On Friday, August 26, 2016, Annie Belle Weaver Special Collections, Ingram Library hosted seven UWG students and two staff members for the annual College Day of Service. The volunteer project, led by University Archivist, Shaneé Yvette Murrain, offered participants the opportunity to read and analyze first-hand accounts of student life at West Georgia College circa 1948-1952.
The day began with an overview of Special Collections and procedures for handling archival materials. The group then had a rich conversation about the difference between primary sources and secondary sources citing examples from their own lives, like family photo albums and treasured hand-me-downs.
For roughly four hours volunteers indexed University Communications and Marketing Scrapbooks, a collection within the University Archives. Each scrapbook created by the University Communications and Marketing division contains newspaper clippings which provide insight into student activities on campus as well as campus, regional, and state history spanning 1939-1990.
Murrain offered historical context for the day’s project, sharing how events in the nation and world during the time period captured in the scrapbooks help us understand why certain articles may have been saved. In a portion of the presentation titled “1948-1951 at West Georgia College and Beyond”, Murrain noted West Georgia College’s 1945 petition to raise its three-year program to a four-year elementary teacher training program resulting in the Bachelor of Science in Education degree and differences in enrollment of non-veteran and veteran students during World War II and the Korean War.
Volunteers marveled at the number of articles announcing the wedding of West Georgia alums to servicemen and openly debated gender roles and women’s agency during that time after reading of a UWG professor whose scholarship to her travel extensively cross-country alone. In one scrapbook students discovered a folded invitation for a children’s birthday party requesting “sticks chocolate” written in script which begged the question of whether it was a homemade recipe or local brand. An article about a German exchange scholar’s struggle with language and his description of American dialects as “Brooklynese” and “Americanese” inspired a spirited discussion of linguistics and political correctness. Volunteers also likened newspaper articles of this time to our current use social media as a tool for documenting our everyday lives.
Many of the volunteers for whom this was their first visit to Special Collections, reported that “they had so much fun” and “indexing gets easier as you go along.” According to University Archivist, Shaneé Yvette Murrain, the project is evidence of Special Collections mission to support the learning, teaching, and research of students and faculty, “Giving students an opportunity to interact with primary sources not only reinforces the value of preserving history, but also encourages them to think deeply about the who, what, when’s and why’s and motivation behind how stories are told and by whom”, Murrain adds “Indexing newspaper articles is fun because students very quickly pick-up thinly veiled local controversy, regional civic activity, and even fashion by the photos printed alongside stories.” One student has since joined the volunteer program and will continue indexing the scrapbook she worked on that day.