“Not Included in the Photograph”: Staff Underrepresentation in the Archives and How We Must Combat It (Part One)

This is the first part of a two-part post by Carlina Green ‘20.

On March 8th 1955, around 900 members of the Davidson College community gathered in front of Chambers for a group picture. Yet, a notable population was missing; as archivist Jan Blodgett notes, “college staff are not included in the photograph.”

Photograph of 845 students and 63 Davidson faculty in front of Chambers in March 1955.
Photograph of 845 students and 63 Davidson faculty in March 1955.

Their absence from the photo constitutes what Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot refers to as a historical silence. Trouillot theorizes:

Silences enter the process of historical production at four crucial moments: the moment of fact creation (the making of sources); the moment of fact assembly (the making of archives), the moment of fact retrieval (the making of narratives); and the moment of retrospective significance (the making of history in the final instance).[1]

Michel-Rolph Trouillot

In this instance, the historical silence occurred at the moment of fact creation, when the photo was taken. Silences involving staff frequently occur at the moment of fact creation, which means that they are underrepresented in portrayals of college life. A quick search of The Davidsonian reveals another example. While articles like this one discuss some staff members’ experiences as Davidson employees, very few document their life stories. Since 2016, only one “Staff Spotlight” has been published in the College newspaper—an interview with former Campus Police Chief Sigler. He is only one of over one hundred 21st century staff members whose stories should be recorded, from physical plant staff to dining services employees, from the counselors at Center for Student Health and Well-Being to the career advisors, from the registrars to the van drivers who take students to the airport. To what extent are their lives and experiences being documented in the sources that the College community creates?

My name is Carlina Green and I just graduated from Davidson while in quarantine, earning a B.A. in Latin American Studies with a history minor. While working at the Archives & Special Collections in my last semester, I had hoped to create sources documenting staff members’ lives and experiences by interviewing Vail Commons employees but was unable to do so because of COVID-19. A collection of their life stories would have been a valuable addition to the Archives, where, as JEC Project archivist Jessica Cottle stated, “we largely understand staff experiences through the lenses of their work life.” Because I was unable to create a collection of staff interviews myself during my time at Davidson, I am writing a call to action today.

[1] Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, 20th anniversary edition,Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 2015, 26.

Digitization Projects: Community Change and Oral Histories, Part 2

The Archives recently digitized over two dozen oral history cassette tapes to improve access to our collections as part of the three-year, campus-wide Justice, Equality, Community grant at Davidson College. This decision also helps ensure the long-term viability of these unique narratives so critical for understanding change in our local communities.

With accessibility in mind, we then sent several of the digitized recordings to the Audio Transcription Center – making these interviews both browsable and screen-reader compatible.  While editing the transcripts for accuracy and spelling errors, we identified multiple connecting themes and topics. One of these subjects featured prominently in all five interviews – the evolving character of downtown Davidson.

In this second post, we will highlight how three of our five narrators addressed the history of and changes to the businesses, churches, and neighborhoods near downtown Davidson between the early 1930s and early 2000s. You will find excerpts from their interviews alongside other archival materials related to each topic.

Our first narrator, Margaret Potts, offers insight on the Lingle Hut, a local historic landmark, and local recreational facilities. Our second narrator, Mildred Workman, sheds light on downtown businesses and dining practices. Lastly, our third narrator, Mildred Thompson, discusses the Brady’s Alley fire which devastated several African American families in Davidson, NC shortly after World War II.

On the Lingle Hut:

AUDIO 154: Interview with Margaret Potts, January 2, 2001

Black and white image of the front of the Mill Chapel, now known as the Lingle Hut.
Image of the Mill Chapel, now known as the Lingle Hut.
Interviewer: How did you end up at the Sunday school [at the mill chapel]? 

Margaret Potts: Well I was teaching Sunday school in Davidson Presbyterian Church, early.  They wanted me to have the little ones, the two in, whatever hours it was, babysitting more than anything else, in the old church.  It was a terrible place to have little children.  But anyway, so just through the years, I would teach Sunday school and do things like that, whatever needed to be done.  And so, some of the students, some real good students here at Davidson took on the mill project.  And they got anybody that they could get to go and help there.  And of course, I knew a lot of the people over there, so I was willing to help.  (laughter) And until I went off to go to college, and then I had to stop doing that.  [Page 26]

On recreation in Davidson:

Davidsonian article from 1920 stating: "The Mill Sunday School is quite elated over the new playground equipment provided by Dr. Munroe and his associates. A considerable quantity of open-air gymnasium equipment, such as is found in city parks, has been received. The apparatus consists of swing."
April 29, 1920 Davidsonian article discussing the construction of a gymnasium for mill children.
Margaret Potts: Well, I liked the track meets; oh I loved the track meets.  I didn’t miss a single one of those.  And in the summertime, we used to come out, and [00:49:00] they would let us -- not complain, if we played.  We never did anything terrible.  But on this very spot, right here, where this library is, they had this tremendous jungle gym for adults.  And what, where they got that, I don’t know whose idea it was to put that thing together.  It was metal, big metal things, put together, and it had a ladder that went up two stories and it went all the way across.  Now this is was when I was a child.  It had -- was hanging down, and a place for you to sit, and you could swing back and forth.  It had the most interesting jungle gym I’ve ever seen.  They let us play on that.  We used to spend hours over here.  I think the -- [00:50:00] what was behind?  The gym was behind it.  And it was in front of the gym.

On Dining in Davidson:

AUDIO 158: Interview with Mildred Workman, January 11, 2001

September 25, 1964 edition of the Davidsonian discussing changes to Main Street and the Coffee Cup restaurant.
September 25, 1964 edition of the Davidsonian discussing changes to Main Street and the Coffee Cup restaurant.
Mildred Workman: Absolutely no place.   
Interviewer: No place? 
Mildred Workman: No.  There was a little place called the Coffee Cup down on -- what’s the street where Jasper’s is? 
Interviewer: Depot. 
Mildred Workman: Depot.  Down on Depot Street.  It was just kind of a little greasy spoon.  You could get decent breakfast there.  But I remember when we moved in -- we moved in as I recall on Saturday.  And we inquired where we could go for Sunday lunch of the C.K. Browns, and they said, well, there really was not anywhere.  You must come to The Browns and have Sunday dinner.  And there was no place near around to go.  You had to go to Charlotte.  And there wasn’t much in Charlotte.

On the Brady’s Alley Fire of 1949:

AUDIO 159: Interview with Mildred Thompson, January 17, 2001

Photograph of the Lowery family meeting with Rev. Carl Prichett after the Brady’s Alley fire.
Lowery family meeting with Rev. Carl Prichett after the Brady’s Alley fire.
Interviewer: I know.  Asking about, or mentioning Carl reminds me, do you remember a fire in 1949 in Brady’s Alley, (inaudible) – 

Mildred Thompson: Oh, yeah, I sure do.  I remember that like it was yesterday.  Carl was the minister, and Carl was the one that, I’m not positive about this, but I’m pretty sure, he’s the one that started that children’s sermon before church, you know, that called the children down.  I think he started that, because I can remember him seeing him come down out of the pulpit, and the little children would just listen, and they’d turn around and say to their parents, “Is that true?  Is that true?”  When Carl was telling the story.  

But anyway, about that, it was almost time for church to be over, and this fire started, and the fire was just blowing, blowing.  And of course, everybody was apprehensive, “Where is it?”  Well anyway, it was down in that alley; that was pathetic.  Those people, I don’t know where they had water, I don’t know what they had, but what they had was pretty bad.  And so Carl, after that he went down there and he investigated everything, and he told, he got in the church, and he said, “I refuse to preach in a church where the shadow of the church falls on poverty.”  Honey, that afternoon, he took the young people around, it was terrible.  Honey, he really turned this place around. [Page 9 -10]

Each of the five interviews featured in this two-part series are more than one hour long, meaning the vignettes you have read represent only a small part of these individuals’ stories. Now that researchers will be able to keyword search our newly produced transcripts, we hope others will have easier access to these rich narratives.

For more information about any of these resources, contact us at archives@davidson.edu.

Works Cited:

Potts, Margaret. Interview by the Davidson College Archives. January 2, 2001. “Oral History Interview.” Audiotape Collection 154. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Workman, Mildred. Interview by Davidson College Archives. January 11, 2001. “Oral History Interview.” Audiotape Collection 158. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Thompson, Mildred. Interview by Davidson College Archives. January 17, 2001. “Oral History Interview.” Audiotape Collection 159. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Davidson’s 183rd Commencement: A History Maker

This Sunday, May 17th, marks the 183rd Commencement celebration at Davidson College. However, this year, no one will have to worry about whether or not Commencement will be held on Chambers lawn or in Baker Sports Complex. Instead, the Davidson College community will be recognizing the achievements of the Class of 2020 from home. For the first time in Davidson’s history, Commencement will be celebrated online and the on-campus Commencement ceremony has been rescheduled. Archives and Special Collections would like to honor the Class of 2020 by sharing some resources on the history of Commencement.

Commencement 1994. Students walk down aisle with Chambers Building in the background.
Class of 1994 procession with Chambers in the background

Posts on Around the D

Entries in the Davidson Encyclopedia

The Class of 2020 will be the second graduating class to put ’20 after their names. Taking a look back one hundred years ago to the Class of 1920, one can find that there were 52 degrees conferred during commencement exercises. The May 26, 1920 issue of The Davidsonian reported the success of commencement festivities, with headlines including “Grand Commencement Marks End of Successful Year” and “Davidson Closes Eighty-First Session in Blaze of Glory — All Commencement Events Interesting and Enjoyable.”

Most certainly, the celebration for the Class of 2020 will be different than those of years past. But, I imagine it will, too, be interesting and enjoyable. During the early 20th century, it was typical for the senior class to write and publish a poem in the student annual Quips and Cranks. The senior poem for the Class of 1920 centered around the transition from college life to “the real world,” in which one has the opportunity and responsibility to make choices about what kind of life to pursue. This theme is as relatable today as it was in 1920.

Senior Class Poem from Class of 1920 as featured in the college annual, Quips and Cranks
Senior Class Poem from the Class of 1920 as featured in Quips and Cranks

Commencement is a time to recognize the hard work and achievements of our students and to mark their transition to adult life. We sincerely congratulate the Class of 2020 and wish them all the best! Go Cats!

Banner photo with "Congratulations Class of 2020 Davidson College" written on it. Includes a wildcat logo
Please help us celebrate the Class of 2020 by using this cover photo!
(Image Courtesy of Davidson College)

If you would like to join the online Commencement celebration, please visit Davidson College’s “Commencement” webpage for more information.

Digitization Projects: Community Change and Oral Histories, Part 1

The Archives recently digitized over two dozen oral history cassette tapes to improve access to our collections as part of the three-year, campus-wide Justice, Equality, Community grant at Davidson College. This decision also helps ensure the long-term viability of these unique narratives so critical for understanding change in our local communities.

With accessibility in mind, we then sent several of the digitized recordings to the Audio Transcription Center – making these interviews both browsable and screen-reader compatible.  While editing the transcripts for accuracy and spelling errors, we identified multiple connecting themes and topics. One of these subjects featured prominently in all five interviews – the evolving character of downtown Davidson.

In this first post, we will highlight how two of our five narrators addressed the history of and changes to the businesses and churches near downtown Davidson between the early 1930s and early 2000s. You will find excerpts from their interviews alongside other archival materials related to each topic. Our first narrator, Patricia Sailstad, offers insight on the Lingle Hut, a local historic landmark. Our second narrators, E.M. and Dolly Hicks, shed light on labor relations in the South through the lens of the Davidson Cotton Mill, now known as the Hurt Hub.

On the Lingle Hut:

AUDIO 107: Interview with Patricia Sailstad, April 1997

Color photograph of Reeves Temple AME Zion Church in Davidson, NC. To the right of the brick church you will find the Lingle Hut, formerly the mill chapel.
Color photograph of Reeves Temple AME Zion Church in Davidson, NC. To the right of the brick church you will find the Lingle Hut, formerly the mill chapel.

Patricia Sailstad: And I remember the first time we ever had an integrated World Day of Prayer, and I went with Ms. Maude, and it was over at the little Methodist Church that has the log cabin next to it.  Oh, gosh.  Well, it’s…this is not the black church there.  This is the one behind it.  It was a white church at the time. But they decided they would have refreshments.  

And actually, this was...  But it was the first time they’d had black and white together, and after the ceremony we went to their little log cabin, which was right next to it.  You’ll see the church; it’s a Methodist church, I think.  Now it is a [00:40:00] black church, but it was white at the time.  And so there we were (inaudible) standing up.  We weren’t sitting down, eating.  And Ms. Maude said, “You know, Mrs. Sailstad.”  She looked around at the black and the white together, all chatting.  She said, “I think this is what heaven must be like.” [Pages 23 – 24]

On the Davidson Cotton Mill:

AUDIO 150: Interview with E.M. Hicks and Dolly Hicks, September 18, 2000

The first shift of the Davidson Cotton Mill poses outside of the mill on April 6, 1928.
The first shift of the Davidson Cotton Mill poses outside of the mill on April 6, 1928.
¬¬Dolly Hicks: At one time we had a union that picketed, trying to get the union in at the old Davidson Cotton Mill…I remember from down the street cars just -- But we weren’t allowed up there because there was trouble going on up there -- Up at the mill, so you can see it from right where -- back then it looked like a hundred miles, but it’s only, [00:30:00] what, not very far at all, half a block.  (laughs) But they did have some over there.   Now, [Beatrice?] might could tell you more about that -- but I remember it very distinctly, because we were not very young at that point…’cause I was born in ’25.  It would probably be in the early ’30s…But the union or something came in, something they were doing up there, and there was cars, and seems like somebody got hurt.  
E.M. Hicks: They had the flying [00:31:00] squadron.  Had a flying squadron came out of the North, and they were coming down through the South, and they were going to organize the South.  And so they came through Greensboro.  Now, this would have been the ’30s. And they came through Greensboro, because Cone Mills was in Greensboro, and we were out -- I lived close to Cone Mills.  And this flying squadron came down there, and I remember very well -- you know, it was different back in those days.  I was freer to get out and go where I wanted to than most kids my age.  And so I wanted to see what was going on.  I went out to Cone Mills, [00:32:00] and I could walk out there easily.  And I got out there, and the cops wouldn’t let me -- get close.  They kept me back.  But in those days the cops wore leather leggings. And so these people who were fighting the cops, some of them were the employees, see, and the others were imports, and they’d take an apple and stick a razor blade down in it, you know, and then if you take your fingers and put it on the wrong side of the razor blade so it would be [toward it?], and throw that thing, and when it would hit these guys on the legs, it cut their [00:33:00] leggings.  It cut their leggings. It was rough.  I mean, it was kind of tough.  But anyhow, the cops won, and they left Greensboro, came on down this way.  They got to Gastonia.  That’s where the big one was.  You can find that on the record, because they had machine guns up on the buildings, and they were sitting up there with machine guns. [Pages 66 – 70]

In part 2 of 2 of this blog post series, we will provide another look at the Lingle Hut, culture surrounding the cotton mills, downtown eateries, and a devastating fire.

For more information about any of these resources, contact us at archives@davidson.edu.

Works Cited:

Sailstad, Patricia. Interview by Jim Smith, Heather Baker, John Thornberry. April 1997. “Common Ground Oral History Project.” Audiotape Collection 107. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Hicks, E.M. and Dolly Hicks. Interview by Jan Blodgett. September 18, 2000. “Oral History Interview.” Audiotape Collection 150. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

“(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories” Week One Update

As mentioned in the previous blog post about the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic, Archives and Special Collections is proud to present the initiative “(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories.” In this crowdsourcing project, we aim to document the personal experiences of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members during the COVID-19 epidemic. We invite you to share your COVID-19 story through the contribution of original words, music, video, art, or images, regardless of whether you are on campus, in the Town of Davidson, or thousands of miles away.

We’ve had a wonderful start to this project and here are some highlights of the first contributions!

Wearing face masks to go outside and to go shopping has become the temporary new normal. Many people are wearing homemade masks as seen by contributions from Annelise Gorensek-Benitez (Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry), Molly Kunkel (Digital Archivist; “Shopping Essentials”), and Ann Haley and Shaw Smith (Joel O. Conarroe Professor of Art History).

We are also delighted to see contributions of creative works, including a painting from community member Dr. Edward L. Boye and original poetry from Lisa Forest (Leland M. Park Director of E.H. Little Library) and Anthony S. Abbott (Professor of English Emeritus).

Painting of castle.
“Finding Your Castle” by Dr. Edward L. Boye

A huge thank you to those who have submitted thus far! If you would like to view more contributions or would like to contribute an item to the “(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories,” please visit the site.

(Re)Collecting the Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918 and COVID-19 in Davidson

On September 18, 1918, the fall term of the 1918-1919 academic year began at Davidson. Three weeks later on October 9, 1918, The Davidsonian reported that the college experienced “a severe visitation” of Spanish influenza. From the report of the first case, new cases began to emerge rapidly. The infirmary, although equipped with medical equipment and staff, quickly became overrun with patients. To more adequately attend to the sick, the Chambers building, the main academic building on campus (which also had two wings set aside as dormitories), was turned into a makeshift hospital. At first, only the first floor of the south wing was used to house the sick. However, cases continued to appear and the second and third floors of the wing were quickly repurposed as hospital wards (“‘Flu’ Epidemic Takes Heavy Toll at Davidson”).

Chambers as built.
Old Chambers (Burned in 1921)

With an ever-increasing volume of cases, campus administration decided to suspend class for three weeks and to place campus under quarantine. To care for the sick, the entire Davidson community offered support. Nurses attended to the ill, the women of the Davidson Red Cross Chapter provided meals and necessary supplies, and Davidson professors took regular shifts to assist in any way they could. One individual, presumably a student (and possibly one of those infirmed) remarked about this extraordinary support offered by the community in the October 9, 1918 Davidsonian (“Editorial”).

The Davidsonian, October 9, 1918
The Davidsonian, October 9, 1918

These combined efforts worked. Remarkably, the next issue of The Davidsonian (October 23, 1918), reported that after three weeks of cases of the Spanish flu on campus, the epidemic was practically over. In total, over 200 cases of the flu were reported and those remaining were rapidly recovering (“‘Flue’ Has Vanished From Davidson College”). However, one student, Daniel J. Currie of Defuniac Springs, Florida, did pass away from pneumonia, which was likely resultant from the influenza. Nurse Laura Rose Stevenson of Charlotte treated patients at Davidson and also died of pneumonia (“In Memoriam”).

While the college was rocked by the flu, the Town of Davidson was as well. The sick were treated in their homes, cotton mills and schools temporarily shut down, and the town was placed under quarantine. The October 23, 1918 issue of The Davidsonian included notices of townspeople affected by the influenza (“Town Items”).

The Davidsonian, October 23, 1918

Like in the case of the college, the Red Cross provided assistance to the Town of Davidson. In total, over 150 cases were reported in the town. There were at least five deaths from pneumonia, most of which were African American (“‘Flu’ Situation in Town Is Now Much Improved”). The next week, in the November 6, 1918 Davidsonian, it is reported that the town’s quarantine had been lifted and that mills had resumed work (“‘Flu Situation In Town Continues to Improve).

Although the events of the Spanish flu epidemic occurred over 100 years ago, we find ourselves in a very similar situation today with COVID-19. What can we learn by reflecting on Davidson’s response to the Spanish flu?

I think it is this: It takes all of us to get through it. In 1918, this was evident in medical personnel, townspeople, and the college community coming together to help one another. In 2020, we can see the same thing occurring. We are helping each other by tending to the ill, by donating supplies, by abiding stay-at-home orders, by offering each other emotional support. The list goes on and on. We are all trying our best to help each other get through it. And I think that is worth everything.

As Davidson adjusts to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are challenged to develop new ways to engage and interact with our community. Davidson College Archives, Special Collections & Community, which regularly collects, shares, and preserves the college’s and community’s unique stories, would like to document the experiences of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members during these uncertain times. To this end, we are excited to present our initiative “(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories.” In this crowdsourcing project, we invite you to share your COVID-19 story through the contribution of original words, music, video, art, or images, regardless of whether you are on campus, in the Town of Davidson, or thousands of miles away. To learn more about “(Re)Collecting COVID-19: Davidson Stories, please visit the site.

Works Cited

“Editorial.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 9 Oct. 1918, p. 2, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181009.pdf.

“‘Flu’ Epidemic Takes Heavy Toll at Davidson.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 9 Oct. 1918, p. 1, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181009.pdf.

“‘Flu’ Situation In Town Continues to Improve.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 6 Nov. 1918, p. 1, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181106.pdf.

“‘Flu’ Situation in Town Is Now Much Improved.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 30 Oct. 1918, p. 1, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181030.pdf.

“‘Flue’ Has Vanished From Davidson College.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 23 Oct. 1918, p. 1, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181023.pdf.

“In Memoriam.” The Davidsonian, [Davidson, NC], 23 Oct. 1918, p. 2, library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19181023.pdf.

Guest Blogger: Meggie Lasher, Research and Academic Engagement Librarian, “Do I Need to Wear White Gloves?: A story of a new ASCC enthusiast”

I was once entirely intimidated by working in archives and with special collections

Yes, it’s true! A lot of this anxiety came from my preconceived notions about what goes on in these spaces and collections. For example, the whole concept of special and rare. Just hearing those words made me feel I would be a burden and make a mess. When I thought of working with special collections and archival material, I dreamed up visions of pencils and white gloves, no beverages, sub zero temperatures, and perpetual shushing. Special and rare meant exclusionary and breakable. Fortunately, this apprehension has not only subsided, but has since been entirely replaced by an overwhelming enthusiasm for archives and special collections. I owe this metamorphosis entirely to Sharon Byrd and DebbieLee Landi of the Archives, Special Collections, and Community department at the Library. I’d like to share this experience to help others shed their apprehension and expand their intellectual (and often entertaining) experiences.

Mount Holyoke College Archives

My past experiences with archives began as an undergraduate at Mount Holyoke College, a women’s college in Western Massachusetts. Also founded in 1837, the college has an extensively documented and rich history. Underneath one of the oldest buildings on campus was this hobbit house of a space. Round windows with light, long wooden tables, and smiling people! Who knew?! I had a special introduction to working with archival materials that may be familiar to a few readers: crafternoon! The head archivist led afternoon activities with themed crafts throughout the semester. My favorite was by far creating postcards from copies of old photographs, course catalogs, and other campus publications. Participating in these crafternoons helped me feel part of the community and the history of the college.  While in graduate school at UNC’s School of Information and Library Science, I met many future archivists. Often in awe of their dedication, I found their program of study to be demanding. The Archives and Records Management track was rigorous and precise. They had to follow a specific course sequence to prepare them for their field. I got to dabble in all the arts of library science. (Yes, there was a class in the art of a good book recommendation!)

During a summer seminar in London, I met future archivists from other institutions. They could barely contain their excitement during one afternoon excursion to the Metropolitan Archives of London. Yes, they hold records for the entire city and its history. Some of the special collections librarians there set up a special room of materials for us to peruse. Sitting on a folding table was the census for the city of London in 1092.  Yep, just sitting there! We could touch it! It was probably a foot high and I remember an interesting odor… This experience on a spring afternoon in London fueled those feelings of wonder and awe that can only come from those special things that once intimidated me.

Meggie Lasher with London’s Big Ben as the background

Sharon and DebbieLee have since secured my now positive associations with Archives and Special Collections. We worked as a team to seize a unique opportunity. We opened the Rare Book Room to an ANT 101 course last spring. Some students had visited before, but for many others it was their first time in the RBR as we fondly call it. We created a session that introduced anthropological research methods through the resources at the library. Then, we gave students a hands-on experience unpacking a mystery from campus history. Just like archaeologists (a branch of anthropology), they handled objects found under an old building on campus. They got to share what they examined: a toothbrush, a piece of porcelain from a doll’s face, even bones! What could have been a point and click database demonstration became an interactive, exploratory session. 

Librarians and archivists love to share what we do in the classroom. I wrote a lesson plan that outlined what we did as a submission to one of my favorite series instruction “cookbooks” from the American College and Research Libraries branch of the American Libraries Association. There was a call for “recipes” for the Teaching in Archives and Special Collections Cookbook edition. While our submission was not accepted, I still view our collaboration as successful. I’m grateful that I get to work with such inspiring and open minded colleagues. Sharon and DebbieLee demonstrate how archives and special collections are for everyone, white gloves optional.

Hensley, Merinda, et al. “Analyzing Archival Intelligence: A Collaboration Between Library Instruction and Archives.” Communications in Information Literacy, vol. 8, no. 1, July 2014, 


Mhcarchives. “‘Day in the Library Life’ Challenge image from the Archives Desk,” Instagram, 3 Nov. 2015.


Other images is author’s own.

Guest blogger: Alexa Torchynowycz, Systems and Cataloging Librarian, “Measured in millimeters: Miniature books at Davidson”

The other day I read an article about “micro” apartments being built in Charlotte’s South End. The square footage of these space conscious dwellings start at under 400 square feet. For some perspective, that’s only slightly larger than a double occupancy dorm room on campus. As a fan of shows like “Tiny House Hunters” and “Container Homes” I am very familiar and fascinated by this mini mode of living. However, when imagining my life in downsized digs I always have one concern: where would I put all my books? Right now bookshelves cover at least half of my walls and those shelves are at (and over) capacity. I have books stashed in cabinets, closets, and boxes. Needless to say I have a storage problem already. So what is a bibliophile with a penchant for tiny homes to do? Enter the miniature book!

Miniature books are typically defined as books that are smaller than 4 inches tall. They can have all the same elements as non-mini books such as hardback covers, illustrations, chapters, etc., just on a smaller scale. Davidson’s Library has several examples of miniature books in its collection and many more were recently added thanks to a donation from the estate of Wilbur L. Fugate (class of 1934). Titles from the donation include a mini “Merchant of Venice”, a diminutive dictionary, and a bitty biography of the composer Handel just to name a few.

From left to right: Miniature “The merchant of Venice” with a full sized copy of “The tempest” for size comparison ; “The little Webster” dictionary is less than 2 inches tall ; a biography of Handel from the Petite Library series.

There is some debate as to when the miniature book originated and for what purpose. Some say the first miniature books appeared during the Middle Ages. These were predominately Bibles, hymnals, and devotional literature used for daily religious practice. Some of these books were so small they became known as “thumb Bibles.” The smallest miniature book in the library’s collection is a Bible which barely measures 1.5 inches tall. That Bible is not from the Middle Ages, but the library’s earliest miniature book was printed in 1808. “Wisdom in miniature” describes itself as a “collection of sentences divine and moral” for young gentlemen and ladies on piety, obedience, calm behavior, and other basic tenets of early 19th century society.

Because small books could be produced en masse and easily distributed, many were used for sales and advertising purposes. “The pocket carpet bag,” much like its namesake, was inexpensive and easy to travel with. Although there are some stories, most of the pages are filled with advertisements for goods and services. And since their small size made them more travelable, mini books became popular souvenirs. Want to remember your trip to D.C.? Then grab “Washington in Miniature” and marvel at the petite pictures of the capital’s major sites.

On the left: “Washington in miniature” with drawings by artists from the Rochon Hoover Studio. On the right: “The pocket carpet bag” with full color illustration on the front cover.

So will miniature books solve all our storage problems? Probably not. But they are just so much fun to look at! To view the books mentioned in this post, or any of the other miniature books in the library’s collection, email archives@davidson.edu to make an appointment.  Let’s hope that this COVID-19 quarantine ends soon!

Guest blogger: Alexa Torchynowycz, Systems and Cataloging Librarian in the E.H. Little Library, “Did you know we had this?!?! A serendipitous encounter with Solzhenitsyn”

An independent press, a censored author, and two donations: No, this is not the beginning of a “… walked into a bar” joke. It is, however, the beginning elements of a chance meeting of materials in the Rare Book Room.

I recently cataloged the first broadside printed by the Iron Mountain Press, which was donated by Dr. Robert Denham, class of 1961. A broadside in the printing industry is a single sheet of paper with printing on only one side of it and this particular broadside contains the poem “Release of Solshenitsyn” (1969) by J.M. Martin. I was excited to work with this item because it was the first issued in a series of broadsides from Iron Mountain Press and, just like with comic books, the first issue is very rare (we are the only library in WorldCat with this item). The Rare Book Room has several other broadsides from this series. To find them, search for Iron Mountain Press broadside in the Rare Book Room catalog https://davidson.primo.exlibrisgroup.com/discovery/search?&tab=RBR&search_scope=RBR&vid=01DCOLL_INST:01DCOLL&lang=en

Examples of three Iron Press broadsides: "Persephone's Dilemma", "Release of Solshenitsyn", and "In the dark all cats fly"
Iron Mountain Press Broadsides

An added bonus to working with this broadside was that the poem was about the Russian author, Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I had read several of his books and was familiar with his background. I enjoyed reading the poem and picking up on elements that pointed to Solzhenitsyn’s history. As much as I try to, I can’t keep the things I catalog in my office forever, so I finished up my work and put the broadside with a few other items I was planning to take back to the Rare Book Room.

Little did I know that Solzhenitsyn would be making a repeat appearance in a very big way.

A few days later, I grabbed an innocuous-looking archival rare book box out of a stack of things I needed to catalog. I couldn’t tell what was in it so naturally, my curiosity was piqued. Upon opening the box, I found several handwritten notes and a plain paperback written in Russian. The first note I read said that the book was an issue of the literary journal, Novyi Mir, and this precise issue (1962, no. 11) contained the first-ever publication of … wait for it … “One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich” by none other than Alexander Solzhenitsyn. What a fantastic coincidence and an even more fantastic find!

Copy of bookplate of donor, Dr. Jack Perry and front cover of 1962 publication in Cyrillic.
First page of the volume in Cyrillic.

The story focuses on a prisoner of a Soviet labor camp and the extreme conditions prisoners faced there. Solzhenitsyn had to severely edit his own novel in order to see it published, but when it finally came out in Novyi Mir it was the first time that the labor camp system, or Gulag, was depicted in a Soviet published work. It was an immediate sensation both inside and outside of the Soviet Union, but soon afterward, Solzhenitsyn and his work were labeled as anti-Soviet by literary critics within the USSR. Solzhenitsyn published several more novels, none of which saw an initial publication in the Soviet Union again and all of which were critical of the Soviet government. This led to the author’s deportation in 1974.

Though the issue of Novyi Mir with “One day” had a large publication run (over 95,000 copies sold) they began to disappear in the Soviet Union because of a government initiative to censor the novel. Few physical copies of the November 1962 issue of Novyi Mir exist in libraries today and here was one in my hands! I also still had the “Release of Solshenitsyn” broadside sitting on a cart next to me. Two Solzhenitysns from two completely different sources. I was so excited about this unbelievable coincidence that I took (ran is the more correct verb) “One day” and the broadside up to the Rare Book Room. As soon as I got up there I asked, “Did you know we had this?!?!” They were as astonished as I was. Sharon Byrd, the Special Collections Librarian, also helped me to put the pieces together of how we acquired this item. The Novyi Mir was donated by Dr. Jack Perry, a Davidson professor of political science. In 1962, when “One day” appeared in Novy Mir, Dr. Perry was living in Russia and most likely picked up the issue during his time there. He then taught at Davidson from 1985 to 1995 and over 20 years later, presented this copy of “One day” to the library.

And now you can answer my question from the title of this blog post with, “Yes! I know we have the first broadside from Iron Mountain Press AND the first publication of “One Day in the life of Ivan Denisovich” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn!”

Rethinking Darwin….

Descent of Man 1st ed., 1871 title page

Descent of Man
1st ed., 1871

I had an RBR session yesterday for Dr. Jerry Putnam and two of his students studying Perspectives on Darwinism.  One of the items I had out from the collection is our first edition of his The Descent of Man, and selection in relation to sex.  Here’s some information on our copy.

The Descent of man, and selection in relation to sex.  By Charles Darwin.  London, J. Murray, 1871, 2v., 1st edition.

Published 12 years after his famous On the Origin of Species, The Descent of Man was Darwin’s second work dealing with the theory of evolution and natural selection.  His first, On the Origin of Species, may be a more familiar title to many, but it is on page 2 of the 1st edition of The Descent of Man that Darwin first used the term evolution.

Vol. I page 2 Introduction chapter

Use of the word “evolution” in 1st paragraph

The Rare Book Room has a copy of the 1st edition, 1st issue, which was published in 2 volumes in a run of 2500 copies on February 24, 1871.  It was given to the library by Dr. Carlton B. Chapman, Davidson class of 1936, and a collector in the area of medical history.  It is in its original green cloth binding,

Original binding of Descent of Man Vol. I and Vol. II

Original binding

and a bookseller’s note on the title page of volume 1 indicates that it is a “1st edition as issued.”  The volumes are illustrated throughout with wood engravings.

Two images in the book of Embryonic Development. The upper figure is human embryo, fro Ecker. Lower figure is that of a dog from Bischoff.


Errata sheet Vol. I & Vol. II and Contents page Part II

Errata sheet






An errata sheet on the verso (back) of the title page of volume 2 lists the errors noted but un-corrected in the text, such as the word mail for male, and a scrambled spelling of walruses as narwhals.  Darwin also noted in a postscript that he made a “serious and unfortunate error, in relation to the sexual differences of animals” on pages 297-299 of volume 1, and admits that “the explanation given is wholly erroneous.”

Postscript Vol. I noting "serious and unfortunate error"

“serious and unfortunate error”

(Even great scientists sometimes make initial errors in discovery!)

Thanks, Dr. Chapman, for this great donation to the RBR collection.