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Leith Johnson, University Archivist since 2012, retired on June 29, 2018.  As archivist, Leith was responsible for all aspects of the Wesleyan archives, manuscripts, and local history collections.  He also served in other positions at Wesleyan throughout the years.  From 2007 to 2009, he was the project archivist for the William Manchester Papers in Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives, and from 1990 to 2007, he was the associate curator (later co-curator) of Wesleyan’s Cinema Archives.  Library colleagues, faculty, and staff praised his deep knowledge of American and Wesleyan history, his professionalism,  his teaching and presenting skills, and his sense of humor.  To honor his 25 years of service, donations were made to WESU, where he is a dj, and to the Friends of the Wesleyan Library Adopt a Book program, to restore a book from his field of interest.  The book that was chosen was Acts and Laws of the State of Connecticut, in America (1784). 

Leith will be greatly missed by all, but we  congratulate him and wish him all the best for an enjoyable retirement.

Suzy Taraba, Director of Special Collections & Archives, displays the book that will be preserved in Leith’s honor.



Saturday, May 26, 2018 — 10:30-11:30 am — Room 112, Boger Hall

In 1914, The Great War—known later as World War I—broke out in Europe. Wesleyan became a war campus in the years that followed. After the U.S. Congress declared war on Germany in 1917, college life at Wesleyan “took on a belligerent aspect,” as Carl F. Price, Class of 1902, observed later. “Minor sports, dramatics, dances, were dropped. The students were in army uniform, rose early in the morning to drill, were allowed no cuts from classes. A trench seamed part of the back of campus, and armed guards challenged all comers.” By the time the Armistice was signed in 1918—100 years ago this year—some 1,200 Wesleyan faculty, staff, students, and alumni provided military or civilian service, including twenty-six students and alumni who died. Attend the illustrated WESeminar by Leith Johnson, University Archivist, during Reunion/Commencement to learn how the “War to End All Wars” impacted Wesleyan.




On exhibit through Fall 2018
During library hours

Special Collections & Archives exhibit cases
Olin Library, 252 Church Street, Middletown

Free and open to the public

Highlights from the Angling, Baskin, Beales, Husted, Lawrence, Moulton, and Williams collections.
Curated by Suzy Taraba, Director, Special Collections & Archives.

Special Collections & Archives Open House


Image from State of the Planet: collage/effect by Giorgia Peckman ’18


View  artists’ books created by students

in Introduction to Environmental Studies (E&ES 197)

and other environmentally-themed artists’ books

from the SC&A collection that inspired them.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018
4:30-6:30 pm

At 5:30, Giorgia Peckman ’18 and Hunter Vannier ’20
will speak about their books.

Davison Rare Book Room
Special Collections & Archives
Olin Library
Wesleyan University
252  Church St., Middletown, CT  06459

In conjunction with the art installation in Olin lobby.

The new exhibit of the cast of Glyptodon, a giant armadillo, outside of the Science Library, in the lobby of Exley Science Center has been unveiled.  Originally on exhibit in the Wesleyan Museum in Judd Hall, the Glyptodon had been in storage since 1957, when the Museum was closed and its collections were dispersed.


Here is a photo of her previous home in the Museum in Judd Hall.



And a young fan.


(Archival photos from Special Collections & Archives)

To read more about the journey of Glyptodon from storage to her new pedestal, go to the Joe Webb Peoples Fossil Collection blog.

To view the Wesleyan Museum Records, dating from 1836, in Special Collections & Archives, email sca@wesleyan.edu or visit during Special Collections & Archives reading room hours, Monday-Friday 1-5 pm.

We are also excited that Dr. Kirk Johnson, Sant Director, National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution, will be giving a lecture on Thursday, March 1, at 7:30 p.m. in Shanklin Hall, room 107 on  “Natural History in the Age of Humans,”  highlighting the ongoing importance of natural history museums.  For more information about his talk, visit the Joe Webb Peoples Fossil Collection blog.



Wesleyan has a long connection with the Smithsonian.  George Brown Goode, class of 1847, the first curator of Wesleyan’s Museum and the son-in-law of Orange Judd, class of 1870, for whom Judd Hall is named, was concurrently an assistant curator at the National Museum.  He eventually became assistant secretary of the Smithsonian.  Dr. Johnson will be visiting the Anthropological and Archaeological Collections to view objects and Wesleyan Museum records on loan from Special Collections & Archives during his visit.

We’ve set up a coloring station in Olin Lobby so people can take a coloring break this week.  Printouts of Wesleyan’s Special Collections & Archives coloring book from the New York Academy of Medicine’s #ColorOurCollections online coloring fest are available there, as well as sample pages from some other collections.  If you can’t make it to Olin, you can download the Wesleyan coloring book, which features iconic campus architecture, such as Olin Memorial Library, archival collections, and illustrations from SC&A’s rare book collection, at http://library.nyam.org/colorourcollections/wesleyan-university-special-collections-archives-coloring-book/.



Here are some Wesleyan pages people have colored:


























































And here are some pages from other collections:











Wesleyan’s Special Collections & Archives is participating for the first time in the New York Academy of Medicine’s #ColorOurCollections coloring fest from February 5-9, 2018.  Download the Wesleyan coloring book, which features iconic campus architecture, such as Olin Memorial Library (above), archival collections, and illustrations from SC&A’s rare book collection.

Send photos and scans of your finished coloring pages or suggestions for future coloring book images to sca@wesleyan.edu.





Dr. King inspired many during his four visits to Wesleyan (on January 14, 1962, October 20-21, 1963, June 7, 1964, and November 20, 1966), and his legacy lives on.  For example, his 1964 baccalaureate address is as powerful a call to action to us today as it was then:

“And so we must move out of the mountain of physical violence and corroding hatred to the higher and noble mountain of non-violence and creative, powerful love.  This is the challenge standing before our nation, standing before our world.”

Photographs, articles, and reminiscences documenting Dr. King’s visits can be found in Special Collections & Archives.  If you would like to view them or share your memories, please email sca@wesleyan.edu.

Dr. King speaking to the College of Social Studies in 1962.


Argus coverage of Dr. King’s 1963 talk in the Chapel.


Dr. King with Wesleyan President Victor Butterfield in 1964.


Dr. King speaking at the 1964 baccalaureate service.



Argus coverage of Dr. King’s 1966 talk.

This fall, students from Helen Poulos’ Introduction to Environmental Studies (E&ES197) class viewed artists’ books about environmental issues in Special Collections & Archives with Rebecca McCallum and learned basic bookmaking techniques from Michaelle Biddle, librarians at Olin Library.  Some students chose to create artists’ book for their final projects, and these, as well as posters about sustainability, were displayed on December 7, 2017 in Zelnick Pavillion.  Below are some of their works.  An article about this collaborative creative process will appear in the winter issue of Check It Out, the library newsletter.  Several of the best student books will be selected to be added to the Special Collections & Archives collection.



Special Collections & Archives holds a rich collection of documents and photographs related to the Wesleyan’s first period of coeducation, 1872-1912, and it has been recently digitized and is fully available online. The Coeducation Collection finding aid has been updated to provide links to the digital files. You can also browse the collection. This is not the only resource for this topic (please see this post for a description of additional resources), but it’s an excellent place to start.

Pictured above is a photograph of women students, 1881-1882. Founded as a men’s college in 1831, Wesleyan went through two phases of coeducation, the first of which lasted from 1872 to 1912, and the second from 1970 to the present. The 1872 decision to admit women resulted partly from Wesleyan’s concession, as a Methodist institution, to the well-established Methodist practice of educating men and women together. In addition, seven other New England institutions had initiated proposals to coeducate in 1871, which may have encouraged Wesleyan to do the same. These proposals, while not formally coordinated, all came in response to the women’s suffrage movement of the early 1870s.

From 1872 until 1892, women represented a small minority of the undergraduate community, and only forty-three women graduated in that period. However, female admissions increased in 1898, which led to a decrease in male admissions; this development fueled the fears of those who believed that the presence of women at Wesleyan would curtail opportunities for male students.

The shift away from coeducation was sparked by a change in the leadership of the trustees. Trustee Stephen Henry Olin led Wesleyan’s movement away from Methodism and its redefinition as a metropolitan-based university, with a heavy emphasis on athletics. This shift would align Wesleyan more closely with the values of all-male institutions such as Amherst, Williams and Yale.

From 1900 onward, the decline in Wesleyan’s overall admissions contributed to the movement against coeducation, as many feared that the college had become too “feminized.” Starting in 1900, the admission of women was capped at 20 percent, but this measure never fully reassured coeducation’s opponents. The trustees’ decision to end coeducation in 1909 with the Class of 1912 came as the culmination of a decades-long backlash against the 1872 decision.


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