Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Permit us to be amazed

Volume 1, No. 1 of Inter-Nos, dated
January 13, 1927. 
The fruits of last year's massive scanning project are almost all online now. Our capable volunteer and colleague Hilary Swett is cataloging and uploading the last of the PDFs from the LYRASIS-Sloan Foundation mass digitization project, and we are down to the digital version of some of the oldest, most fragile documents in the College Archives. These required special handling by the scanners and have taken the longest to make available.

It is one of the numerous joys of an archives job to pull a nondescript box off a shelf and find a treasure. Such was the case with a blue box labeled "Inter-Nos – Incomplete," shelved with the bound volumes of the newspapers and Mount-published journals, Westwords and, of course, Inter-Nos.

But this box wasn't the Inter-Nos we'd already seen in teal softcover binding. This was a handful of 8 1/2 by 11-inch sheets of yellowed, soft paper with columns of mimeographed typewriting and a hand-drawn Inter-Nos flag. Below these in the box were professionally printed editions dating from 1929.

Inter-Nos continued as a small 4- or 8-sheet imprint for many years –  until 1945, to be exact, the year The View newspaper was launched, followed by The Mount yearbook in 1947. By popular demand, though, Inter-Nos returned in 1949 in the new softcover form. The later model is a treasure trove in itself, with faculty essays, scientific research reports, student writing and poetry, letters from traveling Sisters, students and alumnae. Inter-Nos continued publication until 1959, when it was replaced by Westwords.

But it is the older collection that is amazing to see online. Somehow, even with the faint typescript, the geniuses at scanning company DCS managed to extract searchable words. They captured the yellow of the paper, the faded edges, and the Internet Archive reading interface captures the gentle turning of the fragile pages.

Volume 1, No. 1, above, welcomes the students back after winter break and reports that fall enrollment had risen to 40 students. A report on a community outreach project tells of Christmas stockings collected and filled for the students at Presentation Parish School. It mentions that "Miss Fitch" has joined the drama faculty, a name that will occur frequently in the future pages of Mount publications.

We have barely publicized the existence of our freely available Internet Archive collection, and yet people are making their way to it. Several copies each the later Inter-Nos, View and Westwords have already been downloaded. You're welcome – urged! – to visit the collection (click on the link in this paragraph) and start exploring our treasures for yourself.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday, 1949

MASS FOR ASH WEDNESDAY was said today by Fr. Felix Just, S.J., who reminded us that Lent derives from a word meaning "long" or "lengthen," a reference to the longer daylight as winter stretches toward spring.

After the liturgy we found ourselves wondering how the College marked the start of 40 days of fasting, prayer and almsgiving in the olden days.

Rev. Thomas J. McCarthy
Among our newly digitized yearbooks the 1949 Mount marks the start of Lent with a short recollection of the annual student retreat, where the entire student body set aside classes and school work for three days with a well-known retreat master:
Annual student retreat... Ash Wednesday, Thursday, Friday ... Fr. McCarthy, Tidings editor... powerful sermons... moving simplicity... "Wake up to the evils of your century... know the subtle motto of secularism: 'success before sanctity' ... look for answers ... in your faith... in imitation of Mary... in personal love of her Son. (page 75)
Besides his position as editor of the archdiocesan paper The Tidings, Fr. McCarthy was a long-time friend of the College and eventually served as a member of the Psychology faculty at both the Chalon and Doheny campuses. When he died in 1976, his extensive library came to the Mount.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Laissez les bons temps rouler

See our digitized newspapers at
FAT TUESDAY HAS A LONG HISTORY at the College, and back in the day even had a Mardi Gras Queen, who was crowned at a costume gala the Saturday before Lent began.

The Queen in 1950 was none other than Beverly Halpin Carrigan '52, whose social and academic lives at the Mount are well documented in the scrapbooks she donated to the Archives a couple years ago. (She also put herself through school working in food service.)

Queen Bev and her court in 1950.
Incidentally, notice the reference to "Mount Ball Room" in the headline above. As constructed in 1947, the first floor of the Charles Willard Coe Memorial Library was devoted to dances and parties, complete with a small kitchen, dumbwaiter and glossy maplewood floors. As far as we can figure out from the old blueprints, the orchestra pit was directly underneath where the Archives sit now. Let the good times roll!

Friday, February 8, 2013

The ubiquitous Mount gown

A procession of clerics heads toward the Coe Library
on May 11, 1947, for its formal dedication and blessing. MSMC
students in academic garb ring the Circle. Picture by Meriman Photo Art.
WE'VE BEEN UPLOADING about 20 recently scanned historic photos of the Charles Willard Coe Memorial Library to our online repository.

The Residence Life Council with their bachelor's hoods
 waits for Commencement ceremonies to start.
Photo is dated June 1964, and the site is what is now
the Porch area of the first floor of the Coe Library.
In the same busy week, the College Archives also accessioned an authentic MSMC cap and gown from alumna Mary Thompson '38. Many of our old photos have pictures of students academic garb, so we thought this would be a good opportunity to share an outstanding Mount tradition from yesteryear.

In the early decades of the College, entering Mount freshmen had to endure various forms of orientation, both sacred and silly. The most cherished was Convocation, when gowns and mortarboards were handed out in a solemn ceremony welcoming the young women to academic life. Students were expected to wear their academic garb at events throughout their four years -- all school assemblies, formal presentations and liturgies, even daily Mass. A white collar was attached at the neckline, and the famous Mount bachelor's hood of white velveteen with purple and gold lining only came out at Commencement. So if you come across an old photo with caps and gowns galore, don't assume it's about graduation.

Mary Thompson '38 donated
her mortarboard and gown
to the College Archives.
Cottrell & Leonard
set the standard for
academic gowns.
Close inspection of Mary Thompson's gown, which she would have received in the fall of 1934, shows a carefully made garment of a fine cotton or linen with a great deal of hand-stitching and French seams. It was manufactured in Albany, N.Y., by Cottrell & Leonard, keeper of strict academic garb standards for the Ivy League and other prestigious schools of the day.

The mortarboard is even more astonishing. The headpiece is a real hat. It was made to size -- Miss Thompson was a 6 3/4 -- of shaped felt with a stiffener and bordered in silk grosgrain ribbon. The board is heavy cardboard or thin wood with a covering of black wool. It was evidently a tasty treat for carpet beetles or crickets but looks surprisingly good for its venerable 75 years.
Harry Potter in the
gown of Hogwarts.
Like other traditions, the all-season cap and gown went the way of school uniforms and nuns' habits. The 21st Century version of academic garb is a distant cousin of Mary Thompson's, mass-produced inexpensively of shiny polyester and designed for a few hours of show. But there is something charming about the similarity nevertheless, calling to mind how medieval some elements of academic life were -- and still are.

Talk to students today in the Coe Library's gothic Reading Room about the  old Mount cap and gown tradition, and you'll be met with surprise and enthusiasm. They'd love to have academic gowns to wear around campus, not just the day they graduate. Credit Harry Potter with making flowing black gowns very cool on campus once again.