The Importance of Documenting Diversity

Trenae Johnson is one of our graduate assistants in Special Collections this year. She holds a B.A. in Studio Art with a cognate in Psychology from the University of South Carolina and is now a first year masters student in the Art Therapy program at Georgia College.

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From the 1989 Spectrum.

As a new member of the team here in Special Collections, I am honored to say that the other graduate assistants and I have been working on a project that it set to document diversity throughout the university. The project started out as a part of the display for Georgia Archives Month. However, the project has been expanded beyond Georgia Archives Month and is now apart of an ongoing collection here in Special Collections. Nancy, the associate director of special collections says, “I think it is a learning experience for them [graduate assistants], and it also introduces them to campus folks they might not ever meet.” And I could not agree with her more! Continue reading “The Importance of Documenting Diversity”


New Year, New Projects, New Faces

The beginning of each school year always proves a bit hectic. It almost seems as though overnight Special Collections shifts from the slow drawl of summer, with researchers dropping by or calling in with requests once every couple days, to suddenly juggling three projects at once.

This year, Special Collections welcomed two new graduate assistants (in addition to me) and two new undergraduate Service Learning Opportunity students. In the past, Special Collections hasn’t always been this filled with staff, but this year we’re lucky to have a full house with all hands on deck. New graduate assistants this year are Art Therapy major, Trenae Johnson, and English major, Jessica McQuain. Our two new Service Learning Opportunity undergraduates are Business undecided, Reese Christian, and Laurie Gentry, who majors in Art and plans to pursue Art Therapy as well.

The first big project Trenae, Jessica, and I have begun to tackle is putting together the physical exhibit for Georgia Archives Month. In the past we’ve featured the NAVY Waves uniform for the 2016 theme, “Archives Big and Small: Showcasing Our Gems.” Last year, we focused on the library’s major innovations and renovations beginning with the school’s original opening in 1889, the loss of materials from the Main Building fire of 1924, all the way to the most recent addition in 2010. This year’s theme is called “Faces and Places: Documenting Diversity during Georgia Archives Month.” For the visual exhibit, we’ve decided to spotlight staff around campus, those that often go unrecognized. Through Front Page and other news media such as The Colonnade, students are often informed of their peers’ accomplishments and achievements, we’re exposed to faculty recognition, and we’re updated on clubs and athletics, social events, etc. Acknowledging student and faculty achievement is, of course, important. It’s our duty as a university to root for one another, and to document the marks we make, the imprints we leave. But what about custodial? What about landscaping and grounds? Food service? Parking and transportation? Facilities operations? There are so many other moving parts to the “well-oiled” machine that keeps Georgia College, or any university, operating, and it’s important to remember this not just during the month of October but always. Continue reading “New Year, New Projects, New Faces”

Maps, Maps, Maps!

*Holly found this post of Brendan’s from last June(!!!) lingering in the drafts awaiting her approval. She apologizes for the long delay in posting it!

One of our collections here in Georgia College’s Special Collections is the various maps that have been collected over time. This collection is open to for use but rarely sees much interest from researchers. Maps are a great source of information for all studies.  In this collection, there are maps for agricultural studies, transportation studies, Civil War battle studies, and even studies about Milledgeville dating back to the very beginning of the city.   Maps put a visual image behind the words that relay in the story and can tell a lot about the subject.

Over the summer, I took it upon myself to update the finding aid for the maps collection.This collection peaked my interest not only because I have a degree in geography, but also because of the stories some of these maps tell.  To my chagrin, this also meant reprocessing a collection that had seen some of its items relocated or replaced in the wrong order. That meant that I needed to review each map to ensure that it was back to its correct home in the collection. What I thought was going to be a chore turned into many rabbit holes as I found myself studying each map.

For example, the map below shows the 13 original states in 1784 just after the American Revolution and independence from Great Britain. Many of the states claimed much more territory than what they have today. The states in the South claimed land all the way to the Mississippi River, as did Connecticut.

20180530_115219This map shows the original layout of the United States and the beginning of territorial issues that lead to the formation of states such as Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama. This territory was the foundation for the country and the future idea of Manifest Destiny. The story of the beginning of the United States is brought to life in this particular map. Continue reading “Maps, Maps, Maps!”

The Wait is Over: Andalusia Re-opens – with Items from Special Collections

August 9th, 2017 went down in Georgia College history with the formal gifting of Andalusia to the college from the foundation running the house. It makes this the fourth historic property listed in the National Register of Historic Places that the GCSU Foundation now owns. Others include The Old Governor’s Mansion and Atkinson Hall. The Milledgeville Historic district, which encompasses much of the college, received national register status in 1972. Since the gifting of the property, Andalusia has been closed for restoration. Matt Davis, the director of Historic Museums for Georgia College, and his staff have restored Andalusia to the mid-20th century style home in which Flannery O’Connor lived and wrote. They want visitors to not only get a better understanding of Flannery’s influences and farm life, but also feel like they are a part of that time period as well. The plans include much more than preserving and restoring the buildings. There is also discussion of additions, such as a visitor center and an education building close to the farm’s entrance.

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Flannery O’Connor’s bedroom featuring items that belong to Special Collections

Continue reading “The Wait is Over: Andalusia Re-opens – with Items from Special Collections”

Working with the Community to Capture Oral Histories

The oral history collection at Georgia College has been around for many years, but it is a little hard to locate as it is really not one collection, but a bunch of smaller collections. Further, outside of Dr. Mary Magoulick’s GC2Y course, no oral histories of community members have been added to Special Collections’ holdings in years. Many people miss that these are available, since the transcripts and recordings are not available online.

Last fall, Catherine and I worked with a collection called Tales from the Back Stoop, digitizing the files on tapes and transferring them to DuraCloud storage, which is our cloud-based “dark archive.” A dark archive means that this is where we store preservation copies of files online. In an archive, digital files often have an access copy, which is the one patrons use, and a preservation copy, which is largely unused in hopes that it will have less degradation over time. Eventually, we will provide an access copy of all of the Tales from the Back Stoop files on the library’s website.

Tales from the Back Stoop was created over a decade ago by several members of the local community who interviewed other community members and then turned those memories into a play. Some of those newly-digitized oral histories were used in a video for the Office of Inclusive Excellence’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Breakfast. From that exposure, there was renewed interest in the Tales from the Back Stoop project, particularly in forming a new group of community members that would focus on interviewing members of the African-American community in Milledgeville. The new project would consist of setting up interviews and asking the interviewees not only their opinions on how the city of Milledgeville and the world have changed over the years, but also have them discuss specific events that have not been captured in traditional news sources, like the city’s paper. Since many of the target interviewees are at an older age, the task to update the collection must be done in a timely manner.

The Other America from Joe Windish on Vimeo. Continue reading “Working with the Community to Capture Oral Histories”

The Challenges of Making Erwin Sibley’s Papers Accessible

One of the longtime collections most recently made more publicly accessible in Special Collections are the U. Erwin Sibley papers. This collection came to Special Collections in two parts. The majority of the collection was transferred to Georgia College from the Mary Vinson Public Library in 1982, and the addition of the Sibley & Sibley series was donated from a family member in 2004. There’s a more than 30-year gap from the time the papers were acquired to the time we put the finding aid online, but for good reason! Due to the nature of some files, they needed intensive review, so it was all hands on deck to make this more accessible to our researchers.

For those unfamiliar with Sibley, he was born and raised in Baldwin County, where he was widely known and respected in his practice of law. He attended Georgia Military College and graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Laws in 1910. A year later, he formed a law firm called Sibley & Sibley with his brother, and in 1914 went on to become the secretary of W.H. Fish, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia. In 1930, he and associate Marion Allen created the firm Allen & Sibley, a firm that significantly influenced life in Milledgeville, making Sibley a foremost member of his profession.

Kodachrome slide of Ulysses Erwin Sibley

Continue reading “The Challenges of Making Erwin Sibley’s Papers Accessible”

Georgia Day and the Story of a Former State Capital

On February 12, 1733, the colony of Georgia was founded. Today, we usually celebrate Georgia Day on the 12th, but occasionally, it can be observed the weekend before. Whether on the 12th or around the 12th, this is a time when those of us in archives and special collections enjoy highlighting some of our Georgia history collections.

One cannot tell the story of the State of Georgia without including the City of Milledgeville. It became the state capital in 1807 when the legislature met for the first time in the incomplete and under construction Capital Building. Now part of Georgia Military College, it was once the center of political life for the state.

Jared Irwin was the first to serve as governor in the new state capital. Starting in 1806, he served until 1809 with three of his four-year term taking place in Milledgeville. Following Irwin was David Brydie Mitchell.  Mitchell would serve the first of his terms from 1809 to 1813. His second term would come only a few years later after defeating Peter Early, Governor of Georgia from 1813- 1815, in his re-election bid. Mitchell served from 1815 to 1817. From this decade, one of the artifacts here in Special Collections is the book, Laws of the State of Georgia, cataloging everything passed by the legislature during this time. Some the issues they dealt with consisted of appointing trustees to the private academies that existed in towns and counties around the state,  passing laws to help alleviate debt issues that faced many Georgians,  laws that either raised taxes or relieved citizens from having to pay certain taxes, and even addressed the penal code.20180212_110824

Following Mitchell, the state capital remained in Milledgeville until 1868. One of the most important events in the Antebellum Era for many people at the time in Georgia and in the South took place in Milledgeville.

On January 19, 1861, three days after the State legislature convened,  the assembly voted for the secession of Georgia from the Union of the United States. The future of Georgia was irretrievably changed. On February 4th, each state in what would become the Confederacy sent members to the “Congress of the Sovereign and Independent States of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana” in Montgomery, Alabama. Georgia elected two men, Alexander Stephens and Eugenius Nesbit, to represent them. At this gathering, they wrote the Constitution for the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America, which was officially adopted on February 8th.


This document was the precursor to what became the Confederate States Constitution. It would only be in place for year before the official Constitution was adopted. A copy of this provisional constitution resides in here in Special Collections.

The First Confederate States Congress took place from February 18, 1862 through to February 18, 1864. It was a bicameral legislature that lasted during the first two years of Jefferson Davis’ presidency and was seated in Richmond, Virginia. In Special Collections, we have a book of the statutes passed by the First Congress at their third session in 1863.  These are the laws, acts, and resolutions that were passed in an effort to both establish and run their government. They set up tax laws, government departments, and resolutions of thanks to officers and government officials. This congress was disbanded in 1864 and then re-seated in a second congress that lasted until 1865 when the Confederacy was falling apart and the Civil War was coming to a close.


A few years after the end of the Confederacy, the capital would leave Milledgeville and head to the growing city of Atlanta. Charles Johnson Jenkins was the last governor to take up residence in the Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville. When he was elected, Rufus Bullock became the first governor to take up residence in a large Victorian home in Atlanta, the same one where Governor Nathan Deal resides today. Milledgeville would no longer be at the center the political events and life in Georgia. However, this city played a pivotal role in events that forever changed the future of the state and continue to haunt us.

Happy belated Georgia Day, y’all!