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.
Devoted to the history of Virginia’s hip-hop culture, the William & Mary Hip-Hop Collection has documented shared cultural origins with the Bronx and greater New York City. As early as 1979, many of Virginia’s hip-hop pioneers were listening to the earliest commercial rap releases from New York City on Virginia radio stations, most prominently WRAP-AM broadcasting from Norfolk. By the mid-1980s, the release of Hollywood films such as Wild Style and Beat Street featuring hip-hop cultural elements propelled Virginia’s pioneers to begin forming dance crews, similar to the b-boys and b-girls that began dancing at parties throughout the Bronx in the early 1970s.
On Friday, the 25th of September, 1942, Hilda Haworth, her husband Walter, and many others left the English Channel island Guernsey for Germany. The diary details life in the camp for a little over a year, and was immensely fascinating to read through. While I knew that the Nazis had set up internment camps for various populations during the war, I had never encountered the story of the Guernsey, which is located off the coast of Normandy, France and was surprised to find that the Germans actually brought many Guernsey residents to camps in Germany.