Online and in Green Library, memorabilia of daily life document 125 years of idealism, innovation and irreverence
Stanford’s daily life over 125 years is revealed not just in official records, but also in leaflets, diaries, digital files, and other ephemera that prescient Stanfordites chose not to throw away.
Instead, their byproducts of daily life entered the Stanford University Archives. As the stewards of Stanford’s institutional memory, curators and archivists there have assembled an exhibit of stories that that otherwise might not be told – or at least not as vividly or from as many points of view.
The online version includes digitized music, film and speeches. Online users can hear what Ram’s Head Gaieties sounded like in 1955 (not bad – check out the Gilbert and Sullivan treatment of “Hail, Stanford, Hail”). They can even hear founding University President David Starr Jordan expound on “The Spirit of Stanford” in a speech recorded in 1916.
“By including digital materials, we are trying to reflect not just the voices and the students, but also the technology used to transmit the stories,” Hartwig said.
One common thread running through the exhibit is that, almost from the start, Stanford students have sought to shape the university and the world through social action.
“It’s often the role of young people to challenge the status quo, and that certainly has been true of Stanford students going way back,” Becky Fischbach, designer and coordinator for Stanford Stories, told the news service.
Leaflets, posters and flyers reveal Stanford students’ affiliation to causes ranging from parity in women’s athletics to the end of apartheid in South Africa to Hoodies and Hijabs Stand Together.
A 1908 suspension letter documents Stanford’s reaction to the Liquor Rebellion, in which 300 students marched to protest Jordan’s ban on campus alcohol.
When Martin Luther King spoke at Stanford in 1964, the first of two visits to campus, students were galvanized into forming a contingent to travel to the South and push for civil rights. The online exhibit includes video of King’s second Stanford speech, in 1967.
Stanford Stories from the Archives: 1891-2016 also reveals how Stanford as an institution has sought to proclaim its unique identity. Included is a screen shot of Stanford’s first professionally designed web homepage, which went live in 1996. The page wasn’t up for long: For one thing, it was blue. An official explained, in a Stanford Daily story also in the exhibit, that the designer aimed to evoke how the Quad’s red tile roofs stand out against the sky.
University Archives was able to tell these stories because individual Stanfordites told theirs – by giving oral histories and by donating their letters, photos and digital files to the archives.
As Stanford enters its next 125 years, the Archives staff urges current students and young alumni to send in their own materials for preservation – including emails, text messages, tweets and selfies – so that stories can continue to be told.
“We’re trying to make sure that the stories we are collecting are the diverse and inclusive stories that make up a very idiosyncratic campus,” assistant university archivist Josh Schneider told the news service.