Migration isn’t just for the birds

March 27, 2009

A recent CBS Sunday Morning episode by New York Times technology correspondent David Pogue discusses the notion of ‘data rot’–where electronic information (audio, video, data files) is lost because of the breakdown of the physical host it is recorded to;  the lack of appropriate software and hardware to read the data; and by the overwhelming inability to ‘migrate’ data to new and current formats.  The episode is interesting AND there are archivists in it!

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4836762n%3fsource=search_video

He also has the piece in a different format and with interesting commentary on his “Circuits” column of this week at:

http://www.nytimes.com

The Smith College Archives has over 275 reel-to-reel tapes, the earliest documenting the College’s 75th anniversary events in 1950, through a Rally Day speech delivered in 1992.  There are another 694 cassette tapes documenting all types of programs at Smith: Last Chapel speeches, Alumnae College programs, conferences, musical concerts, oral history interviews, and more.  We are entering a pilot project to digitize 26 of the earliest reel-to-reel tapes–to see what we can still hear from them.  Our hope is that the data hasn’t rotted–although we are also practical-minded about it and realize the chances are high that some data has been lost.  As we have the funding available, we’ll continue to work to ‘migrate’ the information through reformatting.

So, ‘migration’ isn’t just for the animal world–it’s for the electronic world too!

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St. Patrick’s Day

March 12, 2009
St. Patrick's Day Postcard

St. Patrick's Day Postcard

Saint Patrick’s Day used to be quite the day of fun and play on the Smith College campus thanks to the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Founded in 1890, the Ancient Order of Hibernians (A.O.H.) was a secret society of students devoted to “the maintenance of devilish wit and the promotion of hellish spirit in the college.”

It was a spoof of the real Ancient Order of Hibernians, a fraternal order of Irish Catholics. The main event of A.O.H. was its annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade. Members would dress up in costumes and parade around campus making noise and celebrating Saint Patrick, the patron saint of A.O.H.

AOH Parade on campus

AOH Parade on campus

The main qualification for membership in A.O.H. was a sense of humor. Each year the group was comprised of 48 members, 12 members from each class except first years, with new members joining in the fall of each year. The initiation of students into A.O.H. varied. In 1901, Katherine Berry, Class of 1902, wrote about the initiation of four students:

“Their initiation in part was to prove that they descend from his saintship [Saint Patrick]. So the girls painted a picture of him — Stuck it at the top of a ladder, then climbed down it, illustrating their “direct descent”! Quite clever, wasn’t it?”

Eleanor Little, Class of 1907, wrote to her mother about initiation into A.O.H. in 1906:

“Now to-day all the newly initiated members have to act as the servants of the old members and be at their beck and call all day. It is very funny to see grave Seniors helping Sophomores in their various duties. Yesterday morning all the new members had to go to the Bulletin Board Room, kneel before a committee of the old members and take the oath of the society. Naturally it was rather amusing to onlookers.”

Members of AOH with costumes

Members of AOH with costumes

Members were given special names and sworn into A.O.H. by saying “I swear eternal hatred to the Orange and everlastin’ loyalty to the Green, so help me St. Pat.” The Orangemen, also known as O.O., were the rival secret society of the A.O.H. The Orangemen were a spoof of the Protestant fraternal organization. Little, in her letter home also noted on this rivalry:

“Rebecca is furious because she is an Orangeman and her room-mate has just been taken into the A.O.H.”

'Sacred Book' defaced by Orangemen, 1938

'Sacred Book' defaced by Orangemen, 1938

The groups vied against one another for members and attempted to steal each others sacred book. The Archives does not have any of the Orangemen sacred books, but we do have one of the A.O.H. from 1938-1966. It shows that in 1938 and in 1944, the Orangemen were successful in nabbing the book. It has “Orangemen” in orange paint written throughout and insults about A.O.H. members such as:

“Stinko, Odorono Putrido, Retcho, Leuchorio, Belcho- to the A.O.H.O., and may all your children have acne”!

Mock Wedding of AOH members

Mock Wedding of AOH members

In addition to the rivalry with the Orangemen and their annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade, A.O.H. gave different performances over the years. In 1896, a mock wedding was held.

On June 10, 1898, Fanny Garrison, Class of 1901, wrote about the A.O.H. appearing at a tennis tournament:

“A good many were attracted by one of the entries. “Misses O’Brien and Murphy, A.O.H.” Now there are no such girls and besides “A.O.H.” has a fascination…it is advising the members to be on hand at 2, to applaud the “illigant playing of the Misses O’Brien and Murphy.” And at two they did appear with their green badges and green everywhere. Nor was their Irish brogue wanting. But the players themselves were the gem of the occasion. One…had on a green shirt-waist and a short stiff duck-skirt which stuck out beautifully. [The other] was in white with a plentiful supply of green ribbons to produce the desired effect. Both had green ribbons on their hair, green bows on their racquets, and to crown all, – hanging at their sides by green ribbons were palm-leaf fans! While they were waiting for the balls, they would calmly fan themselves and talk Irish to each other, while the members of the club looked on approvingly and shouted advice to them…”

Despite the good times of the A.O.H., President Herbert Davis abolished all secret societies in 1948. While official activities ended, the A.O.H. sacred book shows that activities continued until the mid-1960s.

AOH Members, undated

AOH Members, undated

If you’re interested in learning more about the A.O.H. or their rival secret society the Orangemen, come by the Archives!


Staff Appreciation

March 5, 2009

The infastructure of an academic residential community like Smith has a large number of people who don’t usually get to see themselves on the College website; quoted in College publications, or tapped for radio pieces on National Public Radio.  They do hold jobs of importance, however, in keeping the pursuits of the academy and campus running as smoothly as possible.  The Smith College Archives blog will periodically celebrate some of these individuals from the past.

Today we celebrate two men who held a dear place in the hearts of students because of their jobs:

John Quirk, 1883

John Quirk, 1883

John Quirk was the first mailman for the College, who also worked as a janitor and nightwatchman.  He served the College from 1878-1895.  On the back of this cabinet card photograph (above) the owner writes, “Mr. Quirk–‘A Man of Letters’  so called because he was our mailman and brought up in one bag to College Hall all the mail of the College.”   The mail was delivered to College Hall and then distributed at the ‘post office’ room near the circular stairs on the first floor, now part of the Student Financial Services Office.  A member of the Class of 1880 described him as “reliable as the College clock… He was a big man with reddish or sandy hair…a distinct Irish brogue, and a characteristic combination of dignity and good humor, and an object of general affection.  When you needed to know about anything, you could always ‘ask Mr. Quirk.'”

The man to replace Quirk also became a Smith institution.  John Doleman was first seen by President Seelye when he was part of the construction crew that built Lilly Hall, the College’s first science building.  He served the College for 30 years as the watchman and on his death in 1923, President William A. Neilson proclaimed, “…no single personality connected with the College has been known more widely than our faithful watchman.  He looked after our institution with skill and zeal.  He knew more people than anyone in the College.  He was known by more people.  Thousands of alumna count him among their real memories of the College.”

John Doleman, College Watchman, 1893-1923

John Doleman, College Watchman, 1893-1923

Rosamond Kimball, Class of 1909 recalled how John Doleman would come to the houses and tell ghost stories at Halloween.  He is also attributed with telling ghost stories in the tower of College Hall on nights with a full-moon.  His best claim to fame with the students, however, was his undercover work to nab a peeping tom on campus.  According to Kimball, John Doleman dressed up in a ruffled skirt and large hat, and walked the campus at night, hoping to lure the peeping tom out from his hiding place.  Apparently the trick worked as Doleman tackled the man and knocked him out cold!  He was so well loved, that there is a  plaque in his honor on the side of College Hall, (facing Pierce Hall) from his many student friends.

The images of both men appear in student photograph albums that are located in the College Archives, which attest to their popularity and integral part of student life.  Today, there are men and women like Quirk and Doleman who take pride in their association with Smith.  Many of these individuals have  spent years in this community.   Periodic blog entries will share their stories, as we know them.