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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.



Here is the Browning Society, 1873-1874. I do not know anything about this group other than that is what is written and typed on the back of the photograph. During the late 19th and into the 20th century, clubs and societies formed to study the work of Robert Browning. The Wesleyan Argus has several references to students reading Browning under the direction of Professor and University Librarian Caleb T. Winchester Class of 1869, but does not mention the Browning Society. As Browning wrote, quoting his wife Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “‘The poets pour us wine–. ‘” Cheers!

Nancy Albert Hillcrest Orchards

Nancy Ottmann Albert’s evocative photographs of vanishing New England structures and landscapes will be featured in “Documents in Black and White,” a new exhibition opening in Olin Library on Oct. 5, 2016. The show is being presented in conjunction with the formal announcement of Ms. Albert’s gift of her papers to the library’s Special Collections & Archives (SC&A).

Ms. Albert (MALS ’94) will return to campus during Family Weekend to give an artist talk on her work on Friday, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m. in the library’s Develin Room.

Selected by the artist, the works span the thirty years she spent documenting New England’s built environment. Inspired by Walker Evans and the 1930s Farm Security Administration photographers, she began to photograph textile mills and industrial sites throughout New England in 1981. Shooting black and white film in a medium format camera, she returned over the years to record the buildings’ decline and disappearance.

Further exploration led her to seek out other endangered structures and landscapes. These include mental institutions emptied by changing philosophies of treatment and a commissioned study of Long River Village, Middletown’s oldest housing project, prior to its demolition.

The exhibition also contains images of roadside and urban vernacular architecture, barns and abandoned homesteads, filling stations, and drive-in theaters. All of the work, which includes gelatin silver photographs, was printed by the artist.

In 2014, Ms. Albert gave her papers to SC&A. They include images taken in New England, New York state, France, Cuba, Portugal, Spain, London, Italy, Eastern Europe, Vienna, Barcelona, Bosnia, Slovenia, Croatia, and Berlin, along with her research notes. The papers are now freely available for research and are described in an online finding aid (http://www.wesleyan.edu/libr/schome/FAs/al2014-33.xml). The gift will be formally acknowledged prior to her Oct 28. talk.

“Documents in Black and White” will be on view from Oct. 5 through Dec. 16, 2016, in the SC&A exhibition cases on the first floor of Olin Library during normal library hours. For more information, phone 860-685-3863 or email sca@wesleyan.edu.


The new SC&A exhibition, “A Stellar Education: Astronomy at Wesleyan, 1831-1916,” is now open. It explores the study of astronomy at Wesleyan from the University’s founding in 1831 through the construction of Van Vleck Observatory in 1916, which celebrates its centennial this year. Items on display include atlases, textbooks, photographs, an original Henry Bacon Van Vleck Observatory architectural drawing, and more. The exhibition is held in conjunction with a number of other Van Vleck Observatory celebratory events sponsored by the Department of Astronomy. More details about the events can be found here: http://www.wesleyan.edu/observatory/centennial.html

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