July 21, 2020
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A Look Back at John Lewis and his 1964 Lecture at Chatham

The passing of civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis on July 17, 2020 draws thoughts to the unparalleled impact he has had on this nation and to the brief moments he shared with the Chatham community during his visit to campus in 1964.  At the time, Lewis was the National Chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  His visit to campus was a student-initiated event, arranged by the Student Peace Union (SPU), a group organized in 1961-62 and led by Chatham student and activist Linda Watts.

John Lewis at meeting of American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1964.

John Lewis’ visit was the climax of an SPU lecture series, which also included talks with President of the Pennsylvania NAACP Henry Smith, Chairman of the Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee Frank Wilkinson, and member of The Freedom Singers Charles “Chico” Neblett. A Guest Editorial in the student newspaper promoted Lewis’ visit as being “a landmark in the 1963-64 calendar at Chatham.”

During his stay in Pittsburgh, Lewis also spoke at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, the annual Americans for Democratic Action dinner, the Tri-State Conference of Hillel, and the Central Baptist Church.  According to local newspapers, Lewis’s visit aimed to recruit volunteers to increase voter registration among Black members of the Mississippi community.

Student newspaper article printed in advance of John Lewis’ campus visit.

In anticipation of Lewis’ visit to campus, the student newspaper printed excerpts from a speech he delivered at the 1963 March on Washington.  These excerpts reflect Lewis’ views on impact of police brutality, voter suppression, and the need for sustained activism.  The full article can be viewed in the February 29, 2964 issue of the student newspaper accessible here.

Though the collections of the Chatham Archives do not contain photographs of John Lewis on campus, the student newspaper includes articles that describe the event and also offer analysis of the campus climate.  One article, titled “`Time for Waiting is Past,’ Says John Lewis from SNCC” recounts the main tenets of his speech, which included acknowledgement of the work of college students and a rebuttal to anti-communist critics of the civil rights movement.  The full article can be viewed here.

Student newspaper article describing John Lews’ speech on Chatham campus.

Another article in this issue raises a few questions about the reception Lewis received on campus.  In a column titled “Thru the Keyhole,” student Diane Brutout reports that there were some “[r]umblings around campus” that were “critical of SPU’s [Student Peace Union] all-out publicity campaign for Lewis.” According to Brutout’s reporting, some students complained that the multitude of posters promoting Lewis’ lecture “implied a false consensus among Chatham Students about SNCC.” The full article can be accessed here.

Column in the March 6, 1964 issue of The Arrow.

Brutout, later a Chatham Trustee whose lifelong dedication to civil rights included focused work supporting women in the workplace, described the work of Lewis and SNCC as restoring law in the American South by encouraging voter registration.  She quoted Lewis’ speech, “Last week 500 people stood in line all day long in one Mississippi county in order to register.  In that period of time, seven people were given the test.” The test Lewis refers to is the voter application and literacy tests that were used to deny Blacks the right to vote prior to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.  An example Mississippi voter application is shown below.

Directing her comments at those students who were dissatisfied with Lewis’ visit, Brutout writes, “When only 20,000 out of a potential 400,000 Negros can vote in Mississippi, it is time to press for a revitalization of the earlier mentioned consensus.”  In closing, Brutout sharply chides her classmates by stating, “The most many Chatham students have done is to open a forum for the articulation of valid grievances.”

We don’t have an opinion piece in the student newspaper to explain the “rumblings” any further, so we don’t know (from the newspaper at least) why there was disagreement.  Could it have been because Lewis was considered to be a radical member of the civil rights movement and some Chatham students preferred a more moderate approach?  Could the rumblings have resulted from an absence of enthusiasm for the civil rights movement?  Something entirely different? What resources could one use to get a fuller picture of the climate and what might one discover about the history of the civil rights movement on college campus through that research?

In looking at the climate on Chatham’s campus in the mid-sixties and student engagement in the civil rights movement, we can note the work of Linda Watts, chair of the Student Peace Union.  During the summer prior to Lewis’ visit to campus, Watts worked on behalf of SNCC in the Fayette County, Tennessee voter registration drive.  In 1965, Linda Watts and classmate Susan Schnapf `67 traveled to Selma, Alabama to participate in the marches across the Edmond Pettis Bridge on Tuesday, March 9, 1965.  Read Watts and Schnapf’s first-hand accounts of the march here. Watts served as the contact for the Pittsburgh chapter of the Friends of SNCC and remained active the Pittsburgh social justice movement, protesting race discrimination by craft unions.

John Lewis’ speech at Chatham in 1964 and the vigorous activism he inspired among Chatham students serve as single point in a monumental career that is without parallel.  Please explore the links provided below for resources and archival collections that more fully document the impact John Lewis has made on the country and history of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

 

July 16, 2020
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New Fun and Games guide available from the Chatham Archives!

Fun & Games in the Archives

Did you know that archival collections could be used for more than just historical research, or even that learning about the history of a place through their archives could be fun? At the Chatham University Archives & Special Collections, we know that sometimes learning about and celebrating history is made better by doing so in a non-traditional fashion. So, in order to facilitate that, we’ve created an entire guide full of all the fun things we could think of to celebrate Chatham history!

The guide itself, at present, contains virtual puzzles, coloring sheet downloads, Zoom meeting backgrounds, and BuzzFeed quizzes, and we’re adding new things all the time. All of the materials on the guide feature either photos from our collections, or information that we learned by looking at the primary sources in our collections. Links are provided to where those collections are housed virtually whenever possible. You can access the guide itself here.

We hope you enjoy exploring and playing on the guide. If you have any questions, or even a suggestion for something to add to the guide, feel free to contact the archives using contact info on the Archives home page.

March 30, 2020
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Virtual Chatham Archives: A Survey of What’s Online

Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the WHO on March 11th, 2020, life in America has changed significantly. The impact has been felt locally in many ways, with many people working from home and practicing social distancing.  In this environment, the online access provided through the Chatham University Archives becomes an even greater research tool.

The Chatham University Archives has many collections—including many publications created by the university—available to the public on the Web (library.chatham.edu/archives or click here) and we’re happy to share some guidance on searching these materials.

What Do We Have? An Overview:

This screenshot shows where you can access the collections on the Archives page – the particular collections I will highlight below are circled in red.

Commencement Programs

  • This collection contains documentation of commencement exercises held at Chatham University between 1870 and the present, including both undergraduate and graduate degree conferral ceremonies (Access the collection here)

Chatham College: The First Ninety Years

  • A book published in 1960 by Chatham history professor and historian Laberta Dysart, detailing Chatham’s history until that point. (Access the collection here)

Yearbooks (1915-2010)

  • This collection contains scanned images of Chatham’s yearbooks from 1915-2010 – a great source of information for campus life and events, as well as information about former Chatham students. (Access the collection here)

Course Catalogs

  • Scanned images and digital archives of course catalogs from 1870-2019 – this would be great for anyone interested in what courses Chatham offered historically. (Access the collections by clicking on the date range you’re looking for: 1870-1991, 2006-2014, 2016-2019)

Alumnae Directories (select volumes)

  • Contact information for Chatham alumnae – a great resource if you’re wanting to find out if someone went to Chatham, but better for genealogical research because the most recent one available online is from 1956. (Access the collection here)

Alumnae Recorder

  • Alumnae newsletters sent out to Chatham alumnae, detailing news from classmates and other pertinent information for Chatham alumnae to know. (Access the collection here)

Minor Bird

Student Handbooks

  • Selected volumes of the handbooks given to students at the start of every school year, detailing rules and regulations. Some of them even have interesting tidbits of Chatham history and folklore, like ghost stories! (Access the collection here)

Student Newspapers

  • Student newspapers dating as far back as the late 1800s. These are a fantastic source of information for not only what was going on at Chatham at the time, but on occasion the greater Pittsburgh area and the world. The newspapers also contain advertisements from local Pittsburgh businesses, enabling a researcher to learn about some historic Pittsburgh businesses. (Access the collection by clicking on the date range you’re looking for: 1895-1903, 1903-1921, 1921-1923, 1923-1934, 1934-1939, 1939-1948, 1949-2018)

The Dilworthian

  • Earlier in Chatham’s history, back when it was Pennsylvania Female College and Pennsylvania College for Women, there was a school called Dilworth Hall that was considered a feeder school for the college. The Dilworthian is their quarterly publication, like a student newspaper, written by their students (who could be considered high school students). (Access the collection here)

How can I access these materials?

All these materials are either held on one of two online platforms, the Internet Archive or Artstor. Coming very soon, we will have video tutorials giving a more detailed overview of how to use each of these. For now, though, here is a helpful tip to get started.

Materials on the Internet Archive are keyword searchable using the search box that has a black background and says “Search inside.” Using the search box with a white background will search all the items in the Internet Archive, rather than the yearbook, course catalog, or student newspaper you selected.

It is also important to think about the terms or keywords to enter into the search box.  A good rule of thumb for the search bar is the mantra “less is more.” For example, rather than searching “sledding on campus,” try “sledding” or “sled.” Keep in mind that search results will be drawn from the text in the volume, not the pictures. So, a picture of students sledding on campus will only be returned from a search for “sled” if there is a caption (or other text) that has the word “sled.”

For searching names, the simplicity principle also applies.  Try searching an individual’s last name, rather than the first and last names together.  This way, the search returns will show listings for “Jane Smith” as well as for “Smith, Jane.”  Also, if you’re looking up a name, make sure you have the correct spelling – the search function shows no mercy for spelling errors!

The above image shows what happens when search results appear. You’ll see the search term that was used in the green circle. The blue arrows (one of which is circled in yellow) show where that term appears in the document. If you hover your cursor over a blue arrow, a box like the one circled in orange will appear – it gives you a slight preview of how the search term is used on that page. When you click on a blue arrow and arrive on the specified page, the search term will also be highlighted in purple – areas where this is present in the image are also highlighted with orange circles.

We hope that this resource overview will help you as you continue to conduct research using the primary source documents.  We’re developing a video series to provide additional guidance on using archival resources in remote research.  Check out the first in the series below and check out our Youtube channel for all the latest.

If you have any questions, feel free to use the chat box on the library’s home page to speak to the reference librarian on duty or contact Archivist and Public Services Librarian Molly Tighe directly at mtighe1@chatham.edu.

March 24, 2020
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The 1918 Influenza Pandemic and Chatham University

In the midst of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, members of the Chatham community are responding to the current threat and are comforted by an understanding that our current situation is temporary.  This broad perspective is supported by the history of public health emergencies and the realization that this is not the first time that Chatham has responded to a global influenza pandemic through proactive distancing measures.  Similar closures occurred in the fall of 1918.

Illustration of Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham U) campus around 1918-1920

The 1918 influenza pandemic, the most severe pandemic in modern history, reached into all corners of the world.  Over 17 million people worldwide and 675,000 in the United States lost their lives due to the virus and one third of the world’s population become infected.  Pittsburgh, where widespread economic disparity had many workers living in crowded boarding houses, was one of the hardest hit cities in the country with a mortality rate twice the national average during the worst days of the pandemic.

PCW (now Chatham U) President John C. Acheson

On October 4, 1918, PA State Commissioner of Health Dr. B. F. Boyer ordered that every place of public amusement (poolrooms, dance halls, theaters, saloons) be closed and a city-wide quarantine for Pittsburgh was announced the next day.  Reports from across the country appeared in the local papers detailing the closings of colleges and Universities, sporting and entertainment event cancellations, and a rapid increase in the number of influenza victims in much the same manner as we’ve seen in recent weeks.  The Pennsylvania College for Women (PCW, now Chatham University) suspended classes amid this environment of rapid infection spread.

Despite the impact the 1918 pandemic had on the city population, campus publications from the time spare little space for discussion of the school’s closing or the epidemic itself.  College President Acheson, in reporting to the Alumnae Association in the Alumnae Recorder May 1919 issue, simply states “Early in the session we were compelled to close the college for one month on account of the influenza epidemic” before providing an overview of enrollment, plans for campus expansion, and the 50th anniversary celebration planned for 1920. The Alumnae Association, in their report, mentions that their regular fall meeting was held in November instead of October and that “the postponement being due to the influenza epidemic and the consequent prohibition of public meetings.” Sue Riddle Paine, member of the class of 1894, is mentioned for her time spent “nursing in the slums during the influenza epidemic.”  The first post-pandemic issue of the Alumnae Recorder is otherwise filled with updates about alumnae activities including employment, war work, and family along with discussion of the anniversary celebration and student clubs.

Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham University) Class of 1919

Student publications of the era, such as the student newspaper and yearbook, similarly include little mention of the pandemic. Where it is mentioned, the tone is markedly different from discussions about the COVID-19 pandemic occurring today.  For example, the Fall 1918 Sorosis student newspaper includes an editorial titled “Vacation” that describes one student’s dismay at being required to continue her studies while the school was closed. She writes,

Usually vacations are times of great rejoicing looked forward to for weeks ahead, and planned for with all the ingenuity possible.  And so, the surprising announcement which came so unexpectedly, so entirely without warning on that Tuesday morning, “College closes today for an indefinite period” was greeted with great enthusiasm by many. The aforementioned enthusiasm received a chill, however, when the enthusiasts went to classes and heard such heartless assignments as “Finish first book in Economics” or, in International Law, “Prepare next six chapters and know important international conferences up to date.” In other words, “Keep studying and you’ll not have time to entertain influenza germs.

The piece continues with a discussion about how all students should maintain their focus on coursework so that planned Christmas and Easter vacations will not be cancelled. The 1919 yearbook’s “Senior Class History” includes the remark that “The first semester was broken up by the enforced flu vacation, so things had to be done in double-quick time.”  Again here, the author refers to the closure of the school to combat the spread of the virus as a “vacation.”

“Influenza Song” printed in 1919 & 1920 yearbook

Historians contend that we must consider records and primary sources within the context of their creation and, from that context, to gather a broader sense of the perspective being presented.  Considered within the context of the public health disaster of the 1918 pandemic, what can be learned from the statements of the PCW president, alumnae, and students?  Does the treatment of the pandemic in these printed sources indicate carelessness or disregard in the face of so many deaths?  Or, could other events have shaded the statements we see in these sources?

Consider the calendar printed in the 1919 yearbook shown below.  The influenza pandemic is mentioned alongside a variety of activities relating to World War I.

Calendar printed in 1919 & 1920 Yearbook

These and other records in the University Archives describe the Social Work program at Chatham, which was the first of its kind in the country.  How might the war work and the emphasis on social work explain the minimal discussion of the influenza?

Examining primary sources can raise lots of questions and can inspire avenues of research that span across repositories, document types, and record formats.  In continuing to explore the local impact of the 1918 influenza pandemic, what other sources could be helpful?  How might one explore the differences between the 1918 pandemic and the 2020  pandemic on campus and in the region?  What other questions might come up in the process?

Curious for more?  Here are a few links the include discussion of the 1918 pandemic:

Pennsylvania College for Women 1919 & 1920 yearbook (click here)

Sorosis student newspaper, 1918-1921 (click here)

Alumae Recorder, 1916 – 1923 (click here)

National Museum of Health and Medicine Virtual Exhibit, “Closing in on a Killer: Scientists Unlock Clues to the Spanish Influenza Virus” (click here)

Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, 1918 Influenza Epidemic Records (click here)

Online lecture about how steel corporations impacted death rate in Pennsylvania during the 1918 pandemic by Jim Higgins, via National Museum of Industrial History (click here)

Online lecture about the 1918 pandemic titled “Pittsburgh: Steel City, Industry, and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic” by Jim Higgins, via National Museum of Industrial history (click here)

“When the Spanish Flu Swept In, Pittsburgh Failed the Test,” Bill O’Toole, Pittsburgh Quarterly (click here)

“Records reveal 1918 influenza’s devastating impact on a tiny Pittsburgh community,”  The Digs, Post-Gazette (click here)

“Pittsburgh didn’t confront the 1918 epidemic in time,” Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, 3/19/20 (click here)

February 12, 2020
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“Issues for the 90s” on View in the JKM Library

Archival footage on display in the JKM Library

As part of an ongoing, rotating showcase of recently digitized media in the lobby of the JKM Library, the Chatham University Archives & Special Collections is pleased to present “Issues for the 90s: A Conversation with the President.”  This film features Dr. Rebecca Stafford, President of Chatham from 1983 until 1990, discussing a proposal for coeducation brought forth to the college community in 1990.  The footage was reformatted through support from the Council of Independent Colleges.  Members of the Chatham community and the public are welcome to enjoy the presentation.

The film digs into the questions and concerns alumnae had in the 1990s about the coeducation proposal, enrollment issues, and the future of Chatham College (now University).  According to the footage, coeducation was being considered because of concern about enrollment projections and a desire to sustain the institution.  Dr. Stafford mentions that growth in adult education at women’s colleges, like the Gateway Program at Chatham, served to increase enrollment numbers overall but did not provide a sustainable model over the long term.  Rather, she concluded, Chatham needed to develop a plan to attract more residential students.

Moreover, it is illuminating to learn that coeducation had been considered several times over the course of Chatham’s history.  The footage of Dr. Stafford was recorded in February of 1990, a full twenty-five years before Chatham’s undergraduate programs became coed.  The Coeducation Debate Collection (click here for the finding aid) includes records of the first formal consideration of coeducation at Chatham in the late 1960s and petitions from faculty, students, and alumnae when the issue was raised in 1990.  In the footage on view, Dr. Stafford mentions that Board of Trustees discussed coeducation when changing the school’s name from The Pennsylvania College for Women to Chatham in the 1950s.  She notes the trustees were concerned that Chatham must “have a name that doesn’t have `women’ in it.”

Board of Trustee Minutes from 1954 discussing coeducation.

The “Issues for the 90s: A Conversation with the President” is on view in the JKM Library lobby for the enjoyment of members of the public and the Chatham community.  Those interested in exploring the history of coeducation at Chatham are encouraged to explore the film and related material in the Chatham University Archives and Special Collections.

By Janelle Moore, Archives Assistant, and Molly Tighe, Archivist & Public Services Librarian

June 17, 2019
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University Archives Displays Footage of 1966 Commencement Featuring Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara

The Chatham University Archives & Special Collections is pleased to share a selection from the Historical Film Collection featuring footage of the 1966 Commencement ceremony, the address given by then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and the protest that occurred outside the event venue.  Captured by WTEA News, a portion of this footage is currently on view through September 22 at the Heinz History Center as part of their engaging and thought-provoking exhibit, Vietnam War: 1945 – 1975.  The complete footage, including shots of an airport welcome by Chatham President Edward Eddy and extended views of the protests, is on view in the lobby of the Jennie King Mellon Library.  Stop by, use the headphones (or read the captions!), and take a few moments to consider this moment in history.

1966 Commencement Footage in the JKM Library Lobby

So, why was the Secretary of Defense speaking at the Chatham commencement?  Keep reading…

But first, a little background on McNamara.  Born in 1916, McNamara received degrees from the University of California and from Harvard Business School.  Disqualified from combat during WWII due to poor vision, he served in the Army Air Force developing logistical and statistical systems for a variety of war activities.  Following the war, McNamara rose through the ranks of the Ford Motor Company, serving as company president for one month before accepting an appointment in the Kennedy administration as Secretary of Defense in 1961.

Sec. McNamara at podium at 1966 Commencement, PCC003, Chronological Photograph Files, Chatham University Archives

McNamara is known for the controversial role he played in escalating US involvement in the Vietnam War.  Under McNamara’s leadership, the number of American troops—originally sent to Vietnam to train the Army of the Republic of Vietnam—increased rapidly.  A fabricated “attack” on the American military in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964 allowed the US military to justify increased engagement in the region and McNamara led President Johnson, Congress, and the American public to believe that this further escalation was necessary to prevent the expansion of communism. McNamara is believed to have privately questioned US military involvement as early as 1965 and he launched a secret investigation of the US commitment to the war.  Records of this investigation were leaked to the public in 1971 and are known today as the Pentagon Papers.  Having recommended, in a memo to President Johnson, that US involvement should be scaled back, McNamara resigned and became President of the World Bank.

US involvement in Vietnam continued and the sentiment of the American public soured.  In 1965, 64% of the American public approved of US involvement in Vietnam. Four years later, approval numbers had sunk to 39%, with 52% considering the war to be a mistake. Months and months of regular US troop deployments turned into years, while news broadcasts delivered a gruesome reality of war casualties and wounded soldiers into living rooms across the country.  Television broadcasts also presented the war’s impact on the Vietnamese population, many of whom became refugees after their homes were destroyed.

Newspaper Clipping showing protesters outside Chatham College 1966 Commencement ceremony.

In this video, captured by WTAE Channel four, you’ll see the anti-war protesters picketing in front of Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland, where Robert McNamara was gave the commencement address for Chatham College’s Class of 1966.  Kathleen McNamara, his daughter, was a member of the graduating class.  The video begins with McNamara’s arrival to Pittsburgh, where he was greeted by a crowd of cheerful people, including Chatham President Edward Eddy.  There is a stark contrast between the airport greeting and the footage of the protesters, who marched outside the commencement venue carrying signs decrying the military activity in Vietnam.  Protest signs were written in both English and Vietnamese.

The speech given by Sec. McNamara, titled “The Age of Protest,” acknowledges the controversies surrounding the Vietnam War.  McNamara’s speech discusses freedom of dissent as a “privilege” available to the American public, but only an aspiration for the citizens of Vietnam. In his speech, McNamara presents the victimization of both the East and the West through the “bureaucratic tyranny of technology and autocracy that’s gradually depersonalizing and aliening modern man himself.”

1966 Chatham Commencement materials on display in the Heinz History Center’s Vietnam: 1945-1975 exhibit.

The Chatham University Archives is honored to loan material to the Senator John Heinz History Center for their exhibition on the Vietnam War.  Combining material from the New York Historical Society and  the Detre Library & Archives’ rich collection, the exhibit presents this tumultuous period in world history with both a global and a local perspective.  In connection with the exhibit, the Heinz History is presenting a series of lectures by journalists, academics, and writers offering a variety of perspectives on the war and its aftermath.  The complete footage of the 1966 commencement address by Sec. Robert McNamara is on view in the library of the JKM Library, Chatham University, and the text of the speech is available through the Chatham University Archives.

February 19, 2019
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Chatham Archives Presents “Commencement 1936” in JKM Lobby

Walking around the JKM Library, you may have noticed a curious video running on a loop in the JKM Library near the Popular Books table. Or perhaps, you’ve only heard about the interesting video and are worried about missing out? Fear not! We’re happy to share the clips of the video so that off-campus community members, alums, and the general public can enjoy it as much as  students, staff, and patrons who frequent the JKM Library. Ready?

Archival Film on View in the JKM Library

The video is one of several that the University Archives & Special Collections digitized recently as part of its preservation program.  The Archives works with local specialists equipped with film ovens (used to warm decaying film before running it through players) and all sorts of reformatting equipment to create  preservation-quality, digital versions of footage on obsolete formats. The Archives is continually working to make more material available and we have plans to preserve more archival films in the coming months. Stay tuned!

Part 1 of the film features footage of the 1936 Commencement ceremony, the oldest known footage in the Archives. Running just over two minutes and with no sound, the footage shows graduates filing into the ceremony area  between Laughlin and Buhl Halls. At the time, Laughlin was a library and Buhl had yet to be expanded to the size we know today. The film shows the college glee club performing under the direction of Earl B. Collins, audience members watching from the windows in Buhl Hall, and a view of the audience seated above the ceremony area.

 

The program from the 1936 commencement that lists the names of the graduates, the commencement speaker, and other details from the day can be viewed as part of Chatham’s Commencement Programs online collection. Click here for the 1936 Commencement program.

The second half of the film, which runs just under one minute, is a bit of a mystery. The footage appears to show Arthur Braun, then President of the Board of Trustees, as well as Dean Mary Marks. However, the rest of the individuals are—as yet—unidentified. Any ideas?

Additional audio and video material from the Chatham University Archives is accessible online from the Historical Film Collection (click here) and the Historical Audio Collection (click here). Researchers and those interested in seeing additional material are encouraged to reach out to the Chatham University Archives here.   Even more material is available for viewing pleasure on the Archives Facebook (@chathamarchives) and Instagram (@chathamarchives), where we’re posting as part of the 150th anniversary of Chatham’s founding with #150Throwbacks.

April 4, 2018
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Archives Exhibit “Nature & Nurture: The Rachel Carson Legacy in Pittsburgh” on view at Heinz Hall

In conjunction with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming performance of Silent Spring, a symphonic tone poem created to honor the 50th anniversary of the publication of the seminal Rachel Carson book, the Chatham University Archives is presenting an exhibit titled Nature & Nurture: The Rachel Carson Legacy in Pittsburgh.  On view in Heinz Hall from April 6 through April 22, the exhibition presents highlights from the collections of the University Archives that explore the roots of Rachel Carson’s interest in science and writing and the legacy of celebrating her achievements though music.

Chatham Archives exhibit Nature & Nurture: The Rachel Carson Legacy in Pittsburgh at Heinz Hall

Widely recognized for The Sea Around Us, Silent Spring, and countless articles that brought attention to the detrimental effects of widespread pesticide use, Rachel Carson’s connection to music isn’t frequently discussed.  However, music played a major role in Rachel’s upbringing, as her mother taught piano lessons to local children in the family home and many days were spent setting Mother Goose rhymes to music.

Nature & Nurture exhibit essay in Pittsburgh Symphony Concert Program

Rachel remained a classical music fan throughout her lifetime, even writing liner notes for the National Symphony Orchestra’s recording of Claude Debussy’s Le Mer and speaking at an orchestra benefit luncheon.  As a student at Chatham (then Pennsylvania Female College), Rachel evoked the sound of piano music in her literary club award winning essay, Broken Lamps.  This essay is available online through the University Archives at this link.

Nature & Nurture exhibit from University Archives in Heinz Hall

The exhibition, Nature & Nurture: The Rachel Carson Legacy in Pittsburgh, spans Rachel Carson’s experience as a student and a few of the local, musical  events that have honored her work as an environmental pioneer.  The display includes photographs, programs, and documents from the 1995 Opus: Earth symphony concert to benefit the Rachel Carson Institute and the World Wildlife Fund.

Opus: Earth Program Cover

Of particular note is a score to Silent Spring inscribed “in honor of Rachel Carson to her Alma Mater Chatham University” by the composer, Steven Stucky.  The score was presented during an on-campus discussion of his piece and the legacy of Rachel Carson in 2011.

Score for “Silent Spring” inscribed to Chatham by composer Steven Stucky

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is generously offering discount codes for students, staff, faculty, and alums.  Contact Student Affairs for more information.  You won’t want to miss the special pre-concert lecture by Dr. Patricia DeMarco, former head of the Rachel Carson Institute and our region’s foremost Rachel Carson scholar.  Dr. DeMarco’s lecture will occur on Friday, April 20, 2018.

Can make the event?  Check out the finding aid for the Collection on Rachel Carson or contact the Chatham University Archives & Special Collections to learn more about Rachel Carson `29 and her local legacy.

January 12, 2018
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Chatham Leadership: The Presidency of Cora Helen Coolidge

The Chatham University Archives invites you to explore Chatham Leadership: The Presidency of Cora Helen Coolidge, an exploration of a president whose ceaseless dedication to women’s education steered Chatham through one of its most tumultuous chapters.

Presented as an extension of Chatham Leadership: A Presidential Timeline, this exhibit aims to convey both the impact Coolidge had on Chatham as well as the profound and indelible impression she had on the lives of students from her era.

The exhibit is on view in the lounge of the Women’s Institute in Braun Hall, and we encourage your to stop by and explore the legacy of President Coolidge.

Pennsylvania College for Women President Cora Helen Coolidge

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November 20, 2017
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Indigenous Heritage Month, Euripides, and the Chatham University Archives

Some may wonder what the Euripides and Indigenous Heritage Month have in common.  Others might ask what Chatham’s University Archives, which collects and preserves the history of the university, could have to help to connect the Athenian tragedian and campus-wide Indigenous Heritage events.  Well, look no further than the Drama Department records from 1992 when students and faculty member Patricia Montley performed an adaptation of Euripides Trojan Woman set in Central America as Cortes seizes control of the Aztec empire.

Publicity Photo, 1992 Chatham Theatre

According to Dr. Motley’s program notes, a Euripedes’ The Trojan Woman is one of the most frequently performed of all the classical tragedies, particularly for audiences affected by war and in eras when war is celebrated.  The decision to set the play in Central America in 1992, the 500-year anniversary of Columbus’ journey to the “New World,” allowed for reflection on “the foolishness of waging aggressive war and the transience of military might.”

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