Though not as celebrated as Newcomb pottery, paper documents constitute the heart of the Newcomb Archives. In a room filled to overflowing with more than 1500 storage cartons, paper after paper illustrate the College's past in vivid and often tellingly mundane detail.
Nowhere are the nuanced subtexts of Newcomb's educational history more apparent than in the student records, which contain a wealth of correspondence between students, parents, administrators, and faculty of the College. Consider the following excerpts from three letters (names of students have been changed):
From Dean Butler, in a letter of recommendation to an official at another school:
June 23, 1920
My dear Miss Tandy,
In reply to your letter of June 21st regarding Miss Nicette Green, I am glad to say I can give her a satisfactory letter. Miss Green is a very attractive, nice mannered, young girl. She comes of one of the best Jewish families here, people of means and of culture who are generally recognized as among the most public spirited of our citizens. She has been quite popular... and has a good deal of native ability, but she has been a somewhat spoiled and indulged child. I believe that under restrictions which it will be possible for you to impose... she will turn out to be a better student.
or, from President Dixon to a parent:
November 30, 1918
My dear Mr. Jackson:
I am in receipt of a box of pecans sent by you, and I assure you I appreciate very much....
or, from a parent to the College President:
March 7, 1914
Please do not let our Daughter Sallie go out often and never alone as it is against our wishes...we do not approve or want her to do so, as we sent her down there to study and not run around and she is too young to let her have her way. So we put her in your charge to do for her. By doing this for us, you will oblige.....
Such letters soon will be processed as part of a special project to make more records from 1886 to 1920 accessible to scholars. This project forms a part of a larger documentary strategy begun several years ago and also comes in response to increasing interest in the College's history. Art historians, folklorists, and other scholars have been encouraged particularly by current exhibits of Newcomb art at the Historic New Orleans Collection; the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina; and the new Newcomb Art Gallery.
Attention to the College's history was evident this summer also in the activities of researchers working in the Archives. At the beginning of the summer, Trent Watts of the University of Chicago continued his research on the construction of whiteness in language promoting and describing early Newcomb. His visit was followed by that of Jill Chancey of Kansas State who is interested in the first sales of Newcomb pottery; Margreet Zonterelle from the Netherlands whose work concerns Southern women and domestic arts; Naumann Scott who is researching the lives of Hilda Phelps Hammond and Natalie Scott; and Karen Snyder who is making a documentary film on the Woodward brothers.
Since our last newsletter, we also have received a number of donations that add to the overall focus of the Archives. From the families of Josephine and Carmelite Janvier, Bertita Compton, and Marion Spencer Fay, we received scrapbooks. We also received papers and other memorabilia regarding their work from artists, writers, and composers - May Lesser, Lynda Benglis, Kristin Streubing-Beazley, Emilie Griffin, Danella Hero, Lee Grue, and Eugenie Rocherolle. We received other papers concerning their years at Newcomb and their interests from Gladys Williams Rawls, Dorothy Helm Welbourne, Sarah Douglass Beaumont, and Harriet Schupp. From Mildred Shaw Place, we received dazzling photographs, brochures, programs, and other materials on dancers such as Doris Humphrey, Martha Graham, Hanya Holm, and Isadora Duncan. We received a Newcomb insignia ring from Mary Riess. Finally, we received research materials gathered by Jody Blake in connection with her work on the Newcomb Pottery, as well as other art pottery, particularly in relation to exhibits at international fairs from 1900 to 1915.
All of these materials and researchers help us build an ever more detailed history of Newcomb and help us in our immediate survey of Newcomb on paper. You can learn more about and participate in such work by subscribing to our Newcomb history e-mail list, sophie-h. Here, we will post monthly a short message on the history of Newcomb and on various documents in Newcomb Archives. We hope subscribers will join us, adding memories and research on topics such as favorite professors, early graduates, architectural history, the genealogy of selected Newcomb alumnae, and many other subjects. The proceedings of the e-mail list will be archived automatically for online retrieval by scholars, alumnae and anyone interested in Newcomb's history.
To subscribe to sophie-h, send the following e-mail message to email@example.com: subscribe sophie-h [Your Name], e.g., subscribe sophie-h Susan Tucker. Messages to the list should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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