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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Remembering the Atomic Bomb, 70 Years Later

In 2012, Hiroshima University gave Princeton University seven roof tiles that were damaged during the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. The details of the gift can be found here. Three years later, the tiles have been brought out into our lobby display case to mark the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb.

The roof tiles serve as a physical reminder of the devastation that occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The roof tiles serve as a physical reminder of the devastation that occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The scorched roof tiles are not the only items in the Mudd Manuscript Library that tell the story of the atomic bomb. Both the University Archives and the Public Policy Papers contain documents that detail the creation of the bomb and the attempts to reconcile the implications of its use. Continue reading

We Are the Champions: The History of Princeton University’s Women’s Lacrosse Team

After the admission of women in 1969, many aspects of student life at Princeton were transformed, including sports activities. The first changes happened in the area of physical education. After response to a questionnaire given to female students revealed high demand for women’s physical education, the Department of Athletics designated a women’s locker room in Dillon Gym complete with hair dryers. Women’s participation in physical education courses, however, was voluntary and limited to swimming and tennis. The changes to physical education had mixed reviews, but most male students responded favorably. One student reportedly stated that it was pleasant not to see hairy legs all the time.

In the fall of 1970, the university appointed Meredith Lee Dean as director for women’s physical education. Dean expanded the Department of Athletics offerings to include field hockey, dancing, and sailing. These physical education courses were co-ed, and female students often showed as much promise as their male classmates. The Daily Princetonian mentions one incident where the students selected a female student as the star quarterback of a co-ed touch football team.

Female quarterback

Drawing by Jim Lecky, Daily Princetonian, September 14, 1970

Furthermore, women also informally participated in other sports activities. Janice F. Hill ’73, for example, had convinced the new freshman crew coach, John A. Rathschmidt to let her be a barge coxswain during the freshman crew practices.

One of the most dramatic changes to women’s participation in sports occurred during the fall of 1970: the University broke tradition and allowed women to battle each other in events at the annual Cane Spree. Centered around an odd cane wrestling match, the Cane Spree had long been a show of brawn for freshmen and sophomore men. This changed in 1970 when the University allowed freshman and sophomore women to compete in the same athletic matches as men.

Co-ed Cane Spree, 1970

Co-ed Cane Spree, Daily Princetonian, September 21, 1970

Another significant change was the formalization of women’s sports teams. In the fall of 1971, the University created a women’s varsity intercollegiate sports program that allowed intramural teams to compete formally with other schools. The 1971 varsity teams included field hockey, which had already been played extensively in other colleges, as well as tennis, squash, and crew. Princetonian women quickly demonstrated that they were willing and able to compete; several newspapers, including a feature in the New York Times, discussed the achievements of the women’s crew and tennis teams.

Louise Meledin '74

Louise Meledin ’74 with Coach Penny Hinckley, Undergraduate Alumni Records (AC199), Box 556

Although the women’s lacrosse team had been playing since 1971, the university did not incorporate the team into the varsity league until the 1972-1973 season. The women’s field hockey and women’s lacrosse team shared many things: their coach Penny Hinckley, practice fields, and even some teammates. The team played its first game on April 26, 1973 against Westchester and suffered a 21-2 defeat. Among the early stars of the team was Emily Goodfellow ’76, who would win 12 letters for a variety of sports, and Louise Meledin’ 74, also a multiple letter winner and field hockey player.

The women’s lacrosse team finally acquired a coach of their own in 1978, when Hinckley accepted a position at Haverford College.  The new coach, Betty Logan, taught a more offensive approach and led the team to their best records, including beating long-time opponent Penn State. She also significantly increased the performance of the team by hiring Sandy Hoody, a 1986 World cup goalie and member of the US national team, as an assistant coach.

1979 Team Photo, Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 161

1979 Team Photo, Office of Communications Records (AC168), Box 161

The team’s major winning streaks occurred in the mid-90s under the direction of Coach Chris Sailer, a Harvard graduate, and a rookie coach. Sailer, who has been with the team nearly 30 years, was inducted into the US Lacrosse National Hall of Fame in 2008 and has received many Coach of the Year awards. In 1993, the team won its first Ivy League championship and became the first Princeton women’s team to reach an NCAA final.

The following year the Tigers finished the job by beating Maryland 10-7 and becoming the first Princeton women’s team to win an NCAA Championship. The team retained its place as the Ivy League Champions until 1997, then regained the Ivy title in 2001 and kept it until 2005. The impressive wins of the team include 10 semi-finals and three championship games.

The Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library has recently processed the Women’s Lacrosse Records acquired from the Department of Athletics. The collection covers games and practices from 1975-2010 and includes a variety of records including clippings, statistics, and video recordings. Other items in the collection are handwritten notes from the team’s coaches, game programs and reports and issues of various sports and lacrosse publications.

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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.

Nash_John_Grad_50_file_photo

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.

Moving_in_Dec_1946_AC112_Box_MP166_Image_4082

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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African Americans and Princeton University

Dear Mr. Mudd:

Q. What information do you have about African Americans and Princeton University?

A. Until the twentieth century, Princeton’s history has mostly been dominated by white men, typically from prosperous backgrounds. Though decidedly pro-Union during the Civil War, the campus had strong Southern influences, and its reputation as the “northernmost university town of the [segregated] south” was not undeserved. Yet that is not to say that Princeton’s story can only be told in terms of its loudest voices. Here, we give a brief overview of some of the ways African Americans fit into Princeton’s past.

Cheerleaders_1995_AC112_SP9_No.2484

Princeton University cheerleaders, 1995. Historical Photograph Collection, Campus Life Series (AC112), Box SP9, Image No. 2484.

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“Dear Mother … with Heaps of Love”

This Mother’s Day, we thought we’d give a shout out to all the Princeton moms. Though Princeton has changed a lot over the years, one thing has remained pretty constant: many students want to share their academic triumphs, heartbreaks, and other local news with their mothers, who once received letters like this one and today more commonly hear from their children at Princeton via smart phone.

The letter below, one of hundreds of similar letters in our Student Correspondence and Writings Collection (AC334), was written ca. February 1913 by Peter Carter Speers, Class of 1914.

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“This Ceremony Was Not Sanctioned”: Gay Marriage at Princeton

With the policy that young lovers of the same sex may no longer sign the marriage register and that Michael Beer and Jason Rudy will have a retractory asterisk placed by their entry, neither side of the aisle gets what it wants. … No one who has attended ours, the most pragmatic of all universities, should be surprised. –Micah Weinberg ’98, “Stuck in the Middle of the Road,”  Progressive Review, November 1997

Eighteen years ago today, the first same-sex wedding was held in the Princeton University Chapel. Gay marriage was not legal in New Jersey (nor anywhere in the nation) so the ceremony was a symbolic one rather than a legally binding contract. The couple were both Princetonians. Michael Beer earned his Princeton degree in 1995 and had been a graduate student in plasma physics when he met Jason Rudy ’97, an English major. They had begun dating three years prior to the event and had been living together for two. Knowing that the marriage would not be legally recognized, Rudy told the Princeton Alumni Weekly, “With the exception of a stronger sense of commitment and emotional security, opening a joint bank account, and getting a new set of towels, nothing much will change.”

Editorial_Cartoon_Progressive_Nov_1997

Editorial cartoon, Progressive Review, November 1997.

When news of their plans to marry in the Chapel appeared, it invited heavy criticism for the Assistant Dean of Religious Life, Sue Anne Steffey Morrow, who performed the ceremony. Though primarily concerned with the precedent set by having a same-sex wedding in the Chapel, another issue that troubled some students and alumni was that Beer and Rudy were atheists, while the wedding was heavily laden with the trappings of Christian tradition. Other responses were supportive of Morrow and of the couple.
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Princeton Mourns Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. exactly 150 years ago. As Americans did throughout the country, Princetonians immediately went into mourning. The loss was more profound given that the nation had emerged from a devastating Civil War less than a week before.

Princeton’s ties to Lincoln are reflected in various collections in Princeton University Library’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. On his train trip to his inauguration in 1861, Lincoln made many stops in the Midwest and Northeast, where he often spoke to crowds. On February 21, more than 20,000 supporters received him in Trenton. William Stewart Cross Webster and Alexander Taggart McGill, Jr., both of the College of New Jersey (Princeton) Class of 1864, were among the throngs. In a letter to his mother a few days later, Webster expressed disappointment that he was unable to hear Lincoln over the roar of the crowd: “This was our sight of Abraham Lincoln: We saw great Lincoln plain; it can never be forgotten, the bowing very graciously right and left. In a few minutes Mr. L. appeared on the platform and said a few words. His manner was pleasant and a vein of humor pervaded his whole face. I was unlucky enough to hear nothing he said.” (Undergraduate Alumni Records 1748-1920 (AC104), Box 125)

Shortly after his reelection in 1864, the Board of Trustees voted to confer an honorary Doctorate of Law upon Lincoln. Lincoln was unable to attend Princeton’s Commencement, but wrote to College President John Maclean to thank Princeton for its honor “in this time of public trial.”

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