Monday, February 27, 2012

Wireless telegraphy at Brockport

In doing some research on William Lennon, a science professor here for many years, and the man for whom Lennon Hall is named, the archivist ran across a piece in the local Brockport Republic from 1901 which mentioned that Professor Lennon had apparatus for wireless telegraphy equipment and was conducting some "interesting experiments." Wireless telegraphy was a forerunner in a way to radio; it involved sending Morse code wirelessly over the airwaves. Pictured here is Italian radio pioneer Marconi with some wireless telegraphy equipment of the same era as Professor Lennon.

Professor Lennon also ran a weather station at Brockport for many years, a precursor to the meteorology program of today!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Miss Schroeder

Miss Lee (Leonora) Schroeder was a long time health and physical education faculty member here at Brockport. She started in 1928 as "Director of Athletics Training for Girls," at a time when recently imposed restrictions made intramural sports for women the norm as opposed to play between schools. She served the college until 1956, continuing to coach women's sports, and teaching health and physical education. A graduate of Mont Clair Normal School in New Jersey, she continued her education at Rutgers and Columbia. Miss Schroeder was an instrumental part of establishing a major in physical education at the college with other physical educators here like Ernest Tuttle. At the time of her retirement she commented that "It is a tremendous satisfaction to think someone is a little better because of me." The photo here is from a scrapbook of Marian Schleede '42.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Am I understood?"

At the time of his death in 1904 several writers who had known Malcolm MacVicar recalled how he would ask, in his distinctive Scottish burr, "Am I understood?" The archivist would like to share some of his biography to make him understood by the Brockport of today, where a building is named after him.

Born in 1829 in Scotland, his family emigrated to Canada when he was a boy. As a young adult he worked as a carpenter in a shipyard in Cleveland, and then he went to Knox College in Toronto to become a Baptist minister. Instead of going to a church however, he came back to the U.S., and received a mathematics degree from the University of Rochester in 1859. After receiving his degree, he came to teach at the Brockport Collegiate Institute, as our school was known then.

In the 1860s he became principal of the school, which though successful academically was struggling financially. As a keen proponent of state support for teacher training MacVicar urged the state to set up a system of "Normal" schools, or teacher training schools, to better serve the educational needs of the state by providing professionally trained teachers, suggesting Brockport for this purpose. After a long and often difficult campaign MacVicar was successful, and the state set up not just one Normal school at Brockport, but several across the state, a forerunner of today's SUNY system.

After the struggle to see through the Normal school reform, MacVicar took a year off, and then became principal of the Potsdam Normal School. Having seen that school well on its way he returned to Canada where he taught at Toronto Baptist College. He so impressed the wealthy McMaster family there who were interested in the college with his integrity and abilities that when they put their fortune to work building McMaster University they insisted that MacVicar be the first chancellor.

He then in latter years moved on to become head of the missionary and educational efforts in the Reconstruction era South for the American Baptist Society , and oversaw the building of Virginia Union University (a historically black college in Richmond) during a part of its early development.

According to the reminiscences published at the time of his death and later, MacVicar could be something of the sterotypical stern, dour Scotsman. He did not suffer cheating or dishonesty of any sort, and held students accountable to strict rules. One former student wrote however of MacVicar's reproofs that "While such things sound severe to those who are dealt with so gently, we all found in Dr. MacVicar the kindest and gentlest of friends when we were in need of help or sympathy." Another student recalled that "Often did he converse with me on the question of my personal example and show me what I ought to be."

In 1905 the college received an oil portrait of Dr. MacVicar, which hangs today in a conference room in the Allen building. In the student publication "The Normalia" a writer observed of MacVicar that "He never was content to slide along and leave things as he found them... He was in perpetual conflict with human ignorance and prejudice, selfish interests and sodden conservatism."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"How to store a grass skirt"

In order to keep up with things your archivist, like many people nowadays, subscribes to an email list relevant to his profession, in this case the email list for the Society of American Archivists. These sorts of lists can be great resources for asking questions, learning about how to manage items, use new tools etc. This week one of the questions raised was just too fun to not share: how should one store a grass skirt? The answer, in case anyone is interested, is as follows :-)

Store horizontally in a flat box, gently wrapped in acid-free tissue (lay tissue in the bottom overhanging the sides, then place the skirt in, and fold tissue over the top).  Try to ensure the box fits properly so the skirt isn't crushed, but also doesn't slide around inside the box when transporting or handling.  Use spacers or a custom box if necessary.  Environmentally, your general storage conditions should suffice - dark, cool, stable humidity 40%ish, etc.  I could look it up for you, but it doesn't matter unless you're providing a special storage area for this one item.  Keep in mind, a grass skirt makes great mouse nesting material...  ;-)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Unknown student, c.1867

This young woman was a student here, at the time the Brockport Collegiate Institute was becoming a state "Normal School," in the transition period of 1867. This much is known because her photo is featured along with those of several other students, circled around a center photo of Malcolm MacVicar, who was the head of the school at this time. The photos normally reside in a large wooden frame, hanging on a wall of the Alumni House over by Hartwell Hall. Recently however the archivist was given permission to bring the framed set of photos back to the library for scanning. When he took off the back of the frame he discovered that the individual pictures are glued to a larger sheet of stock and that unfortunately there are no names by them, making identification of the students virtually impossible, given that there was no yearbook at the time, no student newspaper, where one might find another picture of her with her name...

One of those little mysteries one encounters in archival work and using primary documents, where one wonders; who was she? Did she go on to teach school, perhaps marry? How did her life run after her schooling here...?