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”

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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”

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.

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Kodachrome slide of Ulysses Erwin Sibley

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

The Exhibit for the First Annual African American Read-In

On Thursday, February 15th, Ina Dillard Russell Library held its first African American Read-In, an opportunity that invites students, faculty, and staff to read from the works of their favorite authors and some of the most remarkable African Americans in our history. It is meant to serve as a sort of “open mic” celebration, where participants are encouraged to recite and/or perform pieces of creative nonfiction, fiction, spoken word, poetry, etc. About 70 students, as well as numerous faculty and staff, participated in the event.

Special Collections was asked to create a small exhibit to supplement the read-in, to create a display for students to not only to consider, but interact with. We decided to set our focus on three local and influential African American individuals — Former Georgia State Senator Floyd L. Griffin Jr.; Reverend Wilkes B. Flagg, founder of Flagg Chapel Baptist Church; and well-renowned activist and author, Alice Walker. For each, we picked memorabilia, documents, and other artifacts from each respective collection that represented their greatest and most stirring accomplishments. Because the exhibit operates on a small scale, narrowing the materials proved difficult. Continue reading “The Exhibit for the First Annual African American Read-In”

Usery: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

You first heard of W.J. Usery, Jr. last spring when several of us in Special Collections drove out to the former Secretary of Labor’s estate to collect some of his materials. I wrote a blog post on what it means to do an “archival appraisal.” We spent a morning sorting through memorabilia, packaging picture frames, and cataloguing information we would need after acquiring his collection.

This semester we’ve cleared shelf space within the archive to make room for Usery’s dense and impressive collection. We joke that he is becoming this academic year’s James C. Bonner, meaning we expect Usery materials to pop up well after we’ve closed each box and considered the collection finished. Not unlike Floyd Griffin, a phrase Brendan and I have come to use quite frequently while cataloguing Usery’s materials is “this man did everything.” From being one of the greatest allies and progressive forces for labor union workers to mediating some of the United States’ biggest disputes, Usery’s positive influence has directly and indirectly touched the lives of many. From awards of high recognition and honor to framed photographs with Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, and others, it’s easy to see from these materials that Usery had a hand in political change for decades. Continue reading “Usery: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”

Come On In, Y’all

It is officially October, and though pumpkin-flavored everything and sunset colored leaves are certainly indications, we know it is October for a more particular reason: October means Georgia Archives Month. Organized by the Society of Georgia Archivists in 1969, GAM represents 100 repositories that cherish historical records. Georgia College is one of those repositories.

This year, the theme is called “Come on in, Y’all! Accessible Archives in Georgia.” We’ve decided to focus on ways in which the Ina Dillard Russell Library has changed and developed over the years, how its resources have become more accessible to students, faculty, and visiting researchers and writers. Using information and materials located within our archive, we’ve designed a digital exhibit to display on a touch screen in the Atrium of the Library, found on the first floor near Books & Brew.

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Continue reading “Come On In, Y’all”

Mexotic-huh?

What do you get when you mix an uncensored, sexually exploitative art show put on by Georgia College and State University’s Art Department with a cacophony of performance reactions and concerns?

You get “Mexotica.”

In 2004, an art show put on by performance artist and writer Guillermo Gomez-Pena and a number of volunteers, in conjunction with the school’s Art Department, was held in Russell Auditorium. The reactions erupted discussion that travels the entire spectrum.

Gomez-Pena works in a number of artistic mediums exploring cross-cultural issues, immigration, and the politics of language. His mixing and blending of genres and art forms, of truth and fiction, seeks to create a “total experience” for the viewer/reader. He is the creator of La Pocha Nostra–an online collaborative art laboratory for performance artists to link up and connect with other rebel artists. Its main function is to destroy borders separating people by race, gender, and other cultural differences. La Pocha Nostra’s mission statement is “to provide a base for a loose network of rebel artists from various disciplines, generations, and ethnic backgrounds.” The term is meant to represent Mexican empowerment, to praise abnormality and indecency. Click on this interview for Guillermo’s detailed explanation of where the name originates.

The school’s Colonnade featured several articles of audience reaction following the performance. President Dorothy P. Leland, who was newly appointed president at the time, is quoted in the articles. Mexotica was the first visual arts performance she attended at GCSU, and what a way to acclimate her to the fine arts within the university. Gomez-Pena allowed students the freedom to wear and perform what they wanted, and I think that’s one of the most important takeaways in all of this. Performance is about trusting other artists. One student told The Colonnade that she felt like she was in the red light district; others felt it was fuel to confront issues regarding sexual exploitation. Continue reading “Mexotic-huh?”