Written by Justine Rothbart
While flipping through the University of Mary Washington (UMW) Yearbook, The Battlefield, I came across this photograph:
When I first saw it, I almost laughed out loud! It wasn’t just the nature of the photo that was surprising, but the date. This photo is from the 1914 edition of The Battlefield. To put it into context, this was almost 100 years ago and just two years after the Titanic sank. The photo looks as if these students are having fun dressing up in their pajamas, staying up late, and eating a midnight snack. They are obviously trying to make it look funny. It’s so surprising this “Midnight Feast Club” actually existed! As a student at the University of Mary Washington at the time, it reminded me of the times I would hang out with my friends in our dorm rooms. Ok, of course I would never dress like that, but it got me thinking, are we really that much different today?
My junior and senior year at Mary Washington (Fall 2009 – Spring 2011) in Fredericksburg, Virginia, I was the Student Aide at the UMW Special Collections. In the spring of 2011 I assisted in the UMW Yearbooks digitization project. I worked with the UMW Special Collections Librarian, Carolyn Parsons, to prepare the yearbooks for the digitization process. This is when I first saw the “Midnight Feast Club” photo and when I really began to know the yearbooks. In these yearbooks I saw a photo of the Basket Ball Team from 1920 posing in front of the same building where I just went to class. I saw a photo of the students in 1952 walking up the same stairs I walked up just a few hours before. I saw a photo of the student from 1972 going into the same dorm I lived in freshman year. Even though I never knew these students, looking through the yearbooks made me feel like we’re not so different.
My experience working in the UMW Special Collections led me to my current studies in Cultural Heritage Information Management at Catholic University. I want others to make that connection with the past the same way I did with the yearbooks. I want others to think, “Hey, that could be me!” Having the archival collection speak for itself might be it’s biggest advocate.
Here’s a video of the exhibit I designed and created about The Battlefield digitization project:
And who knows, the next time you look in the archives, maybe you’ll see yourself.
Click here to see The Battlefield.
Click here to learn more about the UMW Special Collections.