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Special Collections Launches Online Centennial Exhibit
by Tracy Harter

In honor of James Madison University’s Centennial, Special Collections has launched a web exhibit of some of its most important university documents.  The web exhibit Founding Documents in Special Collections contains links to hundreds of early documents and images in the JMU Historical Collection.  Viewers can navigate through five categories of documents:  Academics, Board of Trustees, Faculty, Student Life, and an annotated historical Timeline.  A sixth category, President Burruss’ papers and transcripts, will be available in Fall, 2007.

Early architectural rendering, JMUOn the exhibit’s home page is an image of Charles Robinson’s architectural rendering of campus, ca. 1908, which reveals the founders’ early ambitions for the school.  The “Academics” page includes an image of Ruth Randolph Conn’s 1912 diploma, as well as images of early commencement programs and Normal Bulletins (the early version of the course catalog).  These Normal Bulletins contain academic calendars, faculty profiles, course descriptions, expenses, and other narrative and statistical information of interest to alumni as well as scholars of early JMU history and women’s education.

The “Board of Trustees (Visitors)” page contains a typed transcription of the Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes, 1908-1914.  The transcription is fully searchable within  Adobe Acrobat reader. (The digital images of the minutes will be added in Fall 2007.)  The “Faculty” page contains a searchable typed transcription of the first Faculty meeting minutes, 1909-1915, as well as digital images of the entire volume of handwritten faculty minutes.

Lanier Society Poster 1911Perhaps the most visually attractive documents are found in “Student Life,” which displays full-color thumbnail images of more than a dozen student literary society posters, student handbooks from 1912 to 1915, and Schoolma’ams from 1910-1912, predecessor to the Bluestone yearbook.

The “Timeline” link is the capstone of the exhibit and is rich in information on the school’s earliest years.  The first ten years of the “Annotated Historical Timeline of James Madison University, 1908-1959,” researched and written by library staff member Sean Crowley, have been transformed into an interactive timeline.  Users can select any year between 1908 and 1918 by clicking on the timeline.  This generates a display of a chronological list of events for that year, and up to eight corresponding thumbnail images along the bottom of the page.  Each event links to text in the timeline, while thumbnail images link to larger images from Special Collections’ JMU Historic Photos Online.

The web exhibit represents a collaboration among several units of Libraries & Educational Technologies.  Chris Bolgiano, former Special Collections Librarian, began the selection of documents and coordinated with the Center for Instructional Technology (CIT) on technical issues.  Craig Baugher, CIT Graphic Designer, spearheaded the scanning effort from 2004 through 2007.  After Bolgiano’s retirement in 2005,   new Special Collections Librarian Tracy Harter completed coordination of the project.  Other contributing staff included Sandy Maxfield, Director of CIT; Jennifer Keach, Head of Library Digital Services; Bill Hartman, Systems Administrator; and Kevin Hegg, CIT Software Engineer.  Julia Merkel and Greg Brown, Web Manager for the Library’s Digital Services, contributed to the web page’s design.

During the next few months, files of the Board of Trustees Minutes, 1908-1919, will be added to the site, and documents from the Burruss collection at Virginia Tech will be digitized, and made available.


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