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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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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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