Miranda Campbell is one of our Graduate Assistants in Special Collections this year. She holds a B.A. in Film–Cinema Studies from University of Central Florida and is a first year graduate student in Georgia College’s M.F.A. program.
Aimlessly searching through our Special Collections archives, I discovered a compilation of scrapbooks associated with the school, scrapbooks that have been donated through the years and have fallen under the many name changes the school has had: Georgia Normal and Industrial College, Georgia State College for Women, Georgia College at Milledgeville, etc.
Flipping through these scrapbooks I started to realize that it sort of felt the same as the project I’d been tackling at work for the past couple weeks. Mikaela and I—Special Collections’ other graduate assistant—had been given the task of re-appraising and re-processing the entire collection of Dr. James Calvin Bonner, a notable figure of Georgia College responsible for heading the History Department for twenty five years. Bonner was Chairman of the Department of History and Political Science from 1943 to 1969, a time when the school was known as G.S.C.W.
In short, re-processing is the sifting through and sorting of archival letters, photos, manuscripts, what we’ve been donated, etc., and ordering it in a way that is accessible for researchers interested in the collection, through which we create a finding aid. We seemed to have fallen down a rabbit hole with this collection, as it has taken up the better portion of our work time for the past three weeks.
Most recently in the Bonner collection we’ve stumbled upon what at first looked like a bottomless box filled with photographs, but what we quickly realized were collections of thoughtfully placed photographs that Bonner himself glued on single sheets of paper. We then imagined he stuck these pages in binders since the papers have the mark of three ringed holes on the left hand side. In figuring out where to home this newly processed box – if it should be its own series or be absorbed into another – we learned that Bonner called these notebooks, though most of the pages are comprised as photos with captions and other paper stubs that match or add to the material. We continued along this new label called “Local History Notebooks,” however, it got me thinking how the pages were so similar to the resemblance and style of a scrapbook. This started another rabbit hole in an infinite amount of rabbit holes and conundrums that make Special Collections the special place it is, and is the train of thought that inspired this post! (And how fitting that it is American Archives Month!) Finding these radically different scrapbooks that serve as a magnifying glass laid over the years at this university, the different name changes its endured, made me realize that scrapbooking is a lot like archiving, just a little more fun. It’s archiving with a part hat on.
Websites will tell you to keep their home a cool temperature and they’re right. This is something I quickly learned only a week into my assistantship, as the archive room is kept at a biting 64 degrees and a jacket (or two) is essential. Our boss keeps a blanket in the back for good measure. You’ll see that several of these scrapbooks are yellowed, frayed, and in some places completely ripped, which gives them an authenticity and in a strange way, very aesthetically pleasing. These pages are old. It’s interesting to think about the durability of paper, the way some materials stand the test of time, when you know how easily it is to accidentally rip. If these pages could talk, I think…
I’ve noticed too that the scrapbooks were just as personal then, as they are now. They were private places to retreat to and fill with the things that best represented student’s lives in the way they see it, as much as they are still these safe havens for people. Perhaps what has changed is grandiosity in decoration—the stickers and elaborate cutouts you can buy at any craft or home goods store detailed in their color, glitter, and lace—but the decorative and ornamental intention has always been there. Take Cecilia Humphrey’s personal scrapbook for example, from the year 1919, back when the school was known as Georgia Normal & Industrial College.
The kodak snapshots near the back of the book are just a small portion of what’s inside. The scrapbook features hidden trinkets and flaps that unfold, a junior prom ticket from a neighboring school–Georgia Military College–with a tiny pencil attached to blue string. Filled with now rotted and paper thin flowers wrapped in old aluminum ribbon, but still created with the same thought of adding to an inscription or a photo; these flowers were once bright and blooming, purposefully picked and placed on the page.
I thought this was so interesting. I think we forget that ideas originate from other ideas, maybe ones that existed a long time ago and were forgotten about. It makes me wonder if scrapbooking came from archiving and how interchangeable the two really are.
I think too it’s not only interesting, but significant to track the minor details and workings of a university. We don’t seem to have trouble remembering to log the big stuff, but it’s these tiny hidden treasures that also make Georgia College what it is today. As a first year graduate student of the school, a place in which I’m beginning to call home, I’m curious about the students who came long before me.
The creativity continues. Another scrapbook from 1921 presents a table of contents featuring everything from the “Class Motto” to “Jokes and Frolics”.
Perhaps my favorite scrapbook I came across originates from when the school was known as Georgia State College for Women. Its binding might be the most intricate part about it, made of a brown suede or leather material, it looks like what I imagine are the kinds of books they published hundreds of years ago. The book is cinched together with a thick black string woven with once-mauve colored ribbons, that have slowly faded to tints of brown, and a cluster of rusted, silvery bells.
It only gets more elaborate upon opening the cover. A page dedicated to Special Delivery postage stamps that ranged from 1, 2, and 10 cents in cost.
Another page was plastered with postage stamps, though these held the ink markings of locations around the U.S. from Boston, Massachusetts, to Los Angeles, California, from Lakeland, Florida to Athens, Georgia, all the way up to Evanston, Illinois. Places I imagine the scrapbook owner may have held personal correspondence with.
The most memorable for me was the page that featured an assemblage of newspaper article cut outs, brief sentences from books, poems, etc. A page dedicated strictly to words of wisdom the owner of the scrapbook connected with. (As a creative writing student I may be a little biased on that one.) The scrapbook is filled with colorful and elaborately embellished pages throughout.
Another Georgia State College for Women scrapbook I came across is dedicated to the women of WAVE: a U.S. Navy training recruitment organization. G.S.C.W. became one of the four colleges selected for training in 1943.
The scrapbook, donated by Barbara Chandler, features photos of the women lined in unison, in their summer and winter uniforms, as well as newspaper clippings, and a list of the current officers at the time, their rankings and duties. But I don’t want to get too ahead of myself; more on the WAVE women in a later post!
Which brings me back to how it feels as though I’m still sorting through the standard definition of an archive. Though Dr. Bonner’s notebooks may have been geared more academically and scholarly, while as the scrapbooks featured here are heavily more visual, the objectives are the same. And perhaps more importantly, so are the motives.
Both encompass the bringing together of information and data and arranging it in a way that gives more meaning and understanding as a collective than the separate fragments do alone. A catalog of material so that others may observe and gain knowledge. If anything Dr. Bonner, with his Milledgeville and Georgia history findings and snippets, taught me that the two–archiving and scrapbooking–are more similar than I originally realized.
Now excuse me while I get back to my scrapbooking of Dr. Bonner—I mean, archiving!