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It’s been a crazy winter in Middletown (but, aren’t they all?)—seems like it was too warm and rainy and there was not much snow. Now it’s March, and spring is on its way—that is, if we get one this year—and my thoughts again turn to bicycling on the roads of Middletown and the surrounding towns. You need to be careful this time of year; there’s a lot of grit and sand and trash that still needs to be swept. I’m reminded of the way roads used to be back when bicycles were coming onto the scene, as you can see above in this photograph taken probably in the late 1880s. It’s found in the 12-image Middletown Conn. Porfolio, one of the many pictorial items in SC&A’s Middletown Collection. That’s Washington Street before it was paved at the intersection of Pearl Street looking east towards Main Street. Look closely and you’ll see two cyclists making their way on the dirt (see detail below). As you may know, it was turn-of-the-century cycling organizations that advocated for paved roads decades before automobile associations. Under the detail, you can see what the scene looks like in 2015, thanks to Google Street View.




In October 1973, the Friends of the Davison Art Center held a Fellini Ball, a fundraising event that took place in the newly-completed Center for the Arts. The inspiration was the work of the great Italian director Federico Fellini, whose iconic works include La Strada, 8 1/2, and La Dolce Vita. Guests attended as their favorite Fellini character or in formal dress.

An invitation was extended to Fellini, but, as The Argus reported, the master was unavailable. “I want to convey to you how sincerely I wish that I could take part in the exciting enterprise of creating a new Center for the Arts at your University, ” he wrote to President Colin Campbell, explaining that he was dubbing his new movie, Amarcord, and his presence was needed in Rome. “I take this opportunity, however,” Fellini added, “to extend to you, to your associates in this enterprise, and to all the students of Wesleyan University my feelings of appreciation and friendship and to offer my very best wishes for the great success and productive future of new center.”

Happy New Year! Turn up the Nina Rota music and party like you’re in a Fellini movie!




Textile Messages exhibition

Freshman beanies, a 1927 letter sweater, a 1970 “Strike” arm band, a 1985 Feminist House T-shirt, and more—this exhibition includes items of student apparel that were (or could have been) worn on a day-to-day basis, and those that were not are evocative of key social and academic aspects of student life. The show is on view in the Special Collections & Archives exhibition area, Olin Library, 1st floor, and is open during library hours.

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cds in archives

SC&A doesn’t just contain the textual and photographic record of Wesleyan’s history, we also have some sound recordings — from speeches and lectures to cds of recent student groups, such as the Wesleyan Spirits, the New Group and Quasimodal.  If your group has produced a cd, please consider depositing one copy with SC&A (for safekeeping) and one copy with the Music Library (to circulate).  Years from now, you’ll be glad you did.


This morning the Introduction to Environmental Studies class (E&ES 197) taught by Helen Poulos visited Special Collections & Archives to learn about artists’ books that address environmental issues.  It’s a large class, so students were split into two groups.  Their backpacks and other paraphernalia more than filled our closet!  Making an artist’s book that expresses concepts learned in class is one of several options for the students’ final project.

–Suzy Taraba

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Sponsored by the Council of State Archivists, Electronic Records Day is October 10, 2015. You’re probably creating all manner of electronic records in your everyday worklife, such as Word docs, pdfs, Excel spreadsheets, and webpages. But you’re also creating them in your personal life. Your texts, your email, all those selfies you’re taking? They’re electronic records, too!

The Council provides a list of 10 reasons for why everyone should be thinking more about electronic records:

1. Electronic records need regular attention and care in order to remain accessible.

2. Electronic records can become unreadable very quickly. While records on paper have been read after thousands of years, digital files can be virtually inaccessible after just a few.

3. Scanning paper records is not the end of the preservation process: it is the beginning. Careful planning for ongoing management expenses must be involved as well.

4. There are no permanent storage media. Hard drives, CDs, magnetic tape or any other storage formats will need to be tested and replaced on a regular schedule. Proactive management is required to avoid catastrophic loss of records.

5. The lack of a “physical” presence can make it very easy to lose track of electronic records. Special care must be taken to ensure they remain in controlled custody and do not get lost in masses of other data.

6. It can be easy to create copies of electronic records and share them with others, but this can raise concerns about the authenticity of those records. Extra security precautions are needed to ensure e-records are not altered inappropriately.

7. The best time to plan for electronic records preservation is when they are created. Don’t wait until software is being replaced or a project is ending to think about how records are going to be preserved.

8. No one system you buy will solve all your e-records problems. Despite what vendors say, there’s no magic bullet that will manage and preserve your e-records for you.

9. Electronic records can help ensure the rights of the public through greater accessibility than ever before, but only if creators, managers and users all recognize their importance and contribute resources to their preservation.

10. While they may seem commonplace now, electronic records will form the backbone of the historical record for researchers of the future.

We’re working in SC&A to preserve electronic records, and you should be thinking about how you’re going to preserve your electronic records. Click here for more information.

Tamil New Testament title page

Tamil title page

Can you read the text on this page?

Neither can I!  But it’s one of many foreign-language Bibles in our Special Collections that I’ve had to catalog.  Back in the early 19th century, the British Foreign and Bible Society was hard at work on its goal of translating the Bible into as many foreign languages as possible, so that they could be used in missionary work in far-away countries.  Back here in Middletown, Wesleyan University’s Missionary Lyceum, which existed from 1834 until 1878, collected many of these foreign-language Bibles, and added them to their collection, to further promote a zeal among its members for missionary work around the world.

Special Collections and Archives now owns over 20 of these foreign language Bibles, all from the collection of Wesleyan’s Missionary Lyceum, including texts in such obscure languages as Mongolian, Chippewa, Amharic, Malay, Nepali, Manx, Irish, Rarotongan, Tahitian, Manx, Inuktitut, Maori, and others.  The particular Bible pictured above is in Tamil.

Luckily, many of these foreign-language editions are already cataloged in WorldCat, so I don’t need to be able to read every word in each language.  But sometimes there are several editions to choose from, and it’s difficult to tell what I have in hand.  That was the case with this Tamil New Testament.  Was this printed in 1827, 1830, or 1833?  And did it include just the Gospels and Acts, or the whole New Testament?  Thanks to a little help from Wikipedia’s page on Tamil numerals, I managed to decipher the total number of pages, and what pages each new major section started on.  And thanks to a very good reference source about all the Bibles in the library of the British and Foreign Bible Society (Darlow, T.H. and H.F. Moule. Historical Catalogue of the Printed Editions of Holy Scripture in the Library of the British and Foreign Bible Society. London: The Bible House, 1903), I found that the 1827 edition matched my pagination exactly, and that the volume in hand contained the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.  The mystery was solved!

If you are curious to see all the Bibles and other publications that we have cataloged from Wesleyan’s Missionary Lyceum, click on this pre-selected library catalog search.


Olin Library staff members recently had the pleasure to meet Bunmi Alegbeleye, Professor of  Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, while he recently visited Olin Library as a guest of Michaelle Biddle, Collections Conservator and Head of Preservation Services. He also met with Digital Projects Librarian Francesca Livermore and received a tour of SC&A from University Archivist Leith Johnson. Pictured above are (left to right) Director of SC&A Suzy Taraba, Professor Alegbeleye, Michaelle, and Leith in the Davison Rare Book Room.

As part of my internship at SC&A I created finding aids for three collections. The most notable among these is the finding aid for a collection that I processed during my internship dealing with Wesleyan President James L. McConaughy, his wife Elizabeth, and son James Jr. The collection entitled, McConaughy Family Papers, details important aspects of former President McConaughy’s life. James L. McConaughy was just 37 years old when he was elected President of Wesleyan in 1925, making him the youngest ever president of Wesleyan. Despite his youth McConaughy’s career at Wesleyan was very accomplished. McConaughy oversaw the construction of many prominent buildings on campus including the Alumni Athletic Building, the Harriman Dormitory, the Olin Library, the Hall Laboratory, and the Shanklin Memorial Laboratory. New art classes were introduced during his tenure; intercollegiate athletics became popular as did singing, debating, and university forums. McConaughy took a year leave to become President of the United China Relief Fund in 1942. He subsequently resigned from Wesleyan in 1943 after 18 years of service to the university. McConaughy moved on to his other career interest, Republican politics. After serving as lieutenant governor from 1939 until 1941, McConaughy successfully ran for governor of Connecticut in November of 1946. As governor McConaughy promoted issues that were of importance to him including employment reform, benefits for the elderly, supporting servicemen, and housing improvements. He introduced a sales tax to pay for improvements in these areas. His promising political career came to an abrupt end when he died suddenly on March 7, 1948.

Correspondence in this collection details McConaughy’s resignation and departure from Wesleyan, his travels as President of the United China Relief Fund, and his Connecticut gubernatorial victory. Copies of his speeches and addresses ranging from his time as President of Wesleyan to his addresses as governor of Connecticut are also included. Furthermore, various items document his time at Wesleyan including documents from his inauguration to a tribute by the board of trustees upon his resignation. Newspaper clippings further detail his life as an education professional to his political career to his untimely death.

Documents within the collection pertain to his wife Elizabeth as well. Newspaper clippings detail her life as Connecticut’s First Lady. Many of her notable short stories (a few of which appeared in The New Yorker) are also included within the collection. Their son James L. McConaughy Jr.’s career as a journalist (including stints at the Washington Post, Time, Life, and Esquire), his tragic death in a plane crash in 1958, and the Wesleyan award created in his honor through  correspondence, newspaper clippings rand various articles in this collection. Other items include wills, genealogical records, and estate papers pertaining to McConaughy relatives, many of whom lived in the 19th Century.

Another collection documents the life of Eldon Benjamin Birdsey, entitled, Eldon Benjamin Birdsey Notebook, 1917. Birdsey was born in Lyme, CT on July 26, 1848. A graduate of Wesleyan (1871), Birdsey became the first prosecuting attorney of the Middletown city court in 1879 until 1883 when he was elected to serve as the probate judge for the Probate District of Middletown. After leaving public office, Birdsey continued to practice law serving the citizens of Middletown County. In 1885 he was elected as a trustee of Middletown Savings Bank of which he served as the attorney for the bank and later a director of the bank. Birdsey was married to Caroline E. Chase with whom he had one daughter, Laura Chase, born March 23, 1878. Birdsey died on December 6, 1917.

This collection consists of a single notebook created by Eldon Benjamin Birdsey. The notebook was made for J.W. Hewitt, a classics professor at Wesleyan and friend of Birdsey. The notebook includes various entries dealing with Birdsey’s philosophy on life, observances of nature, his own poetry, quoted poetry, and Middletown. The notebook also includes rewritten correspondence from Birdsey to friends of Birdsey. The correspondence ranges in date from 1898 to 1913. The notebook also includes materials added after the death of Birdsey including his obituary and a chronology of important events in his life.

A final collection details the academic career and life of Stephen Beekman Bangs, entitled, Stephen Beekman Bangs Letters, 1840-1841. Stephen Beekman Bangs was born on March 15, 1823. He was a Wesleyan student before leaving the University during his senior year due to poor health. He later graduated with a B.A. from New York University in 1843. Bangs became a minister and was part of the New York Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1844). He died on March 21, 1846 in Milford Connecticut.

This collection consists of letters dating from 1840 to 1841. This correspondence is from Stephen Beekman Bangs to his friend and Yale student Sylvester Smith. Topics of conversation include Bangs planning visits to see Smith in New Haven, Bangs’ preference of the city of New Haven over Middletown, discussion of activities and classes at Wesleyan, Bangs’ poor health and temporary leave of absences from the University, and discussion of mutual friends and acquaintances.


Pictured above is the earliest known photograph of the Wesleyan campus, a view of South College taken in 1865. In front is what is believed to be part of the graduation ceremonies held 150 years ago for the Class of 1865.

Our best wishes to the Class of 2015!

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