Photos, yearbooks, and scrapbooks are filled with memories for those who lived those moments in time. For outsiders like us, however, we can only observe and examine, hoping for clues to this past.

For the next few weeks, I will be analyzing and investigating these sources as clues to help my group synthesize a reconstruction of what the Mary Washington College experience was like within a classroom during the 1950s. These images and mementos, I hope, will build the flat representation of academic life which my group members can build upon with their research.

The eight scrapbooks available in the UMW Archives that were made for or during the 1950s present a student or club’s perspective of their time here at Mary Washington. Most of the scrapbooks represent clubs and fraternities, such as the Home Economics Club. The others appear to be built by Class Councils, including the classes of ’52 and ’54. A number of the scrapbooks are in poor condition: bindings are fragile, pages tear easily, and entries are detached on numerous pages. Each scrapbook contains different items: most include photos and newspaper clippings while others have letters, programs, invitations, and napkins as mementos from events. Mrs. Parsons mentioned that many of these scrapbooks had not been carefully examined, so some of these items may be “gems” waiting to be recovered. The inevitable downside of scrapbooks maintained by students is the lack of academic substance. Only one or two of the scrapbooks include information on courses, and it is very limited. They all, however, provide clues for what students considered important and noteworthy.

The Battlefield is similar in this way. For the decade, there is one for each academic year. The Battlefield comes in three forms: online (PDF), worn or damaged copies in the stacks, and the pristine archived collection. For this project, the online and stacks copies are sufficient forms to examine. Within the yearbooks, there are photos of the individual students (which I will elaborate on in a later blog post), the faculty and staff, each club or fraternity, and events or sightings on campus. This source may be the most comprehensive of the three sources studied here. The senior class photos offer individual majors that may reveal changes over time in frequency. My survey of this is still missing three years, but there are some differences that have emerged. With each photo, there is also a caption to explain some context for the situation depicted, though it is limited by slang that I will have to translate later in my studies.

Finally, my research incorporates all other photos archived by the university. For now, only eighty-nine of the photos are available online. Some of these photos are copies of the Battlefield snapshots, but are enlarged for greater detail on a computer screen. There are also numerous photos that have not yet been added to the UMW Archives site that are available from a particular computer within Special Collections. I currently do not have a number on them, since the computer has constantly been in use during my visits, but Mrs. Parsons assures me that there are many more pictures than what are currently available online.


Image Source: Archives @ UMW

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