March 28, 2020

Delving Into the Campus Archives

Century-old books, class photos, and a mysterious duck pillow are among a few things that you can find down in the campus archives of Blackmore Library. 

“The archives, in their traditional sense, are used to preserve all the documents related to the university throughout history,” Matthew Cook, head librarian, said.

Matthew Cook is the head librarian at Blackmore Library. Photo taken by Robert Cumberlander.

The archives are available during library hours, but an appointment must be made beforehand.

Photo taken by Robert Cumberlander

They are also available to students and the wider community. For instance, an alumni can request to view a piece of text that was written back when they were attending the university. 

The Immersion class, which is responsible for the documentary films Capital in the Sixties and Dear Miss Conrad, have greatly utilized the archives in order to assist with the production of their films.

There was actually an incident that occurred during the production of Capital in the Sixties. This is brought up because it stresses the importance of following the archives’ rules for properly maintaining the documents.

To save their places in some of the books, students put sticky notes on the pages. Later on, when the sticky notes were pulled off, it actually lifted some of the text up with it.

As you can see, there is some text that has been lifted by the sticky note. Photo taken by Robert Cumberlander.

Cook has placed the sticky notes on the wall as a reminder for everyone to use care when handling the materials.

Diving into the specifics, the archives contain a wealth of administrative documents, specifically meeting minutes of every administrative body that has been present on campus.  

Upon entering the room, students can spot an entire shelf filled with boxes that are marked with the names of Capital’s former presidents. These boxes are filled with presidential papers that chronicle the entire era that the respective president served for.

Some of the presidential boxes contain personal notes by the presidents that are restricted from the public due to privacy reasons. Those boxes are only available for internal use.

These are alumni boxes, which are displayed during events such as homecoming so that alumni can look through them. Photo taken by Robert Cumberlander.

In addition, the archives have a collection of the Chimes articles that span all the way back to the newspaper’s conception, along with alumni magazines and literary publications.

“All the little things that the university’s ever produced, are things that we store down there,” Cook said.

There’s also decades-worth of  the campus’ yearbooks, which was known as the Capitalian. Yearbooks stopped being produced back in the 1990s. Class photos can also be found. 

Matthew Cook takes a look through the vast picture collection. Photo taken by Robert Cumberlander.

At one point, the university’s graduating classes were so small that everyone could pretty much fit into one picture, and could be clearly identified. Nowadays that’s not quite possible.

Other physical materials include audio recordings on both CD and cassette tapes, along with video recordings on DVDs and VHS tapes.

Artifacts can also be found down in the archives, such as the shovels that were used to break the ground when the Capital Center was being built, or clay busts of certain individuals.

This is another clay model that was found in the archives. Photo taken by Robert Cumberlander.

The oldest thing down in the archives is a 16th century Bible, but according to Cook, it’s technically not a part of the archives but rather a “special collection” that has been accumulated by the university over the years.

Photo taken by Robert Cumberlander.

“There’s two that I can think of specifically,” Cook said. “I don’t know if it was a part of a collection, but there’s an embroidered pillow with the image of a duck on it that has just been sitting on top of the cabinets.”

Another strange item is what appears to be a young girl’s school outfit. No trace of its origins has been determined.

Alumni often donate items to the university that they feel contribute to the campus’ history. Perhaps the pillow accidentally ended up in there, or maybe not.

  • Robert Cumberlander is a staff reporter for The Chimes and a sophomore at Capital University, majoring in Film and Media Production with a minor in Entrepreneurship.

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