In the summer of 2014, several descendants of Solomon Northup, whose story in slavery was depicted in the recent Oscar-winning movie, 12 Years A Slave, visited Swem Library to see the diary kept by Florence A. Barber, the daughter of Philip and Margaret Anne Stanton and granddaughter of Solomon Northup. At the end of the movie, it was Florence’s mother, Margaret Anne, who presents her first born, Solomon Northup Stanton, to her father.
Scherenschnitte, meaning “scissor cuts” in German, is the art of paper cutting. The designs are frequently symmetrical, and are often used to create silhouettes and valentines. This European tradition was developed in sixteenth century Switzerland and Germany, and immigrants brought the designs to Colonial America in the eighteenth century. Paper cutting traditions also exist in many other cultures. For example, China’s paper cutting techniques, perhaps the world’s oldest, date from the sixth century.
The first Phi Beta Kappa Hall was erected in 1926 to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Phi Beta Kappa Fraternity, the first Greek letter fraternity, and to honor the 50 founders. All but one were Virginians and with one exception were students the College. Elisha Parmele of Connecticut was conducting a school in Virginia after his graduation from Harvard in 1778. When he returned to the north in 1780 he took two charters, one for the Alpha of Massachusetts at Harvard and the other for an Alpha of Connecticut at Yale. These 2 branches were organized within 18 months and saved the fraternity from extinction. The Alpha at William and Mary was forced to disband on January 6, 1781, when a British force began devastating the peninsula during the American Revolution.
For the past few months, we have been working to translate the W&M Hip Hop Collection into an exhibit titled Re-Mixing the Old Dominion: 35 Years of Virginia Hip Hop History and Culture. In addition to selecting the “stuff” to showcase the collection and the history of Virginia hip-hop, a completely different set of skills are also needed to create a successful exhibit. The process of creating an exhibit entails a level of organization, public writing, and display techniques that are different from curating and archiving a collection.
The Lane Carlson Papers came to Swem Special Collections in 2012 in several large boxes, filled with what at first glance appeared to be just stacks and stacks of mundane letters from a small-town girl to her parents. This could not be further from the truth. Bonnie Elaine “Lane” Carlson, a native of Scotts Bluff Nebraska, was actually a writer, radio performer, globe-trotting professional woman, veteran of the World War II Women’s Army Corps, and one of the first five female colonels in the US Army. Her letters are full of entertaining banter, reflections on historical events happening around her, and insights into the culture and attitudes of mainstream America at the time. But there is a great deal more to this collection than just her letters.
On October 19, 2014 at Dinwiddie Court House, a Virginia historical marker was dedicated to Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (also spelled Keckly). Elizabeth, or ‘Lizzy’ Keckley was born near Petersburg and was a slave on the Burwell Plantation. Her father was Armistead Burwell, the master of the plantation and her mother was a slave woman. She took the name of her slave father George Hobbs. Elizabeth Keckley had a son, George Keckley, who was killed at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, Missouri, during the first year of the Civil War. As the offspring of a white father, Alexander Kirkland, who had raped his mother, George Keckley passed as white and was thus able to enlist in the Union army at a time of the war when blacks were prohibited from doing so.
“Like Dorry, I have decided to keep a journal. It seems to me a very pleasant thing to write down the occurrences of one’s life so that one can read them later.” So writes twenty-year-old Rosanna May Munger in 1886 (January 1 1886, Diary #1). Rose, as she preferred to be called, would go on recording the rhythms of her daily routine until 1945, providing the modern reader with a unique window into the religious, social, and cultural life of an unmarried woman over several decades.
Through the work of our student assistants, volunteers, and staff, Special Collections has recently reprocessed, digitized, and made the Powell Family Papers, Hepburn Addition available online. The bulk of the collection consists of the correspondence of Leven Powell, U.S. President James Madison, Charles Leven Powell, Charles Leven Powell, Jr., Selina Powell Hepburn, and others. Some of the subjects discussed in the letters include the American Revolution, slavery, the Presidential Election of 1800, the American Civil War, and early American politics. Scans of the collection are now available in the William & Mary Digital Archive.
Each week during the semester, Special Collections hosts multiple class sessions to allow students hands-on access to primary source materials relevant to their course’s subject matter. This week, Professor Xin Wu brought her ARTH 397 students into Special Collections to view facsimile artwork as part of her Chinese Painting class, which is being offered for the first time this fall.