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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!


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.





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.



Waterloo spine

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.

Waterloo Error 1

“Error – on foot”

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.

Waterloo error 2

“Before noon” – No! – “At 10am”

Waterloo error 3

Waterloo error 4

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.

Is Russell House haunted? Video producer Ben Travers investigated, aided in part with resources from Special Collections & Archives. Happy Halloween!


Lynn Smith Miller Scrapbook

Photos from Lynn Smith Miller’s scrapbook. The bottom photo is of Lynn in his room.

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.

Lynn Smith Miller Scrapbook

Close up on a pack of Turkish cigarettes Lynn Miller saved and pasted into his scrapbook.

Lynn Smith Miller Scrapbook

Saved cigarettes and the dates smoked pasted into the scrapbook.

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 Scrapbook

Tickets to various sporting events on campus. Go Wes!

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.

Lynn Smith Miller Scrapbook

Floor plan of North College with each dorm room’s occupants written by Miller.


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.


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