A Spatial History of Wesleyan University combines geographical and quantitative analysis with archival and oral history research to interpret the past in place. It is the product of the Spring 2015 course in Digital History at Wesleyan taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of History Amrys O. Williams, part of the university’s Digital and Computational Knowledge Initiative.
The student researchers made extensive use of resources found in SC&A, including the Vertical Files Collection, annual reports, college catalogs and bulletins, photographs, maps, and more. Congratulations on a job well done! SC&A is eager to support or collaborate on a wide variety of projects, including those involving digital history and humanities.
From the Spatial History website:
A Spatial History of Wesleyan University combines geographical and quantitative analysis with archival and oral history research to interpret the past in place. By studying the history of Wesleyan’s campus landscape and buildings alongside the university’s enrollment, tuition, and student body, we can see the connections between the cultural life of the university and its physical environment.
“The Story” provides an overview of Wesleyan’s history, highlighting the most important factors that have influenced the campus’s configuration over time
The “Interactive Map” allows you to explore Wesleyan’s history spatially through a dynamic interface.
“By the Numbers” traces historical data about Wesleyan’s enrollment, tuition, endowment, and financial aid to reveal the kinds of opportunities and constraints that shaped the campus over time.
The “Oral History” section illuminates Wesleyan’s past through the voices of individuals.
The class brought together 18 students from across campus with varied skills and backgrounds who shared an interest in historical communication and making things. Through readings, conversations, and hands-on work, we learned about the prospects and perils of doing historical work in the digital age, and pooled our knowledge and resources to come up with our own contribution to history and the digital humanities.
The central assignment of the course was this collaborative project of our own devising. Drawing on our pool of individual abilities and common interests, and considering the skills we wanted to acquire and refine, we conceived, designed, built, publicized, and launched this site. Working together in teams and as a group both in and out of class, we taught and learned from one another, working together (at times quite intensively) to make the project a success.
Pick of the week, April 17: “All stand aghast”: Wesleyan student writes in his diary about Lincoln’s assassination
Apr. 14, 2015 by Leith Johnson
One hundred and fifty years ago, William North Rice, class of 1865, wrote the above in his diary on the day that President Abraham Lincoln died. Rice would devote his life in service to Wesleyan, becoming the university’s first professor of geology and serving three times as acting president. Below is the diary opened to include the entry for April, 15, 1865.
Jan. 12, 2015 by Rebecca McCallum
Just because it’s in a history book doesn’t mean it’s correct. In this detailed study of the Battle of Waterloo from 1815 (where Wellington soundly defeated Napoleon), someone has written tons of annotations (comments in the margins), correcting the author.
Given what he’s written, it sounds like the person writing the comments was right there on the battle field, and knows the subject better than the author.
If you have any ideas about how to figure out who this mysterious comment-writer is, let us know. If there are any juniors interested in European military history, the annotations in this book could lead to an excellent thesis topic!
We’re not exactly sure what’s going on here–a concert? a play? spirit photography?–but these members of the class of 1872 look like they’re having some fun. They’re standing in front of the old gymnasium, which once stood on a site on present-day Andrus field behind the Chapel. Left to right, Silas William Kent, Samuel Greenleaf Cushing, ?, Henry Townsend Scudder, Charles Wesley Young, and Edmund Mead Mills.
Nov. 3, 2014 by Leith Johnson
Is Russell House haunted? Video producer Ben Travers investigated, aided in part with resources from Special Collections & Archives. Happy Halloween!
Oct. 10, 2014 by Emma Rothberg
In the fall of 1910, a young man from Oneonta, New York—a small town made important by the railroad earlier in the 19th century—stepped onto Wesleyan’s campus. He was only the second in his family to go to college, but he was not the first Cardinal; his older brother had recently graduated in 1907 and this young man was ready to create his own stories that he could tell to the people back home. He was one of 121—the largest entering freshman class up to that point in Wesleyan’s history. His name was Lynn Smith Miller.
Lynn Smith Miller had a Wesleyan experience that was similar to many other individuals who came both before and after his graduation in 1914. He went to the movie theater on Main St. (The Nickel Theater at that time); he attended Vesper Services, cheered at the football games, dealt with a roommate, and sometimes did not finish his assignments. The difference between Lynn Smith Miller and many other Wesleyan students is that he left a record, a detailed record of his own creation, of his time on campus.
Rather than just having paperwork on Miller or seeing his name in the alumni records, we can see the cigarettes he smoked (some of them Turkish), the invitations he received (some from then-President Shanklin), the ticket stubs he purchased (from both live productions and movies), his schedules (lots of language classes), and his admittance into his fraternity (the Wesleyan Chapter of Delta Upsilon). We have his booklets from all of the dances he attended with the names of his partners carefully penciled in next to each dance. We have his diary and tuition bill for 1913. We know of Miller’s pride in his classes triumph in the “cannon scrap” of the Douglas Cannon in 1910 because of the numerous newspaper articles he saved. We know all of this because of the immense scrapbook that Lynn Smith Miller created that was recently donated to Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives by his son John W. Miller, Class of 1953.
The scrapbook is about 160 pages with multiple items on each page and more stored in envelopes inside the scrapbook. These items either relate to Miller’ personal experience at Wesleyan or to the more general experience of a student enrolled in the University at the beginning of the 20th century. By flipping through the pages of the scrapbook, one can get insight into what student life was like—what were the popular events on campus, what were the groups that formed and which stuck around, what were the prevalent courses, and what did students find were particularly important experiences to have during their time on campus. Beyond the scrapbook, the collection contains two diaries (one covers Miller’s freshman year [1910-1911] and the other covers the second semester of his junior year [January-June 1913]), medals given to Miller at Wesleyan’s 100th anniversary in 1931, and a supplemental binder put together by Miller’s son containing secondary information. The diaries give a day-by-day accounting of what Miller was going through. Information ranges from the seemingly unimportant—perhaps the weather for that day—to the anticipated moments—getting to walk downtown and see a movie.
Lynn Smith Miller would go on to graduate Wesleyan with a B.A., although his family is not sure in what subject his degree was given (they think it was in history). He served in World War I as a member of the U.S. Infantry and then worked in newspapers with his older brother in both North Indianapolis, Indiana and Royal Oak, Michigan (a suburb of Detroit). Lynn Smith Miller passed away on January 26, 1962 in Michigan. He and his family, including one son who also graduated a Cardinal with the Class of 1953, continue to be a part of the Wesleyan community; the donation of this scrapbook lets us unite with a classmate from a century ago.
When sophomore Arch Doty moved into room 23 of Clark Hall in September, 1939, he brought with him a radio transmitter he had built at home the previous summer. Using a turntable, 78 rpm records, a microphone, the transmitter, and an antenna wire hanging out of Arch’s window, student-run radio at Wesleyan hit the airwaves.
It was a modest start. The entire audience that tuned into the evening AM-band broadcasts was limited to Clark residents—the weak signal reached no farther than several hundred feet beyond the antenna. But the broadcasts proved to be very popular, and within weeks, students in other residences wanted to be able to tune in.
Seventy-five years later, WESU-FM reaches a potential audience of over one million listeners, and can be heard beyond Springfield, Massachusetts; Long Island, New York; Waterbury; and Norwich.
“WESU: Celebrating 75 Years of Community Radio” takes an anecdotal look at one of the oldest college radio stations in the United States using photographs, documents, photographs, clippings, and artifacts. Throughout WESU’s history, there have been two constants: first, without interruption, Wesleyan students have continuously operated the station; and second, broadcasts have been focused on new, under-represented, or non-commercial programming aimed at students and the larger community.
Most of the items in the exhibition are from the collections of Special Collections & Archives, Olin Library. University Archivist Leith Johnson is curator of the show, with research assistance provided by Ian McCarthy. Special thanks to WESU General Manager Ben Michael for advice and loans of items from WESU’s collection.
The show is on view in the exhibition area near Special Collections & Archives, 1st floor Olin Library, Wesleyan University.
May. 30, 2014 by Leith Johnson
Apr. 15, 2014 by Leith Johnson
If you were a female high school senior in 1969, you might have encountered this flyer. In 1970, Wesleyan once again admitted women as freshmen (Wesleyan was a coeducational institution from 1872 to 1912), and 2014 marks the 40th anniversary of their graduation. You can read much more about the return to coeducation in Suzy Taraba’s Historical Row column, “Women Return to Wes.”