Monday, February 5, 2018

Founder's Day 2018

Good Morning Friends,

I wish to invite you to the annual Founder's Day celebrations to be held on February 8, 2018 in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Center at 11 a.m. The program will include a showing of the recently released documentary, "A Legacy of Opportunity: The History of Delaware State University." The event is open to the public, so I hope that you will join us in honoring where we have come from and where we, as a university, hope to go in the future.

For questions, please contact Brenda F. Farmer, Executive Director of University Events and Ceremonies at 302-857-6082 or

Thursday, January 18, 2018

DSU Documentary released

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the documentary has been removed from YouTube. However,  you can still catch the film on PBS (Channel 12 and 512 Philadelphia). It will air as follows:

February 16th, 5 p.m.

February 18th, 2:30 p.m.

February 19th, 
5 p.m.


I have exciting news for the Hornet community! Over a year ago, the Delaware Humanities Forum commissioned a documentary to be produced by my good friends at 302 Stories Inc. The project was initially spawned in recognition of the university's 125th anniversary and serves to examine the struggles and growth of this university during that time.

The film heavily features archival photographs that were taken from the university archives.  I am so proud of the work that has been done by my predecessors, my fellows, and myself that made this project possible.  Without having exhaustive collection descriptions for photographic materials, I would not have been able to facilitate this project with the ease that I did.  Thank you to all who played a vital role in the development of this repository!

Having seen the final product, I hope you will agree with me that the archival holdings featured are a credit to this university and were displayed in a beautiful, and compelling manner.  Many congratulations and thanks to Jeanne and Mike at 302 Stories for telling our story.

Monday, January 15, 2018

MLK Day and Musings of Samuel L. Conwell on January 15, 1898

Today, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we reflect on the history of race in the United States, the struggle for equality, and the lives of Dr. King and others who paid too high a price.  I hope that you will join me in contemplating the current racial tensions in this country and praying that we, as individuals and as a nation, may find a way toward unity.

Last week I stumbled upon some very apropos musings written by Samuel L. Conwell on this exact day, 120 years ago.  As an instructor, and as the secretary to President William C. Jason, Mr. Conwell was central to the early development and survival of this university.  In the passage from January 15, 1898, transcribed below, Mr. Conwell describes his viewpoints about the economic disparities between races which he believed were compounded by educational disparity.
“January 15, 1898, Business side of life needs to be cultivated more and more among our people. If we would but improve in finance, as we ought. It is marvelous how we loose because we are in want of such training, and it is wonderful the progress other races are making because of their knowledge of business. And indeed by degrees we are gaining daily in the new vocation of our existence.  We need to save money thus to be able to act when opportunity presents itself. Many of us would be in business had we the capital and many more of us would have capital if we had been taught and practiced economy. To know how and when to spend a dollar is one of the secrets of success. It takes years for a people to learn all these things and apply them as we should. Careful management of what we have and an industrious habits  - which enable us to get more will eventually bring us to the place we may live in what is called 'easy circumstances'.  So may we be prompted by the proper and honest motives to improve our opportunities in this important task. Yours truly, S. L. Conwell"
I wish that I could go back in time to be a fly on the wall in the lives of people like Mr. Conwell and President Jason.  What must they have experienced as highly intelligent men living in the time between the civil war and the civil rights movement?  Did they feel blessed as compared to their black peers, or did they feel trapped by the conventions of society? Both? How much more might they have accomplished if they lived in a fairer world? I also wish that I could know what Mr. Conwell meant by "easy circumstances." To what does he refer? A life of leisure? Material possessions? Fair treatment by white society?

Whatever the case, I am sure that Mr. Conwell would be proud of what this institution has become and the standing it has attained as a business entity.  I believe he would take pleasure in knowing that its students are multinational and competitive in their chosen fields. He would also appreciate the diversity of subjects and vocations taught here, not the least of which being business and economics.

I hope that in the progress of time, Delaware State University, and our nation in general, will continue to strive for equality, success, and greater opportunity for all its people. Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Book of handwritten college notes and musings by Samuel L. Conwell recorded between 1896 and 1900

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Annual Christmas Letter 2017

Dear Friends,

Can you believe another year is coming to an end?! I'm not sure I even remember celebrating July 4th ...or any part of August.  Where did it all go?   For the large part of the year, time passed quickly but quietly in the archives - which is good because my personal life was often messy.  Unlike previous years there were no major construction or grant projects and so 90% of my time was engaged in archival processing (Yeah! Board of Trustee records!) and reference requests (Hooray for the documentary project completed by 302 Stories Inc!).

My biggest excitement in 2017 was a seat at the table for the library director search committee. I count myself  privileged to have played a part in shaping the future of the William C. Jason Library.  It means a lot to me to know that the university administrators value my opinion and allowed me this platform. It's too early for any big announcements yet, but after hearing from several talented candidates, I am confident that the library department has a bright future.  I can't wait to see what improvements and innovations are in store for us under new leadership in a new year.

On a personal note, I'm now the proud sister of a DSU graduate! My brother Paul graduated from DSU's aviation program last May and I am so proud of his accomplishments.  The university seems a little lonelier without him occasionally stopping by my office, but he has important grown-up work to do for the airlines.

Lastly, I wish to thank individuals who have helped to make this a wonderful year for the archives department.  At the very top of the list are the ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. who have been a tremendous help and encouragement to me! Of course I appreciate the exhibit they put together for the gallery, but beyond that I can't express how much their sage advice and kind words mean to me as a young professional. Similarly, thanks to Mike and Jeanne of 302 Stories Inc. for their friendship and business. It has been a true pleasure to work with you and see the archives materials used in new, creative ways. Thank you to all my library colleagues for standing by the archives and assisting me in growing the department! 

All in all, I hope that you, my patrons, have also had a wonderful year and wish you nothing but the best in 2018. Thank you for continuing to walk this journey with me. Much is still ahead and I can't wait to share it with you!

Merry Christmas,

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tribute to Mary Maloy Scott

The University Archives and Special Collections mourns with the family of Mrs. Mary Maloy Scott and wishes to express sincere condolence. Mrs. Scott will always be appreciated for the stalwart support she gave to the archives department and her mentorship to Delaware State University students.

When the University Archives was yet a fledgling department in 2015, Mrs. Scott was the second-ever alumni to donate personal artifacts and photographs to the archival collections.  Her actions were a testament of her faith in the future of the department and the work of myself, a first-time professional archivist.  When the archives held a grand opening ceremony a year later, my greatest joy was not in public recognition, but in proving to Mrs. Scott that her faith was not misplaced.

Mrs. Scott will always be remembered for her dedication to the education of others.  Early in my acquaintance with her, she asked me to help her identify ways in which she could build personal relationships with university students.  It pleased her to contribute financially to the university, but she also wanted to impart her extensive wisdom and life-lessons into the lives of young people.

Please know that Mrs. Scott will continue to do exactly this through the presence of her personal records within the archives.  The Mary Maloy Scott collection will forever be available to student researchers. I have no doubt that they will see a life well lived and be encouraged, because this is what I see every day.  To Mary’s family and friends, know that it will always be my privilege to be the steward of her most treasured artifacts, and I will welcome you into the archives anytime you too wish to view her scrapbooks and treasure her memory. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

2017 Barn Fire

This morning the archives reflects on the loss of the university's historic barn located at the back of the main campus. At around 7:30 p.m. last night, November 16, 2017, the barn caught fire and was ultimately destroyed when the roof collapsed.  Investigations into the cause of the fire are ongoing.

 Although it was mostly disused in recent years, the barn was one of the more historic buildings on campus.  By researching the course catalogs from 1919 and 1929, I believe that it first served as a dairy barn and was constructed some time in 1928. This makes sense given that state appropriations to the college in the later 1920s as well as the generosity of Pierre DuPont significantly increased the college's capital. Whatever the case, the 1920-1930 catalog states, "The Dairy Barn, recently constructed, is a strictly modern building in design and equipment. It is one of the most important recent additions to the Agricultural Department."

At one time, the barn held a prominent place within the college community.  This is not surprising when considering that the State College for Colored Students was founded as an 1890s land-grant institution. Agricultural studies were at its very heart.  From conversations with alumni, I know that the barn held cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals that supported the dinning services on campus. Anecdotally, the cows that lived here are forever in the memories of the athletes who shared a field with them.

An undated photograph of the Dairy Bary, possibly c. 1930.

Barn, c. 1990
Interestingly, yesterday's fire is not the first in university history.  Two in particular come to mind: The first occurred in 1968 when a steel maintenance building used to store furniture and tools totally burned. The fire happened immediately following a student "sing-in" protest. No connection between the two events was made, but the student protestors were the ones who reported the fire and moved some of the school's vehicles out of the path of the flames. The second fire in institutional memory occurred at Loockerman Hall and was a result of arson in 1979.  At the time, the building was at the center of a very public debate about whether or not it should be preserved and restored. It was proven that the blaze had been set with kerosene and had burned for sometime before the fire department was made aware.

 The loss of the barn and the very uncertainty of the facts that I researched this morning serve as a reminder that history can be lost. It is easy to take for granted that what is here today might not be there tomorrow. I must also acknowledge that institutional memory is fuzzy. The unfortunate truth is that unless information is captured in a fixed media, it is likely to be lost.

The maintenance building after the 1968 fire.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Listen to the 1977 Gospel Choir

The DSU archives is giving a HUGE shout-out to 302 Stories Inc. for converting a prized LP record to CD!

The James A. Prettyman collection is my go-to source when it comes to examining the university's material culture circa 1965 to 1980. Contained within it are college pennants, clothing, pins, various souvenirs and an LP record of the Gospel Choir from 1977. 

From my first day at Delaware State University this Gospel Choir LP frustrated me. The opportunity to hear voices from the past was always right in front of me and yet so far out of reach because of  technological and financial limitations. Aside from a VHS player, I do not have the ability to playback or convert any audiovisual media into digitized formats.

When the archive's 125th anniversary exhibit opened a year ago, I included the record in one of the display cases. My thought was that, at the very least, it added color and intrigue. I was right in thinking that visitors would enjoy seeing it. What I didn't expect was that one set of visitors and researchers in particular, 302 Stories Inc., would be able to provide me with access to the audio.

Thanks to Jeanne and Mike who enthusiastically converted the audio, I can now play the music of Take Me There to my hearts content. Stop by the archives any time to listen to the 1977 Gospel Choir! Were you a member of the choir? Let me know! I'd love to hear your stories.