Friday, December 12, 2014

Download older Moodle materials by February 2nd, 2015

In order to comply with copyright law, LITS must turn off student access to Moodle course sites a few weeks after grades are due.

Copyright symbol

If you wish to save copies of any Moodle materials from a Fall 2014 course site, please do so by February 2, 2015. If you have an extension and require access to a course site beyond this date, please contact the course instructor.

Image credit: opensourceway via Compfight cc

Monday, December 8, 2014

Study Break Tea!

Please join us for our fourth annual December Study Break Tea on Wednesday the 10th, from 4-5pm in the library's Stimson Room.  We'll have snacks, caffeine, crafts (origami, buttons, DIY tea bags), and good cheer.  Stop by for a much-deserved break that will help you refuel and refocus!  We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Painting Dragons and Performing as Pierrots

Nestled at the top of the Williston & Miles-Smith Library on the 7th floor is the Digital Assets and Preservations Services (DAPS) department. DAPS works in conjunction with Archives & Special Collections (ASC) located on the ground floor of Dwight Hall. This summer I worked in DAPS as the Digital Collections Assistant and have come to see DAPS and ASC as integral parts of the library, framing the present day operations with the past and future. ASC is where the past is housed and accessed – a place to learn about the rich history and great legacies of Mount Holyoke. DAPS works to digitally archive that history and make it accessible online in the present and into the future – for students, researchers, the community and beyond. DAPS is a small space where big things happen.
Mount Holyoke students on May Day,
1929 dressed as Pierrot characters
(Photo by Asa Kinney)
One of the projects I assisted with was the creation of an Omeka site ( to exhibit a digital collection of work dating back to the 1900s. Photographer and former Mount Holyoke Botany professor, Asa Kinney (1873-1961), originally captured the images on glass plates. The heavy, glass plates in negative form were largely inaccessible and relatively unseen, until now. James Gehrt, DAPS Digitization Coordinator, is in the process of making them available through digitization. He found that the images within the plates depicted a wide range of campus life and landscapes, including intriguing terse descriptions of the negatives. These descriptions were similar to those written on the back of a photograph, or more recently, hash-tagged: the occasion, or theme, or perhaps a name or two.
French film actress Sarah Bernhardt as Pierrot,
 1883  (photo by nadar)

I experienced these works as a glimpse into the past, a window into a slice of life on the Mount Holyoke College campus. The collection includes students participating in theatre, clubs, traditions and outdoor games. My contribution to the project consisted primarily of uploading the images and adding tags that would be part of the metadata used for searching the online collection. In working on this collection and identifying the images I had the opportunity to delve into what was sometimes the inspiration or focus of events on campus over 100 years ago. My exploration allowed me to uncover symbolism in the clothes, props and identifiable characters. These themes and symbols informed the process of recognizing with more specificity what was being depicted in the image and what the students were creating and expressing.
"Little's Peerless Pierrots" postcard circa 1928
 (photograph by A.M. Breach ) 

The “May Day” collection includes depictions of a day filled with theatrical performances and elaborate costumes and props. The images capture the process of students preparing and acting out theatrical performances and celebratory events that made up the May Day tradition. One example of this is the image of students dressed as Pierrot figures, which dates back to the early 18th century. The name “Pierrot,” a hypocorism of “Pierre,” was a stock character in an Italian troupe of mimes and players performing in Paris. Pierrot was originally and most often depicted as a sad clown pining for love, strumming a mandolin. With a melancholy expression, whitened face wearing a loose white blouse with large buttons and pantaloons, he is most often a naïve and endearing character.
The photos Asa Kinney captured often included students wearing elaborate costumes. Although we cannot be entirely certain that these students participated as actors in a production on May Day, the details of their costumes appear authentic to that of the beloved Pierrot.
"Ashes to Ashes" 

In the post-Revolution era Pierrot became a symbol of struggle in an imposing world. He has been depicted in many countries and in many artistic expressions, including: operas, plays, pantomimes, circuses, films, television, anime, literature, films, rock music and visual art. Examples of mainstream pop icons portraying Pierrot include David Bowie and Lady Gaga.
Mount Holyoke students working together to paint a
large dragon prop for a 1922 May Day
theatrical performance (photo by Asa Kinney)

Asa Kinney’s photographs often capture the drama club, including their performances and props. This includes posed and candid portraits--both singular and groups, often in character.
Mount Holyoke students using their
self styled dragon prop in a
1922 May Day performance (photo by Asa Kinney)

The Asa Kinney collection includes students depicting a wide array of characters, from plays by Molière to Greek myths of Faeries and Fauna, wearing crowns of flowers and paper wings. When the digital collection is published, 200 of the images will be available for viewing, and the collection can be expected to expand as additional plates are digitized. Every photo gives us a glimpse into the lives of students years ago, and allows us to witness a unique moment of their experience, as they expressed themselves and participated in the rich traditions of Mount Holyoke campus life.

To read more about Asa Kinney:
Asa Kinney Project at Blogspot

Asa Kinney Re-Photography

Asa Kinney Exhibit

To read more about Pierrot:

Monday, November 3, 2014

"In their hands rests the greatest power for good and evil!": Women Voters and Mount Holyoke in 1920

With midterm elections tomorrow, I would like to take you back to a very special race almost 100 years ago. The year was 1920. Children could no longer be sent as parcels via the U.S. postal service; Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested on charges of robbery and murder amidst the post war Red Scare; Babe Ruth was traded to the Yankees; and on November 2, for the first time in United States history, women voted in national elections.

As an article printed in the Mount Holyoke News noted, “There are 23,000,000 new voters – the largest body of new voters the world has ever known – and in their hands rests the greatest power for good and evil.” With that said, by the start of fall semester 1920, the elections were in full swing and the candidates for each party had been selected. For the Republicans: Warren G. Harding; for the Democrats: James M. Cox; and (lest we subscribe to a two party system) Eugene V. Debs for the Socialists and Parley P. Christensen for the Farmer-Labor Party.

Front page of The Mount Holyoke News: October 15, 1920
Other articles in the News that fall also mirrored the excitement on campus, and columns throughout October and November were dedicated to the election. In the edition published on October 15, the first pages were given over to answering in detail the question of which candidate should you vote for. Among the student opinions we have are: “Harding of the Level Head,” “Don’t Waste your Vote on Harding or Cox,” “Debs Versus Dubs,” and “Cox and the College Citizen,” in favor of Harding, the Farmer-Labor Party, Eugene Debs, and Cox respectively. Each informs its readers of the valor of their chosen candidate and the misdeeds of his opponents. With all this information available, a column published in the following week’s paper speaks the truth when it says, “if any student fails to vote on Election Day because she did not know anything about the candidates, it will be entirely her own fault. Information is to be had for the looking—in any direction.” 

Student Ruth Walton, Class of 1922, wrote a letter home on November 7, 1920, describing in detail to her parents the excitement felt during the weeks leading up to and on Election Day:
My dearest family,
… We had quite an exciting time over the election. You know we were to have a big parade and bonfire for election night, but it rained, so we all gathered in S.A.H. and they brought in our results. They had the college wire connected with western union so we got all the news as it came in. It was the most exciting meeting really. I never heard so much noise in my life! Of course not every report favored Harding… there seemed to be quite a few for Cox, from the fourteen states etc. and when we were told, we were still rather doubtful because we thought about the [previous election]. We were allowed to stay up until 12 o’clock, which I think was really good of the dean and so after the meeting we had a fudge party. The college straw vote went for Harding… Among the faculty… they were for Cox and the League… Only a small majority of the faculty who could have voted did and I think that it is awfully [feeble] of them not to vote if they had a chance. 
After this, her handwriting gets progressively worse and conversation turns to the beautiful weather. 

Today while the weather might not be as beautiful as Ruth describes it, as we go into this election I ask only that you remember the words of the October 15, 1920, Mount Holyoke News: “Don’t forget that progress is the purpose of education and we, being educated women, should do everything in our power to foster it. The greatest thing that has been accomplished in the last year has been the extension of the right to vote to women.” So, in the name of our fore-sisters and the right they were so excited to exercise all those decades ago, go forth and vote! 

Lily Corman Penzel, Class of 2015, is a volunteer in the Mount Holyoke Archives and Special Collections. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Spotlight on Special Collections: Repurposed Medieval Manuscripts

Today medieval manuscripts are preserved as valuable historical artifacts. Unfortunately this has not always been the case. For centuries unwanted manuscripts were repurposed as binding material for other works. Because paper and parchment were expensive commodities, it was cheaper to simply re-use old manuscripts rather than purchase new binding material. This practice was widespread and today volumes bound with old manuscripts can be found at a number of libraries and archives around the world, including the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections.

The first example from Mount Holyoke's Special Collections is this 1791 copy of a comedy written by the Roman playwright Publius Terentius Afer. This book was bound in a manuscript fragment taken from a medieval song book; the binding was then covered by a sheet of marbled paper, leaving only the spine and corners of the manuscript layer uncovered. Some of the lyrics and original musical notation are still visible and give some clue as to the manuscript's origins.

This 1491 copy of Dante's Divine Comedy is bound in fragments taken from what appears to be a medieval choir book. The words, which are shown together with the original musical notation, are lyrics to various religious songs. There are three different songs on the front cover, namely, Omnes de Saba, Psalm 95:9, and Ab Oriente Venerunt Magi.

Front Cover
Back Cover

The smudging along the outer edges of both the front and back covers was likely caused by the many hands that have opened the book throughout the centuries.

Although the primary purpose for binding a book using old manuscripts was practical, the book binder also seems to have appreciated their decorative potential as well. It appears that he took care to align the manuscript in order to display the colorful, illuminated letters that mark the beginning of each song.

Although it is disappointing that we can no longer read these manuscripts in their entirety, it is fortunate that these documents were preserved at all. If they had not been used as binding material, it is likely that these manuscripts would have been thrown away. Today we can appreciate them for their content and for what they can tell us about how different societies have used and valued them throughout time.

Emily Wells, Class of 2015, is a student assistant in the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Spokesgoose Jorge On the Move

Before there is a campus wide panic that Jorge has left us forever and been replaced by an imposter, let us reassure you that the real Jorge has not left the Mount Holyoke Campus (nor is he likely to) and can still be found swimming in Lower Lake, honking at obscene hours, patrolling the Prospect Patio at mealtimes, and just making a general nuisance of himself. However this lovely little chap, pictured to the right, (who has impeccable manners barring the odd bagel) has gone on a journey.

This past summer I worked for Historic Huguenot Street in my hometown of New Paltz, New York. Earlier in the spring they had a visitor in their archives in the form of a Northern Long-Eared Bat. While the real bat flies free they now have Archie the Archives Bat as their social media mascot.

Archie has his own twitter, instagram, and facebook accounts to promote findings in the archives and material objects collections, events happening on the street, as well as promoting awareness about bats. He has procured many friends along the way!

Meet Virgil the VAM Gnome. Virgil hails from the Virginia Association of Museums and is known to pop up at events in that area. Virgil and Archie became friends via instagram. When Virgil sent Archie a letter in July, Archie just knew he had to go visit his friend down in Virginia and went off bearing gifts from Huguenot Street.

What does this have to do with our intrepid goose?

Naturally, Jorge was just a little bit jealous of all the fun Virgil and Archie were having. After all, he is quite a well traveled social media star! After much flapping and honking we determined that Jorge wanted to go visit Archie himself. So we sent off our favorite goose with some of his favorite buttons, stickers, and zines to visit Archie! Though we haven't heard back from the friendly bat we're hoping to hear from him soon and will keep you updated when he does!

This project is way to reach to other museums, libraries, and archives in order to have fun with social media but also to learn more about what we're all doing and how we do it! Do you have any other mascots that you think Jorge should meet? If so, leave a comment down below, send Archives a tweet, tell us on tumblr or instagram and we will try to arrange for Jorge to travel out to meet them! 

About the author: Margaret Stanne, Class of 2016, is a student assistant in Mount Holyoke's Archives and Special Collections. 

More info about Archie:

More info about Virgil:

Contact us!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Moodle Faculty Mixer: all instructors welcome!

All instructors are welcome at the Moodle Faculty Mixer on Wednesday, October 22 from 4 to 5:30 PM in Library 431.

fisheye photo (waughmp waughmp) of man explaining something to two other people in front of a laptop and a large screen.
Image courtesy of techcocktail and altunsunphoto (CC by-sa 2.0)
What is a Moodle mixer? It's an informal time for you to gather and talk with other instructors about what you're doing with Moodle: you can bring your laptop or let us know to provide one. You can show others what you've been up to in Moodle, or something you'd like suggestions or feedback about, or just come to chat and have a snack. We guarantee you'll learn something, regardless, because we teach with Moodle in a variety of ways.

We know instructors are doing a variety of interesting stuff in Moodle, and that something simple you came up with might be just the tip someone else is looking for. We also know that everyone's busy, so we're using a format where no advance preparation is required other than letting us know you're coming. 

Got something you think might help others? Looking for ideas? Want opinions on how to do something better or more easily? Please RSVP here or send a note to your LITS Liaison so we can get enough snacks. Coffee and tea and tasty treats will be provided.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Word to the Wise: Adobe Digital Editions and privacy reading eBooks

Thanks to helpful reports from Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader and Sean Gallagher at Ars Technica, we learned of some serious security and privacy issues with the Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) ebook reading & management software.

Adobe Digital Editions 4, has been logging data on the books used with this application, and also logging data on other ebooks that have been downloaded on the same device (mobile device or computer). This information is being uploaded in plain text to Adobe servers, without any encryption, meaning that book logging data is potentially open to interception. This privacy breach seems to be limited to Digital Editions 4, the most recent version of the software.

LITS provides access to hundreds of thousands of ebooks and all can be read online.  Due to digital rights management (DRM) restrictions, however, some require Adobe Digital Editions for offline reading.  And you might well have personal ebooks that are using ADE.   If you use ADE and want to protect your right to privacy, we recommend you revert to version 3, which did not have these issues.   Or simply read ebook content online without downloading - at least until this breach is fixed.

In response to a request for information from the American Library Association, Adobe reports they “expect an update to be available no later than the week of October 20”.

Omnomnom! Eat and Greet!

As the weather gets colder, and papers get longer, have you ever wished you could just stay put in the library, and not hike across the world to Blanch? Have you hoped that food would magically appear in the Reading Room, or that there would be a LITS feast? Then you will be glad to know our most well-kept secret: the Research and Instructional Support (RIS) librarians are undercover foodies, and they know how you feel!

In the cavernous realms behind the ASK LITS board lie their official dwellings aka. their gingerbread houses. But our librarians are hardly bad apples, grumpy behind towers of books. They love having visitors and seekers of food for thought. So, to dispel any myths about the scary and famished land of research at this library, the fantastic RIS librarians are asking you to dine with them for the first-ever 

Eat and Greet!

Where:   Research Help Desk, Reading Room
When:    October 16th,  2-3 pm

Come by the Research Help Desk at that delectable date and time to pick up your map to the seven different offices, each housing different librarians.

Jorge at the Research Help Desk
Jorge awaits your visit!

And wait, there's even more choice on this menu: each librarian specializes in supporting different academic departments, so each office will have a different fall goody to snack on!

Eat your way through the map, and discover to whom and where you can go for your research and technology needs.  And at the end of this banquet, you can enter to win a Rao's gift card for your future library-hunger pangs!

We promise, our undercover foodies want to help you with your research, and feed you (even when you feel like you've bitten off more than you can chew).

Nourishment and research, all in one: productive procrastination, don't you think?


Psst. Another secret: some of our librarians are great cooks!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Interested in a career in Library and Information Science?

Join us for an informal gathering to learn about library and information management careers!

Date: Friday, October 10
Location: Stimson Room on Library level 6 (building map)
Time: 2-3pm

Come talk to librarians, archivists, academic technologists, and faculty from library and information science graduate schools. We will be joined by Barbara Moran, Louis Round Wilson Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Information & Library Science (SILS). UNC SILS is one of the nation’s top-ranked schools of information and library studies.

Participants will be given the opportunity to learn more about graduate studies in Information & Library Science, hear from librarians and information professionals in the Five Colleges about their career paths, and ask questions of the panel. Barbara will be available to talk to interested students and staff about graduate studies in library and information science in general and the program at UNC-Chapel Hill specifically. Stay for the entire session, or drop in for as long as your schedule allows. We look forward to seeing you!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Banned Books Week 2014 Celebrates Graphic Novels

September 21st - 27th is Banned Books Week, an event that celebrates the freedom to read by bringing attention to written works that have been banned, censored, or otherwise challenged in academic and library settings. The focus for this year’s celebration is the graphic novel and comics form. The choice to emphasize comics and other graphic narrative works represents an important recognition of the medium as a legitimate mode of speech and intellectual engagement. This year LITS will organize several activities to recognize Banned Books Week including a display in the Library courtyard of challenged graphic novels and other related works, as well as a Stimson Room event on Wednesday the  24th from 4-5PM.

Graphic novels are more popular among readers today than ever before and are appreciated by a broader audience than in the past. Although comics have had a place in pop culture for decades and have attracted a dedicated readership from the early 20th century onward, they have only recently found a place in libraries and academia. Where librarians once hesitated to include comics in their collections, in little more than the last decade many libraries have responded to a rapid rise in demand among their patrons for graphic storytelling by increasing their graphic novel holdings. In addition the graphic novel has found its place in many classrooms as an effective teaching tool, with curricula ranging from literature and film studies, history, and even science incorporating examples of the medium into their reading.

There have been a significant number of challenges to the inclusion of particular comics series in library collections, but given the short history of comics in libraries in general the number of banned and challenged comics still remains relatively small compared to literature and YA novels. Even with the limited number of challenges to graphic novels in libraries and classrooms, the artform has a long history of struggle with censorship and of comics creators defending their intellectual rights. For nearly sixty years, mainstream comics were created under a regimen of self-censorship as a result of the infamous Comics Code Authority.
After the earliest examples of popular and pulp comics met with moral panic from parents and concerned adults, comics industry leaders were left with a choice between allowing the federal government to regulate their content or instituting their own censorship code. From 1954 through the early 2000s, the Comics Code limited the mainstream sale and distribution of comics to only those that met its stringent qualifications. Regardless, throughout the reign of  the Code underground and independent creators produced some of the most vibrant and important work in the medium, pushing the boundaries of what was possible with sequential art and graphic storytelling.

If you are looking to learn more about the history of censorship and the comics medium there are many links around the web. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, an organization created to help comics creators stand up for their intellectual and First Amendment rights, has put together several comprehensive pages on this not-so-secret history of comics:
Some of the works that will be on display
Join LITS in celebrating Banned Book Week by visiting the display of incredible / fantastic / spectacular/ [insert hyperbolic adjective] comics and graphic novel resources that are available right here in our library. If you want to learn more and share more about how great graphic novels really are, come to the Stimson Room at 4PM on Wednesday the 24th for button and zine making, snacks, and discussion.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Candy Quest!

Where can you find new spaces, meet friendly faces, eat candy, earn a button, and enter to win a prize?  On the LITS Candy Quest, of course!

Jorge visits the Research Help Desk
Jorge departing the Research Help Desk after making a new friend and bagging some candy.

Here's how to participate:

  • New students, check the LITS bag you received at the August 29th M&Cs in the library for a red Candy Quest card.  Can't find the card? No problem! Pick up another copy at any of these LITS service points: the Circulation Desk, Research Help Desk, and Technology Help Desk.
  • Starting Wednesday, September 17 - Friday, September 19, visit each location on the card between 1-5pm, present your card for the person on duty to initial/check off that location, and get a piece of candy.
  • Once you've visited every location, fill in your contact information on the back of your completed card and bring it to the LITS Research Help Desk. You'll get a limited-edition button and be entered to win a gift certificate to Rao's or the Odyssey Book Shop.
Happy questing and may the odds be ever in your favor!

Monday, September 8, 2014

New Interlibrary Loan Webpage!

We would like to share some awesome changes to our Interlibrary Loan ILLiad webpages! 

First, you can now log into ILLiad with your standard Mount Holyoke login and password. You will still have access to your borrowing history and any pending requests. Second, ILLiad has a new look! The pages have been redesigned, but all of the features you are used to are unchanged. Please do change your bookmark to this new URL:

We're excited about these improvements, and we also look forward to continuing to provide you with the reliable and fast ILL service you're used to. If you have any questions or problems with your login, please email

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Reflections on the Frances Perkins Center

During my archival internship for the Frances Perkins Center through the Mount Holyoke Archives & Special Collections, I referred to the central historical figure in my work as “Frances Perkins,” or sometimes “Frances,” which is what my boss, author Kirstin Downey, called her because Kirstin is a journalist by profession and connects personally with the legacy of Frances Perkins.  Chris Breiseth, Chairman of the Board of the Frances Perkins Center, refers to her as “Miss Perkins” because she preferred to be called “Miss Perkins” when they lived in the same house when Frances Perkins was a professor and Chris Breiseth was a student at Cornell University.  Board members Sarah Peskin and Leah Sprague just said “Frances Perkins.”  Tomlin Coggeshall, the grandson of Frances Perkins and founder of the Frances Perkins Center, naturally refers to her as “my grandmother.”  Even when I sat across from Tomlin’s husband Christopher Rice at dinner, I felt a bit star-struck when Christopher simply referred to the woman behind the new deal as “Tomlin’s grandmother.”  Personally, I have decided to say “Miss Perkins” because that was how her students addressed her.

As a volunteer for the events at College of the Atlantic and the garden party at the homestead, I learned that handing out nametags is a significant social advantage because the person who hands out nametags will learn everyone’s names.  At College of the Atlantic, after I handed out nametags on August 12th, I enjoyed listening to the speeches.  Former United States Senator George Mitchell delivered an inspiring speech about the historical and political significance of Frances Perkins, anchored in her home state of Maine.  I liked his joke, “Massachusetts used to be part of Maine.”  Kirstin’s speech was incredible; I loved her theme of Perkins’ roots in New England because everyone related to it.  She sweetly included my comment that although Frances Perkins enjoyed lobster, she would probably become a vegetarian if she attended Mount Holyoke now.  Vegetarianism is predominant on campus partially because it is the best way to reduce each person’s carbon footprint, and students care about the world.  Finally, it was wonderful to see President Lynn Pasquerella in Maine and to hear her voice in the video for the Frances Perkins Center; Mount Holyoke has a strong presence in Perkins’ legacy.

The homestead was probably the best part of my time in Maine.  In the house of Frances Perkins, where Tomlin and Christopher currently live, I was especially fascinated by the family’s book collection.  You can determine a lot about people through their book collection.  For example, Perkins closely read a book about code of conduct and sometimes distributed copies of it.  Below is a picture of me with her copy.  Near the books, there were several signed items from President Franklin Roosevelt.  I had previously seen his signature behind glass cases in museums, but Roosevelt’s signature appears all over the possessions in Tomlin’s house because his grandmother had a close professional relationship with the president. 

The homestead was the ideal place for the annual garden party, held this year on August 14th, because the garden is indescribably beautiful.  I have enjoyed a wide range of interesting tasks as an intern this summer in Washington, DC, but one of my favorites was picking a bouquet of flowers from the garden for decoration.  Then, the Frances Perkins Center gave awards for social justice to a few deserving recipients who live by the values of Frances Perkins.  After the ceremony, I ate dinner with members of the Board, as well as 92-year-old prominent historian William Leuchtenburg.  I told him upon departure, “I hope to become a historian, and when I am your age, I will tell people that I met you, and they will say ‘whoa!’”  He smiled approvingly.  It was my privilege to meet several exceedingly interesting people during my time as an intern at the Frances Perkins Center.  The following morning, as I was reading The Roosevelt I Knew by Frances Perkins, I ran into Tomlin Coggeshall in a coffee shop, so I asked, “Hi Tomlin, do you mind if I sit with you while I read your grandmother’s book?”  Characteristically of the friendly people at the Frances Perkins Center, Tomlin welcomed me to sit with him.

Rebecca Brenner
Mount Holyoke ’15
Intern in Alexandria, VA, for Frances Perkins Center and Mount Holyoke Archives & Special Collections

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

From the Archives: The First Course Catalogue and the History of Admissions

Mount Holyoke is a college with a long and far-reaching historical legacy, and even today we continue to honor many of our earliest traditions. Yet while we have maintained our core values of diversity, academic excellence, and purposeful engagement, much has changed about Mount Holyoke's format and practices since 1837. Taking a look at the very first course catalogue for the 1837-1838 school year reveals how much the institution has grown.
Cover of the original 1837 catalogue

One notable change is that while today we have President Lynn Pasquerella, in the seminary's first year Mount Holyoke was led by Miss Mary Lyon, who was called a principal and teacher instead of president. The list of Trustees also reveals the familiar names of Deacons Andrew W. Porter and Daniel Safford, for whom two of our residence halls are named.

The seminary had only three class years--Junior, Middle, and Senior--which students were placed into based on their test scores, rather than their age. The founding year started with 116 students, though many of the students would not graduate, since it was typical for women to enroll in a seminary for only a short time. Each year followed the same curriculum, and while they were designed to be followed for a year, students could advance to the next year once they proved their mastery of the subjects.

Admissions requirements
The requirements for entering the seminary's Junior class were being 16 years old and having "an acquaintance with the general principles of English Grammar, a good knowledge of Modern Geography, History of the United States, Watts on the Mind, Colburn's First Lessons, and the whole of Adams's New Arithmetic." The list of subjects each class studies is given in the catalogue, and it is noted that the list will likely expand in coming years, so "preparations to enter the Junior class should be full and thorough."

When students first arrived to the seminary, it was not actually guaranteed that they would be admitted. First, they took a series of exams to demonstrate their academic preparedness. An emphasis is placed on the importance of being present at the seminary as much as possible; students were generally required to stay the whole year, and were asked not to miss any weeks of class during their Senior year.

Students were required to complete assigned domestic chores, as part of Mary Lyon's method of keeping the cost of attending the seminary low: $20 a term, not including fuel and lights. But the catalogue emphasizes that the institution would not teach domestic skills to the students, and instead make use of those skills students had already learned from their mothers.

The Seminary's original 116 students all came from the East Coast, except for Mary E. Hayes from Ohio, with the majority from Massachusetts and Connecticut. While this group of students was not very diverse, Mary Lyon founded the Seminary with the intention of providing a rigorous liberal arts education for middle class women who could not afford to attend more expensive institutions.

Today, Mount Holyoke looks very different from Mary Lyon's time. We now have four class years instead of three, the tuition is slightly higher than $20 per semester, and there are hundreds of different classes in a variety of subjects to choose from. Admissions applications are no longer sent directly to the President. Mary Lyon might not have envisioned this future for us. But in our 177th year, Mount Holyoke has grown into a diverse, inclusive, and academically premiere college for all women.

See the full 1837 course catalog at the Alumnae Quarterly!

Find the Archives on social media:
Youtube - new!

Megan Haaga, Class of 2015, is a student assistant in the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections.