is described like so: “This is a course designed to help those who expect to teach history.  Stories of the most important characters are taken up and discussed in order to give the students a thorough knowledge of the greatness of those who have contributed to the making of America of to-day.”  There was also a “Greek and Roman Hero Studies” course.  I strongly suspect that the US victory in the war influenced the creation of these classes, especially because the tone of the American course is so triumphalist.  (The parallel between American heroes and Greek and Roman heroes should also not go unnoticed–heroes in the birthplace of democracy and republicanism, and heroes of the world’s best example of democracy.)  I find this hero-worship interesting, because it seems to contradict what we read about in Kennedy and what we have discussed in previous class sessions.

In the Foreign Languages Department, the 1918 catalog places a new emphasis on the importance of French: “In the last year our country has been brought into such close relationship with our ally, France, that it is almost a misfortune not to have some knowledge of the French language.  Hardly a day passes that we do not find French phrases in our daily papers.  For this reason one of the most practical subjects that the students of to-day can take is French.”  Wow!  This paragraph is great for 2 reasons: it speaks to the foreign relations and America’s escalated involvement in the war (especially compared to the 1917 catalog, which has no justification for taking French and simply lists the courses), and it reflects opinions about the universal utility of French.  I particularly like that the catalog doesn’t specify who the “students of to-day” are to whom it refers.  The Fredericksburg State Normal School was for women, primarily those interested in teaching, but it specifies neither gender nor profession–it just says “students of to-day.”  (This lack of distinction is even more apparent when compared to the above description of the American Hero Stories history course.)  I’m not quite sure of what to make of this lack of distinction, but I find it interesting nevertheless.  Perhaps it speaks to how the war effort and Wilson’s “mobilization of emotion” tried to capitalize on a singular “American” identity, rather than an American identity with many different facets.

June 1918 Academic Catalogue, Fredericksburg State Normal School, page 93. Photo copyright Leah Tams.

UMW Special Collections, June 1918 Academic Catalogue, Fredericksburg State Normal School, page 93. Photo copyright Leah Tams.

The 1918 and 1919 catalogs also list “Home and School Gardening” courses, which seem to be similar to their “Agriculture and School Gardening” predecessor, but with a new emphasis on conservation and preservation.  We have also seen this new emphasis in a special course on Food Conservation for the war, listed in the April 1918 school bulletin.  The January 1919 bulletin (also previously examined by our group) has a special section devoted to “war gardens” and its galvanization of the popularity of school gardens.  It seems that even small facets of life were touched by the war!

I asked Mrs. Parsons about club records in Special Collections, especially the YWCA and Red Cross Club.  She very graciously let me peruse the archival holdings on my own, and I was able to find a folder with information and documents from the YWCA.  Sadly, they date back only to the 1940s.  We were not able to find any folder on the Red Cross Club, but I did find one with general information about clubs, and the very first item in the folder is actually really helpful: it is a list (almost an inventory, if you will) of clubs at the Fredericksburg State Normal School from 1913 to 1919.  The list bases its count on the clubs that appeared in each Battlefield Yearbook, and it includes clubs added each year after 1913 with a category “Clubs Added in [Year].”  It is a useful source for gaining general insight into an aspect of student life.

One of my other favorite finds, besides the academic catalogs, was the “viewbooks” that Mrs. Parsons brought me.  Special Collections only holds two viewbooks: one ca. 1919 and one ca. 1921.  The school produced the viewbooks, and they are essentially short photo albums for students–each page has a singular image and a caption underneath it.  The 1919 viewbook had two images in it that I would love to use for the website.  The first one shows a group of students knitting, with the caption “Knitting for the Soldiers.”  I think this image is so cool because I myself am a knitter, so it’s really awesome to see that 100 years ago, my predecessors at this school were also knitting, and they were doing it for a great cause (I like to think I knit for good causes, too).

UMW Special Collections, Viewbook, Fredericksburg State Normal School, ca. 1919.  Photo copyright Leah Tams.

UMW Special Collections, Viewbook, Fredericksburg State Normal School, ca. 1919. Photo copyright Leah Tams.

As cool as the above image is, another one was even cooler: it is a collage of war propaganda posters, created by the students!  The caption beneath the images says, “A Few of the War Posters: Students’ Work.”  Wow!  So not only were our ladies knitting for soldiers, planting war gardens, and doing many other activities to help the war effort, but they were also creating their own propaganda posters to help war efforts!  I’d like to know where these posters ended up being displayed.  Campus?  Fredericksburg?  Both.  I’ll probably never know.  I asked Mrs. Parsons if any of these posters were in Special Collections, and she said no, unless they were hiding in some obscure place that she had never seen.  Either way, I definitely want to get that page of the viewbook digitized so that we can include it on the site.  UMW does have a collection of WWI posters, donated by someone who wanted them to be in a safe place, and many of them are French.  I think it would be interesting to maybe compare the students’ posters with UMW’s collection and see what sort of similarities and differences there are!

UMW Special Collections, Fredericksburg State Normal School Viewbook, ca. 1919.  Photo copyright Leah Tams.

UMW Special Collections, Viewbook, Fredericksburg State Normal School, ca. 1919. Photo copyright Leah Tams.

I’m hoping to make one last trip to Special Collections soon, to see if there are any other sources I need to look at that will be valuable for our narrative and in creating the website.

Group Update!

Well, this week was extremely productive for the Then and Now group thanks to beautiful weather and an entire class period to work on the project.

On Wednesday afternoon we took advantage of the first nice day since snowpocalypse to take some structural shots of the buildings on campus. Using our master list, we started at one end of campus and worked our way to the other to get a majority of the building photos taken.

Mapping out the design of our wesbsite.

Mapping out the design of our wesbsite.

Thursday, we met during our usual class time and assigned photos to each person and planned the layout of the website. Assigning the photos was pretty easy: we went through the master list that Meaghan made on a Google Doc and simply picked the photos we wanted to work on. Website planning, on the other hand, was a bit more difficult, but thanks to sticky notes, index cards, and thumbtacks (and a little OCD in all of us), we were able to plan the entire layout of the website. In fact, since our meeting, Jess has already set up the templates for each page in our site as well. Planning the layout of the site was extremely helpful because it made it easier for us to discuss exactly what we want our site to do and convey to its visitors, and I think we ended the meeting with everyone on the same page.

We plan on meeting again on Tuesday to keep brainstorming and discussing certain aspects of the site.

My First Transcription

Our project has finally gotten on its way. I have just finished transcribing our first scrapbook, for Pi Delta Gamma, and I have to say it was very interesting being able to read all that was written throughout it. All that I have left to do is run OCR on the scrapbook so that it can be searchable and I am going to plan on doing that in the next few days. Hopefully by the time I can run OCR on this first scrapbook I’ll be able to get in a groove enough that it won’t be difficult at all. We’ll see how everything goes though.


In class today we tweaked and decided on our theme for the website.  We also set up a meeting to do some scans at the James Monroe Museum tomorrow.  We really liked the theme we picked at first, except that the menu bar was on the left side and we wanted it on the right.  Luckily, after a little bit of tinkering and playing around on wordpress, we figured out how to move it to the right.  Looking forward to a productive day tomorrow with Jarod!


On Tuesday, I met Ellen in the library and we uploaded the first item to our Omeka test site. We both grabbed an image from our group dropbox and tried to get them up online. Part way through, we got error messages saying “Internal Server error” and then the site wasn’t available for a while, even in the other subdomains. We thought it might be because we had tried to upload two images at once, one from my laptop and one from Ellen’s, but the site was up again later that afternoon and the image that Ellen uploaded was in our collection online. Mine wasn’t up because I had stopped the upload part way through when we started having trouble. We were told though that it shouldn’t be a problem to work from several computers at the same time.

Yesterday, Ellen and I went to visit DTLT to ask questions about setting up our Omeka site. As usual, they made all our issues look pretty simple, which is what I love about them. Tim shared the following info with us:

  • The PDF Text plugin will read the OCR data from a PDF file on the site
  • Changing the setup of the Simple Pages is done under the Navigation tab, not under the Simple Pages edit
  • There is a plugin that will suggest Library of Congress terms for the metadata you enter to help get the right terms
  • Items within a collection can be batch edited on the collection overview page
  • You can edit the image type to include new fields, such as transcription

Overall, I think our project is going pretty well. Ellen and I still need to play around with the test site, but I’m confident that we will soon be ready to move to the real thing.

Group Discussion/Meeting: Week 6

In lieu of class today, we were going to go to the CRHC in an attempt to convince them to allow us to digitize some material and images to use on our website.  That did not happen, however, because thankfully Dr. McClurken was able to contact someone at the NPS to discuss our situation with the CRHC.  We haven’t heard back, but decided that it would be best to not overwhelm them with our persistence and determination.  We decided that since that was the most we had to do this week, that we should just continue working on our individual portions of the project, namely organizing the data that we have for the two sections that we are each in charge of, and to begin writing the “about” sections for those specific pages.  We will reconvene next Tuesday and see where we all are individually and figure out what all is happening with permissions from the CRHC.

Wikipedia Article Histories

During my Sophomore year, I took a library science class that required us to edit a wikipedia page that needed sources or verifications etc. I edited a page on the Spanish town of Manresa where I had stayed over Spring Break of my Senior year of high school.The page was pretty sparse as Manresa is a very very small town. I was honestly surprised there was a page at all. I added some sections to it about the history and other facts from books from the library. I have not looked at the page since that class well, until now. I was really surprised to see all the edits that took place since I left. I expected some but not as many as there were. I was also surprised to see that the most recent edit was from January 25, 2014. Either people are randomly searching articles, or Manresa has become more popular since I left.
After visiting the Manresa site, I wanted to look at a much more popular site to compare the differences. Since it is the Olympics and I was watching the Women’s game for the Gold (USA vs. Canada), I decided to look at ice hockey. My other reason for choosing this website was because it wasn’t protected at all like the other sites I had been considering (Barack Obama and the Olympics). This means that anyone can edit the page so it would be easier for trolls to have their fun here. The most recent edit was today and there has been at least one edit done everyday for the past week.The edits for this page are cool because there are so many. The interesting thing is that they don’t all have to be page altering edits. Many are just small edits, which was the majority of my edits when I worked on the Manresa page. I began with small edits and then added in the information I found through research. The talk page for this article is really cool. There are conversations about new rules, differences between Hockey in other countries primarily Canada and the U.S ( the article is written in “Canadian English”). While most talk pages can get pretty nasty, this one seems to be full of people who want to clarify parts of the article to make it its most accurate. I am assuming most editors are contributing as a labor of love for the sport and want the information to be perfect. This is a good example of an unprotected site working properly. It would be easy for me to update the article with a section on why the Bruins are the greatest team to ever exist, etc. However, I do not think this post would last long nor do I have any desire to change the unbiased nature of the article. I am sure most other contributors feel the same way and that is what makes the article so great.

Then and Now update

I feel like our group is doing really well. We are really organized and get everything done on time/even before the due date. So far, we have completed our contract and started taking the “now” pictures. Yesterday, we split up with Alex and Conner started taking pictures from Goolrick/Jepson while me, Carly, and Jess started from the UMW apartments and moved from there. We had been promised nice weather but it rained in the morning and combined with the mounds of snow still on campus, it was a gross walk for most of the way. The remaining snow also kept us from taking pictures of the amphitheater and Marye house. It is supposed to be nice this weekend so perhaps one of us can take advantage of the weather and go then. Today, we had a very successful meeting to discuss our website layout. I have included some pictures of the team hard at work aided by Carly’s organizational tools. So far, I feel very comfortable with where we are and with our group dynamic. I am excited to start working on the website and pictures! Photo Feb 20, 11 35 00 AMPhoto Feb 20, 11 40 05 AMPhoto Feb 20, 11 39 12 AM

Class Meeting – Feb 20

Today in class we met and discussed some of the technical aspects of our project; we also took time to discuss where we are in our schedule and what is due next. We discussed more specifically how I will be carrying out my transcriptions, which I am going to start today. Ellen and Laura-Michael went to DTLT yesterday to talk about Omeka as well as any plug-ins that may be needed and relayed that information to the group. In discussing this information, we learned that we need to gather more information about OCR, as it requires a pdf as opposed to jpg files in order to work; we are going to look into Omeka plug-ins that will essentially fix this problem. We discussed our 10 minute progress presentation and have decided that we will be working building the presentation on Tuesday. We discussed the deadlines for next week and what we each will be doing between now and then. Overall, it was a productive meeting and we are happy with our current progress.