Monday, July 29, 2013

Evolution of the Llamarada

Can you define “Llamarada?”

Write your short answer here:____________________________________

Answer key:

Answer 1: The Llamarada is a hybrid between a llama and an alpaca.
Wrong: Your ears have deceived you, that false cognate is incorrect.

Answer 2:  The Llamarada is the Mount Holyoke College yearbook.
Wrong: You are also incorrect. You lose points for the present tense.

Answer 3: The Llamarada was the Mount Holyoke yearbook.

*ding ding ding*

Correct: Although sentence tense may seem like a technicality (and you may earn half credit on an actual quiz) it marks a very real difference between the way classes have been remembered in the past and how we will be remembered today.

Llamarada 2009

From its inception in 1896 until its death in 2009, the Llamarada was a tradition that celebrated Mount Holyoke students’s activities and lives on campus. So what went wrong? Short answer: supply and demand. Long answer: the college invested around $40,000 per year into the yearbook and yet they couldn’t give it away. Literally, the yearbook was free and people wouldn’t take it. For more information, read the thoughtful letter written by Joshua Nelson, former Assistant Director of Student Programs, here.

However, ever since the Llamarada printed its final edition, protests for its revival have shot up. These mini movements ask us to consider whether we have lost something priceless as a college. The institutional memory of our generation, perhaps? 

This debate has created the Llama-drama-paradox. Although the Llamarada has proven to be unsustainable and impractical (a national trend for undergraduate yearbooks), we want to document and remember the Mount Holyoke we know today for ourselves and the students of tomorrow. 
Llamarada 1950

Llamarada 1978
There is a solution to the Llama-drama-paradox: The Archives. Our collection functions like a huge, interactive yearbook. The things students donate here add to our institutional memory and help capture and preserve student experiences on a massive scale. Alumnae looking to reminisce with peers, administrators looking into the events of years passed, and family members looking to find pictures of their mother, grandmother, or great great aunt can come here and find what they need. Our collection promises that everything lost can also be found (as long as the institution or individual alumnae provide us with relevant materials).

Think of it like this, when the Llamarada was liquidated, the SGA funding that had gone to it was distributed among other student organizations. In this way, the end of the Llamarada was the beginning of new student activities and traditions. Similarly we can use the energy and passion directed at the idea of “the yearbook” and funnel it into the Archives’s collection. So donate papers, photographs, and small objects that you want preserved for posterity to the Archives. 

Llamarada 1905

Ps. All the Llamarada’s of classes past are kept in the Archives and Special Collections, accessible to any visitor. 

Pps. We accept student-made yearbooks, scrapbooks, and photo albums.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

New Exhibit - "Hidden Histories: Treasures in the Archives"

There's a new exhibit up in the Archives displaying various photographs and objects from our social media sites, Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, and this blog! We at the Archives take accountability seriously; we believe that we have a responsibility to the Mount Holyoke community and public to explain our curation process. This blog post will answer questions some may have about our exhibit as well as explain our intent in choosing various themes.

What is the theme of the exhibit?

"Horse Girls" and "Transcontinental Journey" exhibits
Jennie Ochterski: "The Archives Assistants love to show off our amazing collections, whether through posting about lesser-known events in MHC’s past (secret societies and famous horse women!) or choosing pictures relevant to a specific day in history to display. This current exhibit contains the original photographs from the last month of blog posts as well as others that help tell the story of Mount Holyoke College’s rich and fascinating history.

We are working on decentering whiteness in the Archives by recognizing the unique contributions and legacies that women of color have at MHC. In this exhibit, we feature several photographs of women of color and of various historical events pertaining to race dialogues with faculty. The overarching theme of the exhibit is “Hidden Histories: Treasures from the Archives” which speaks to the Archives’ commitment to education and community building through social media outreach. We choose blog topics based on what we think the Mount Holyoke community should know about: controversial sororities, beautiful May queens, a cross-country road trip, and racial diversity on campus." 

How do we choose which photographs to feature on our social media sites?

The Archives' tumblr site
Megan Haaga: "There's no one particular way that any of the Archives assistants chooses a photograph to post on Tumblr or Pinterest. Sometimes we encounter interesting photographs in our regular research. For instance, I have been organizing the Buildings and Grounds records of the college, which contain many beautiful photographs of the campus, and realized that there were many buildings which had burned down, leading to our Fires-themed Pinterest board. Other Archives Assistants work in Accessions (materials which we have received but do not yet have a permanent home), and the papers of Mount Holyoke's Presidents.

Sometimes, however, we find inspiration for our posts by exploring the stacks of the Archives - some discoveries include a centenary box time capsule to be opened in 2037, and Mount Holyoke's very own Flying Club for teaching women aviation! If we don't find our photos in our own research or the stacks, we can use the Archives & Special Collections Digital Images database to browse for images by subject, type, date, location, and other keywords."

How did the themes emerge?

A close-up of "Horse Girls"
Jennie Ochterski: "The themes in my portions of the exhibit stemmed from enthusiastic responses on our social media sites. The 'Horse Girls' case on the ground floor of Dwight was compiled from the Archives' ever-popular MHC horse pictures.  The original photograph of Elizabeth Ham, for example, garnered over 90 likes and reblogs on tumblr, a micro-blogging site. Connecting the past to the present is critical in the Archives' social media outreach and resulted in a horse exhibit primarily focused during the 1940s-1950s. Mount Holyoke has long been known for our strong equestrian program, which currently includes Equitation, Dressage, and Western riding teams. The featured photos highlight the fashions and daily activities of those who we lovingly refer to as 'horse girls.'

Two students in a class, circa 1970s.
This photograph was featured on our Tumblr and in our exhibit.
The photographs including women of color were selected from the Archives’ Digital Images Collections as part of the ongoing process of decentering whiteness in the Archives. What this means to us is recognizing and celebrating the legacies students of color have at Mount Holyoke and engaging in dialogues about institutional racism in archiving. Our intent is not to other or exclude women of color from the other portions of the exhibit, but to demonstrate that the photographic record of our more diverse student body begins in the mid 1960s. While before 1964 MHC had only 39 women of color amongst its graduates, the number increased to 220 by 1975. These photographs represent the daily life of multiple women, including pictures from the classroom, cultural houses, and around campus."

Megan Haaga: "I have always found the pictures of Mount Holyoke's May Queens to be incredibly beautiful, and we have featured them on Pinterest and Tumblr before. I decided to create one section of my exhibit based on May Queens because I think that the tradition of May Day and May Queens is visually stunning, and it also has an interesting history. May Queens were chosen by a secret ballot of all students as the 'fairest' senior, and there were even sometimes rules stating that she had to be blonde in even years and brunette in odd ones. The May Day tradition dates back to 1896, starting as a fundraiser for the Dramatic Club, but the first fully sanctioned May Day was held in 1901 for President Mary Woolley’s inauguration. The pageant featured plays and pantomimes with elaborate themes and large casts. 

The "Presidential Socks" blog post
My other two sections of the exhibit evolved from LITS blog posts. My first LITS blog post was about socks that I found in President Richard Glenn Gettell's papers, donated to him by Carol Sweeney Benson, class of 1961. She had originally knitted them for her boyfriend whose initials were 'RG', but after he 'jilted' her, she sent them anonymously to the President. My second LITS blog post was about Mount Holyoke's sororities - five Greek letter secret societies, lasting from the 1880s until 1910. Each society invited a select group of first year students to join their ranks. Once the incoming members had gone through an initiation ritual, they had access to the perks of being in a society: a separate, exclusive room for each society, special connections to the society's alumnae, banquets, and their own songs. President Mary E. Woolley did not approve of the societies, feeling they were undemocratic. By November 27, 1910, President Woolley announced the ban on secret societies, after a majority of students and faculty voted to disband them."

What were the challenges of putting together this exhibit?

"A Transcontinental Journey"
Jennie Ochterski: "Well, for one thing, we refurbished the exhibit cases by adding brand new green velvet backing! The measurements were more difficult than the exhibit itself! But in all seriousness, situating myself as a white archivist curating an exhibit about women of color at Mount Holyoke was and continues to be a process.  This blog post and the descriptions on the physical exhibit were created to aid the Archives in being as accountable and transparent as possible to the MHC community. I, and we at the Archives, welcome and encourage comments, critique, and feedback about our community presence."

The "May Queens" exhibit
Margaret Stanne: "A challenge I faced was the fragile state of the pages in the journal. As they are just glued into their binding (which is really just a folder) I could not just open to a page and scan it like I wanted to. I had to choose what page I wanted very carefully. I wanted to capture the girls personalities but also show some of the more interesting photos within the journal."

Check out the exhibits located in both the MEWS in LITS and the ground floor of Dwight Hall at Mount Holyoke College! Please don't hesitate to leave comments on this post, speak to us in the the Archives, or ask us a question on our tumblr! (We've enabled anonymous messages in case you'd prefer to be nameless.) 

We'd also like to thank our co-workers, especially Caro Pinto, Leslie Fields, and Patty Albright for their aid and advice in constructing our exhibit. Margaret would like to thank Kim Holmquist and Charlotte Wolter for their interviews and information for her Transcontinental Journey blog post. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Humors and Rumors: The Funnies of The Mount Holyoke News

     We, at Mount Holyoke, are often known for our quick wit and sly humor. This isn't a new trend brought on by a new generation. Mount Holyoke–perhaps under the radar–has been one sassy school for the past hundred years and perhaps longer.

     How do we know this? In the College Archives we have the entire collection of The Mount Holyoke News, the campus newspaper. The paper was started the fall of 1917 (how's that for a tradition?) and while it includes the expected news articles, a letter to the editor section, and department notes, it's most memorable and humorous section comes from it's "Humor and Rumor" section. Not only does it provide us with a look at the style of humor of the students of the time (witty and sarcastic, much like ours today) but also at what issues they were dealing with at the time. These snippets below were all pulled from the first few issues of the newspaper.

     If you reads a significant amount of the "Humors and Rumors" you will be able to pick up on the heavy use of knitting jokes. There has been a resurgence in knitting on campus. You will find students knitting in dining halls, in the library, and even in lectures! This was not an uncommon sight in 1917 though and as such, it is a common topic seen in Humors and Rumors.

     We're not quite sure what the seniors were trying to do by snake dancing down the chapel aisle. Let's hope this year's seniors don't get any ideas!
     This poem was turned into a song to the tune of "Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone". Writing songs used to be a huge part of Mount Holyoke tradition, but now takes less precedence.
 Being in a lecture we often find ourselves joining in a witty repartee with professors.
 As music was a part of campus life, it is not surprising to find music jokes.

 Even then students sometimes found themselves questioning how teachers graded their papers.
 We often find ourselves finding entertaining things to do to put off our work. It seems that that may also be a tradition at Mount Holyoke.

Mount Holyoke women pride themselves on their quick wit and sarcastic humor. Looking at these newspaper clippings, do you think this is a new trend, or another one of our many little traditions?

Feel free to check out any (or all) of our social media sites!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mount Holyoke's Not-So-Secret Societies

Chi Delta Theta invitation card
Some students at Mount Holyoke question why we don't have sororities, while others compare the college to one big sorority. But few people know that Mount Holyoke once did have sororities, known as Greek letter secret societies. They were called secret because society members weren't supposed to talk about them, but in fact, everyone at the college was aware of their existence. The five societies started around when Mount Holyoke transitioned from a seminary to a college, and lasted for about twenty years: Sigma Theta Chi (founded 1887), Psi Omega (1897), Gamma Kappa (1898), Xi Phi Delta (1896), Chi Delta Theta (1902).

Gamma Kappa wooden insignia
Each society invited a select group of first year students to join its ranks. Once the incoming members had gone through an initiation ritual, they  had access to the perks of being in a society: a separate room for each society which only they could use and special connections to the society's alumnae. Societies also held their own banquets, wrote and sang their own songs, and kept news bulletins and address books.
Sigma Theta Chi Initiation Booklet

President Mary E. Woolley did not approve of the societies, feeling that "a college life in which we are trying to give equal opportunities to all girls who enter, is not the place for any exclusive organization" (Woolley, 1904). By 1908, a few non-society students wrote in to the Mount Holyoke Monthly to critique the societies, and suddenly the whole college was talking about them! Several different conferences and committees with faculty, student, and alumnae representatives met on the issue throughout 1910. The arguments against societies were that girls who were not rushed felt left out, and that the societies divided the social life of the college. Students were also concerned about fairness because President Woolley was not allowing for the formation of new societies, but allowed the old ones to continue to exist.
Sigma Theta Chi members on a bridge, 1900

By November 27, 1910, President Woolley announced the ban on secret societies, after a majority of students and faculty voted to disband them.

In the aftermath, the Social Club was formed, which put on weekly dances and plays in the Student-Alumnae Hall (today Chapin Auditorium), a gathering place for all students to replace the exclusive society rooms. It was also decided that there would be a room for each class color in Student-Alumnae Hall, and that new traditions should be created to facilitate inter-class bonding.

Although we no longer have sororities at Mount Holyoke, some of our best traditions - our class colors and inter-class traditions like Elfing - emerged from their ban!

Xi Phi Delta Reunion Luncheon, 1954

Check out the Archives & Special Collections' social media sites!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Found in the Stacks

Many people liken Mount Holyoke College's library to Hogwarts, the "mythical" school of witchcraft and wizardry from the Harry Potter series. This may be because of the high, arched ceiling in the reading room (modeled after that in Westminster Hall) or the LITS staff's sense of humor.

One of the more magical things I've discovered in the last week has been the collection of notes tucked into various books in the LITS stacks. Ethan Powers, the Night/Weekend Supervisor for Access Services, has found and gathered these notes for the past few years. We at the Archives love anything that helps us document Mount Holyoke's rich past, and these certainly qualify! They range from little doodles and notes to photographs of family members from the mid twentieth century. I've put a few from each category below with some commentary.  

One of my favorite parts about these notes is the material on which they are written- many are scrawled on loan notices, cards, old photographs and even a brown paper bag! It's as if the person picked up whatever was handy and drew what was on their mind. The hand, for example, is written on the back of a loan slip from Western New England College School of Law.  It's smudged and unfinished, but strangely more beautiful for it.

Others are clipped from larger drawings or were scribbled in the margins of notebook paper. One of the common themes in the doodles is life advice. A miniature shark threatens to eat you if you don't return your library books on time, a forlorn puppy encourages you to adopt, or a quote surrounded by silver stars tells you, "I either find a way or I make one." The notes are timeless, nearly all of them undated. Many are recent (apparent from the paper utilized) but many could date back to the mid 1900s.

In addition to drawings, a few of the notes contain greetings to friends and old postcards. One says, "Dierdre: If I'm asleep when you come: 1. Knock loudly 2. Give that up and come in and wake me...Sandie."  The note looks pretty old, but situations like this play out during finals to this day!

To see the highlights of the collection of notes, please visit this page and this one.

We'd love to hear your comments about the mysteries in the library stacks, notes you've found, or reasons why Mount Holyoke is secretly Hogwarts.

Check out the Archives and Special Collections' social media sites!