In a room packed with the rows, shelves and cabinets that store over 120 years of UNCG artifacts, Erin Lawrimore flips through a single cabinet of photographs. She stops on a black and white photograph of 1940s faculty members inspecting a device purported to test the resilience of textiles.
These photograph — artifacts from UNCG’s nearly 125 years — are the building blocks of University Archives’ social-media campaign, the outlet through which UNCG students, faculty and staff are accessing the university’s archives and special collections.
There’s the Spartan Stories blog, a Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram account — each requiring a team of archivists on a regimented schedule. There’s Monday’s Spartan Story along with a #MusicMonday post; Wednesday’s Who-Dun-It, which features a mystery novel from the university’s rare book collection; #ThrowbackThursdays; and the most popular of all, Fashion and Foodie Fridays.
“We will probably never run out of stuff,” said Lawrimore, who oversees the social-media outreach. “We’ve got negatives, glass-plate negatives, 80-plus years of yearbooks – by the time we run out no one will be on Twitter.”
Some of the clips are published solely for the sake of nostalgia (snapshots from the ‘80s and ‘90s are among the most popular) but University Archivist Lawrimore and the greater team of archivists aim to tell the university’s story with all the nuances of period-specific dress and social-norms of the period.
“Any student here today is part of a trend of students going back 120 years,” said Lawrimore. “I want to help make the university’s history real, to make them feel that they’re part of a place that has a history.”
As the archivists work through their daily operations, which include intensive research on subjects submitted by faculty members, they’ll often make mental notes that will become the subject of a blogpost.
Lawrimore made one such note when she saw a disciplinary case in Julius Foust’s folder. The note led to a post titled “A ‘Most Unfortunate Experience,” which follows the story of six students from what was then known as the North Carolina College for Women, as they purchased a car against university policy and later faced the repercussions when they crashed into a telephone pole. It was a single line in Allen Trelease’s book of UNCG history, “Making N.C. Literate,” that led the team to investigate the case of Dr. Albert Keister, a UNCG professor whose support of evolutionary theory was chastised by 1920s society.
The Spartan Stories blog posts can be thought of as the meat of the team’s social media operations. They take a considerable amount of research and aim to be introspective and informative rather than morale-boosting. But the quick stuff, the often funny or nostalgic photos, are usually the most shared items.
The archivists are often asked to teach archival classes. They’ll come into a classroom for a day and demonstrate the archival process. And, occasionally a student will recognize the team as the faces behind “Fashion Friday.” Lawrimore said that those moments are what the social media campaign is all about, exposing students to a history they’re connected to.
By Daniel Wirtheim
Visual from a Throwback-Thursday post, of UNCG’s Fall Kickoff in the early 1990s