Sharing our University’s history with past, present, and future Tar Heels

I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend the past year working in the University Archives, an environment that many students do not get to access during their undergraduate experience. There is such an incredible wealth of records and artifacts from the University’s history that are available for student use that unfortunately go unnoticed. As someone that is fascinated by history, it has been a fun and inspirational adventure. Not only have I learned more over the past year about UNC than I have in my entire undergraduate career, I have also gained a newfound sense of pride and respect for the many generations of Tar Heels that came before us, and the footprints that they left to create the University as we see it today. I now find myself walking across campus chuckling when I recall a funny student story about a statue or building that I am walking past. Too often we take for granted the wonders of UNC. It has been and will continue to be a goal of mine to spread the special history of our University to past, present, and future Tar Heels. The Order of the Bell Tower’s partnership with the University Archives has provided an essential outlet to accomplish this goal and help energize the student body about key events in the University’s history. Working as a liaison between the two organizations, I have had the opportunity to assist Jay Gaidmore, the University Archivist, on a variety of exciting projects over the course of the year.

Particularly important for the Order of the Bell Tower (OBT) was the University Day celebration in October. In order to educate students about the history of University Day, I identified a series of photographs depicting the celebration of UNC’s birthday over the past few decades. I particularly enjoyed perusing through collections to find photographs of University Day celebrations – from giant birthday cakes to students dressed in 18th century clothing and wigs – and then writing captions to help explain to students the many traditions that have been honored on University Day.

Another exciting event held in the fall was the dedication of a plaque in remembrance of the Speaker Ban Movement in the 1960’s. In honor of the historical event, I worked alongside Jay to create a mini exhibit in Graham Memorial, where a reception was held following the ceremony. I had the exciting job of searching through the vaults of Wilson library to find copies of the Daily Tar Heel from the 1960’s. Our goal was to find front-page headlines related to the Speaker Ban Law and the reaction on campus. It was an incredible opportunity to flip back into the past and relive special moments at UNC.

Speaker Ban Exhibit in Graham Memorial, October 12, 2011

Speaker Ban Exhibit in Graham Memorial, October 12, 2011

Also last fall, as part of the festivities for the Black Alumni Reunion, the library was asked to pull materials related to the history of the Black Student Movement (BSM). After researching this student organization’s growth on campus, I found several materials including yearbooks, handwritten rosters, student orientation manuals, and social event programs that once belonged to the BSM. Jay and I then worked together to choose items that best represented the organization and created an exhibit for members to enjoy as a part of their reunion weekend.

In the future, I would like to see a continued partnership between the OBT and University Archives so that other students have the same opportunity that I have had. More importantly, however, so that the greater student body gains an appreciation of the wealth of resources available at Wilson Library and to help make history come alive as part of their Carolina experience.

Many thanks to the University Archives staff and the General Alumni Association for making my experiences this year possible!

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