Woodrow Wilson and the Eating Clubs

Written by Anna Rubin ’15

We are pleased to announce another newly digitized collection: the Woodrow Wilson Correspondence in the Office of the President Records. Wilson was president of Princeton University from 1902-1910, Governor of New Jersey 1911-1913, and U.S. President 1913-1921. This collection contains correspondence between Wilson and University faculty, administrators, alumni, and parents, as well as departmental records and information on University projects that were taking place during his term, such as the construction of the Graduate College. Wilson’s Princeton presidency presented him with many challenges, the most ultimately significant of which was conflict over campus social life. In the first of a two-part series, we take a look at Wilson’s battle with the eating clubs.

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Woodrow Wilson as Princeton’s president. Papers of Woodrow Wilson Project Records (MC178) Box 445.

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Announcing ASAP: Archiving Student Activism at Princeton

Next Thursday and Friday, the Princeton University Archives will host a collecting drive to launch ASAP: Archiving Student Activism at Princeton, an initiative that seeks to collect and preserve individual and organizational records created by Princeton students who engage in activism on a broad range of issues and perspectives, both on campus and off. We hope students will drop by our table in Frist Campus Center between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm on Thursday, December 10, or come visit us between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm at Mudd Library on Friday, December 11, to drop off their records. You can find details of ASAP here. In this post, I want to explain 1) why the University Archives is launching this initiative now and 2) why you as students should consider depositing your records.

Before reading any further, stop and ask yourself: what is the purpose of the Princeton University Archives? Is it to preserve pieces of Princeton’s past for posterity? Or is it to provide reference assistance to researchers, including students who consult senior theses? Or, is the purpose to collect new records that are created today?

First Charter in Board of Trustees Minutes

Charter of the College of New Jersey, in Board of Trustees Minutes, Vol. 1. (Board of Trustees Records (AC120). See the first 8 volumes of the Board of Trustees Minutes in the Princeton University Digital Library (PUDL).

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Toni Morrison’s Born-Digital Material

By Elena Colon-Marrero and Allison Hughes

On October 14, 2014, Princeton University announced it had acquired the papers of author, emeritus faculty member, and Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison. The papers, which are currently being processed, consist of approximately 200 linear feet of material, including manuscripts, drafts, correspondence, working files, teaching material, and just over 150 floppy disks. The disks come in 2 varieties, 3.5” and 5.25”, pictured below:

5.25” and 3.5” floppy disks

5.25” and 3.5” disks

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John Forbes Nash’s Princeton University Academic File Available Online

A lot of interest has been focused on John Forbes Nash *50 in the past several years. We’ve routinely seen high levels of traffic on our web page detailing our archival resources available on the famous mathematician. Astute readers have noted that the restrictions on Nash’s graduate school records would no longer apply following his death last month. In response, we have digitized his academic file and it is now available online.

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The file holds few surprises for those familiar with Nash, if any. In letters supporting his application to Princeton University’s doctoral program in mathematics, Nash’s professors at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon University) wrote that he was “a mathematical genius” who “gives promise of being a top-flight mathematician” and “unique in my experience of students. … possibly he is the very best.” John L. Synge, head of Carnegie’s mathematics department, warned Princeton not to be dissuaded by first impressions. “He might appear inferior, since he does not write out his work in polished form, nor does he lecture impressively,” Synge acknowledged. “However, this external clumsiness is more than compensated by quickness of understanding, originality, and capacity for seeing the inner meaning of an argument, all unrivalled in my experience.” Nash’s recommenders also noted his shyness and humility, as well as willingness to cooperate with others. One letter refers to Nash as “emotionally stable.”

Nash photo commentAs with most such files, however, much of the appeal comes from what it reveals about the more mundane aspects of Nash’s life. Those who do not relate to a strong aptitude for mathematics or winning the Nobel Prize may still find they have something in common with Nash. His disappointment in his dorm room at the Graduate College or his efforts to sell a small refrigerator may resonate with their own student experiences. Nearly everyone has had insecurity about a photograph at some point, so Nash’s complaints that his graduate school application photo does not do him justice have a charming universal quality.

Our Dear Old Barracks: Life in the Butler Tract

When one thinks of Princeton, the phrases “cattle-car style barracks” and “semi-slums” are rarely the first that come to mind. But these are the words people have used to describe the Butler Apartments, which have provided housing for generations of graduate students for nearly 70 years. The apartment complex, located off Harrison Street, was originally built as temporary units to alleviate the housing shortage as a result of an influx of returning World War II veterans.

The spring semester of 1946 witnessed an unprecedented housing shortage; the university had admitted nearly 500 veterans from over 2000 applications received from veterans alone, resulting in the need of housing for hundreds of students. Other educational institutions like Yale were facing the same problem, and had decided to set up Quonset huts to house the influx of returning veterans, many of whom were married and starting families.

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A couple moving into the Butler tract, 1946. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box MP166, Image No. 4082.

Towards the spring of 1946, the University, along with the Federal Housing Authority, coordinated the construction of 250 units on the Butler tract off Harrison Street to house married veterans. The project called for the revision of the township’s zoning ordinance to build a temporary complex that was to be demolished within a two- to five-year time frame. The housing authority paid for the construction of the structures and interior furnishings while the university took care of its infrastructure, including sewer and electrical connections as well as the building of roads and sidewalks. Prior to the construction of these units, the university had placed students and their spouses anywhere they could; transforming the ROTC Barracks, Brown Hall, Libbey Mansion and other university owned houses into housing for married students.

With two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room, the sheet-rock barrack-style housing complex at Harrison Street was a spacious alternative to the shared facilities available in dormitory housing. An article in the Princeton Alumni Weekly called the complex “the most attractive project of its type at any college.” The rent on the units started at $40 per month, with gas, heat, and electricity included. Additionally, students could rent furniture for $6 a month and towels and bedding for $1.75 a month. Although the complex contained a good number of units, the demand was still greater than the space available; therefore, the university was forced to establish a ranking system to decide who was able to apply. Only men who served in the official U.S military branches and their spouses would be eligible to apply. This provision excluded those who served in the American Merchant Marines and in the American Field Service. Married couples who had been housed in Brown Hall would be given priority, followed by any junior faculty and tenants of upper Pyne Hall.

The first 31 units opened in November of 1946, with the remainder opening by the spring of the following year. In 1948, a new law passed transferring the ownership and authority to the University; this enabled Princeton to continue to house students in the complex. Although the space was adequate, affordable, and a far cry from living in a cramped dormitory space, the complex had several problems. In more than three dozen interviews conducted with previous Butler residents from the 1940s to spring of 2014, there are references to Butler’s paper-thin walls, drafty spaces, uneven floors and antiquated kerosene heaters. The interviews, which are part of the broader Princetoniana Committee Oral History Project, also capture the other side of Butler, which includes the feeling of community within the complex, as well as providing a place for those who could not otherwise afford to live in Princeton.

Some of the interviewees, who have lived in places like New York City, stated that they found the space at Butler to be adequate and that they were grateful to find such an affordable place to live.  David Baldwin *65, said, “We could lie in bed at night and carry on a conversation. Privacy was not that great but there was a lot of camaraderie and companionship.” Joyce Axelrod, wife of Michael Axelrod *66 , said that life at Butler  “was a joy” and that she “never, never felt unhappy.” Other interviews tell of the intellectual and international community that formed around Butler and the friendships and the informal networks that formed to organize everything from babysitters to study groups.

Butler, after surviving several threats of demolition, will be replaced by the Lakeside Apartments off Faculty Road that will open this month. Many people, like Christine Blumauer, who organized a reunions tour of Butler in 2014, feel a sense of nostalgia for the Butler space. Among the things that she enjoyed were “the quietness [and], the kids playing around.” The Butler oral history project was undertaken by the Princetoniana Committee as a way to preserve the stories of those that had lived at Butler. The interviews are accessible through the Princeton University Finding Aids website and include interviews with alumni and their spouses.

Below, we present a gallery of images depicting Butler through the years, inside and out.

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Archiving Email at the Princeton University Archives

Changes in leadership, especially at universities, give archivists an opportunity to transfer records into the archives. Such was the case when the current Dean of the College, Valerie Smith, accepted a position as the new president of Swarthmore College, a post she will assume in just over a month. Dan Linke, the University Archivist, and I visited her office to meet with Dean Smith and her staff to inform them of our procedures for transferring office records—paper documents, as well as born digital material such as Word documents, SharePoint sites, etc. Soon into the conversation we began to discuss the prospect of email capture, a task that we had only haphazardly done in the past through preserving Microsoft Word documents used to compose memos, PDF’s generated from email applications, and printouts included within paper collections.

Pictured here is the full email header from a message in the publicly available Enron Email Dataset.

Pictured here is the full email header from a message in the publicly available Enron Email Dataset. Click image to expand.

Two compelling reasons forced us to find a way to conduct an email transfer directly from Dean Smith’s account. First, she is a pioneer at Princeton many times over; in addition to being the first black woman to earn tenure at the University, Dean Smith later served as the first director of the University’s renowned Center for African-American Studies before becoming the first black person to serve as Dean of the College. Second, we knew that the previous methods of email transfer limited access possibilities and stripped emails of their contexts, including lost attachments, missing email header information, and inefficient search capacities.

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Behind the Scenes: Early Princeton University Trustee Minutes in High Resolution

The Princeton University Archives at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library is continually working to make more materials available in a digital format for ease of use and access.

A large scale project of both photographing and scanning the Trustee Minutes of the University has been an ongoing task.

2014-11-14 14.37.11Currently, the Board of Trustees Minutes. Volumes 1-8 are view able in high resolution in the Princeton University Digital Library (PUDL). Volumes 12-70 are viewable in PDF format on our Finding Aid website.

Recently, we asked the Princeton University Library Digital Studios to photograph the remaining Volumes 9-11, for addition to the PUDL and the Finding Aids.

We were lucky enough to visit the Digital Studios and see the digitization of the volumes in action. Digital Studio staff members use a number of digital cameras and lighting to achieve the best quality image.

photo%202 photo%205Images are fed to a local computer and continually checked by staff as they shoot.

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The entire process can take a few months to complete, from photograph to online availability.

We are happy to be able to share the process with you and look forward to announcing the final early volumes being available online soon.

Acquiring Digital Archives in the Field at Princeton

As a digital archivist on Mudd’s Technical Services team, I spend a fair amount of my time looking at screens like the one pictured here.

results of virus scan

21st century mold

I briefly panicked when I came across this screen while processing a restricted University Archives collection last year. The information was the output of the software ClamTK, the default virus scanner for our customized Ubuntu Linux digital archives workstation that I wrote about previously. How, in a collection of nearly 7,000 files that are spread across more than 800 subfolders, was I supposed to identify, assess, and possibly remove 34 individual viruses? The theatrics of the term “threats” was, fortunately, more dramatic than the actual threats themselves: embedded links in several PDF documents that the software flagged as PUA’s, or potentially unwanted applications. I reviewed the specifics of each file, and afterwards packaged the bundle of documents for our secure storage location.

I joked with a few of my colleagues that handling digital archives might require archivists to become epidemiologists on the spot. The fortunate aspect of the above scenario was that it happened in our processing room, which means that I was able to thoroughly research the issue, weigh the considerations, and then make a decision. I could have only wished for such calm and contained circumstances two weeks ago when I went to acquire 50 gigabytes of historical materials from the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

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Happy Holidays from John Foster Dulles

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John Foster Dulles Papers (MC016), Box 567

John Foster Dulles, Princeton Class of 1908, devoted most of his life to public service, beginning in the late 1910s through his death in 1959. The John Foster Dulles Papers (MC016) at the Mudd Manuscript Library document his career, particularly his influence on United States foreign policy. Portions of the Dulles Papers are currently being digitized as part of a grant awarded to the Mudd Library by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). By the project’s end, the selected correspondence, diaries and journals, and speeches, statements, and press conferences series will be available online in their entirety, totaling over 146,000 pages of archival content.

Though the collection spans his lifetime, the John Foster Dulles Papers focus on Dulles’s service as the fifty-third Secretary of State under the Eisenhower administration. Dulles was formally appointed to the position on January 21, 1953. In December of that year, he made his first Christmas address to the American people, wishing them “peace on earth, good will to men.”

Pages from Christmas Greetings

John Foster Dulles Papers (MC016), Box 321

Check the blog for future posts about the progress of the John Foster Dulles digitization project. For more information about the Digitizing the Origins of the Cold War project, see some of our previous posts.

Alan Turing’s Princeton University File Available Online

With the American premiere of The Imitation Game this Friday, many will be interested in its subject, Alan Mathison Turing, who received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton University in 1938. With the “Turing Machine,” he laid the theoretical foundations that make it possible for the device you are using to read this blog post to exist.

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Turing’s Graduate School file is now available online, and mostly contains correspondence and paperwork related to his admission to and progress through Princeton’s Ph.D. program in mathematics in the 1930s. Turing studied under Alonzo Church, who made Princeton a leading center for research in mathematical logic, and developed “Church’s Theorem.” For those interested in Church and the history of the mathematics department in the 1930s, there is this oral history collection, which features online transcripts. Researchers interested in Turing may also want to view Church’s correspondence with him, available in the Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room in Firestone Library.

N.B. Access to alumni records is governed by this policy.

December 5, 2014 update: We have received questions regarding the death date listed on the file. Although archival records may sometimes contain errors, we do not make changes to the original documents. However, we note that Turing’s actual date of death was June 7, 1954, not June 8, 1954 as listed in Turing’s Graduate School file.