At Homecoming this year, Special Collections opened a new exhibit showcasing selected items from our holdings arranged from A to Z. In Alphabetical Order: A Selection of Materials from Swem Library’s Special Collections was developed through a team effort with several staff and student workers involved.
I worked with Susan Riggs, Frances Lightfoot Robb Special Collections Librarian, to develop an initial list of items and words to represent each letter of the alphabet. Given Susan’s expert knowledge of our collections, we were able to fill in more difficult letters including Q (Q is for Queen, featuring a locket of Queen Mary II’s hair [Mss. 65 P96]) and X (X is for XYZ, featuring a 1798 letter from John Marshall to Elbridge Gerry discussing aspects of the XYZ Affair [Mss. 39.1 M34]).
With our list in hand, Phillip Emanuel, Archives Graduate Apprentice and MA/PhD Candidate in the Lyon G. Tyler Department of History, researched and wrote the interpretive labels for each of the items. It was important to get the right tone in the labels for various items: D is for Duc Cap could be more playful, while L is for Lemon took a more serious tone, focusing on the scant college records that exist about an enslaved man owned by the college and the Lemon Project’s efforts to research and reconcile the college’s history as a former slaveholding institution and active participant in Jim Crow era discrimination. Digital Archivist Ann Cooper took on the unenviable task of editing all the text for the exhibit to ensure we presented a polished and well-crafted exhibit.
Special Collections Student Assistant Jessica Molz designed the graphics for the exhibit, including an exhibit poster, labels, title banners, and digital signage to advertise the exhibit within the library. Her attractive designs made the exhibit quite eye-catching if I do say so myself.
The exhibit is on display until January 31, 2016 in the Marshall Gallery in the First Floor Rotunda outside of Special Collections. We plan to create an online exhibit using our Special Collections Digital Projects platform, so soon you will be able to see In Alphabetical Order from the comfort of your own home as well.