An Open Letter to Andrew Lincoln, a.k.a. “The Walking Dead’s” Sheriff Rick Grimes

open_letter_andrew_lincoln_header Dear Mr. Lincoln,

That all of us at the Digital Projects Group are big fans of your work on America’s #1 Zombie Apocalypse Themed Television series is no surprise to anyone who reads this blog. Over the course of five seasons we’ve seen you grow from startled victim to grizzled leader of a hardened band of survivors. And far be it from us to tell you where you should go with Rick’s character development in season 6, but we found some information in our Baylor archives that we think would add some unexpected depth to a man pushed to the edge by events he can’t understand, let alone control.

I’m talking, of course, about playing the organ and joining a fraternity.

Now, hear me out. At first glance those don’t seem like the kind of skills RICK GRIMES would need in his tool set. But that would mean ignoring the contributions of two very real men named Rick Grimes, who happened to be Baylor students in the 1960s and the 1970s.

Rick Grimes I (The Organ Playing One)

The first Rick Grimes to show up in our records does so by way of an announcement of his junior organ recital.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 1.58.59 PMSee the original, full item here.

It was such a big deal, it even got coverage in the Lariat, the campus newspaper.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 2.02.11 PMSee the full newspaper issue here.

“Big deal,” you’re probably saying to yourself in your real, English accent. “So he could play a bunch of songs on an organ. How does that help Sheriff Rick?”

Well, take a listen (and look) at this clip of what the Toccata and Fugue in D minor sounds like, and tell us if that isn’t the perfect score for the post-zombie apocalypse.


Aside from it being atmospherically perfect for the blighted, paranoia-inducing nightmare landscape Sheriff Rick has to operate in every single day, the sheer complexity and overwhelming nature of it would stun every walker within a two-mile radius into complete submission by its awesomeness.

And 1961 Baylor student Rick Grimes played it – and five other pieces – to perfection.

Sure, toting around a gigantic pipe organ would be unrealistic. We’ll give you that one. But Sheriff Rick Grimes’ group spent time in a church this past season, and it’s not unrealistic to think that, now that you’re all in Alexandria, VA, you couldn’t just pop over to the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and use its 1938 Skinner and Son Organ Company organ to effectively neutralize the zombie menace in our nation’s capital. We’re just saying.

Rick Grimes II (The Fraternity One)

Maybe more practical skills are the kind of thing you’d like to bring to your character next season. Fine – how about the companionship, leadership abilities and general bonhomie to be found in a fraternity? Then you could take a tip from 1970s Baylor student Rick Grimes, who was a member of Kappa Omega Tau (KOT), a local fraternity.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 2.21.43 PMClick here for full item in the 1974 Round Up.

Look at that group of fresh faced young men, ready to take on any challenge … including an outbreak of a killer virus that turns the recently deceased into ambulatory corpses. Yes, even that!

This image of 1970s Baylor Rick Grimes – taken from the KOT photo for 1972 – shows an upright, clear eyed young man with an eye toward his future …

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.00.51 AM… not unlike a certain group leader, whose steely reserve has seen his ad hoc family through a series of increasingly desperate trials.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 9.30.57 AMYou’re practically twins!

We’d never presume to tell you how to play your character next season. Heck, we’re just so excited to see what you’ll do now that you’re poised to assume an even larger role in the leadership of the Alexandria Safe Zone that we’d be happy if you wound up doing a total 180 with Sheriff Rick and turning him into some Father Gabriel style pacifist. (Actually, scratch that. We wouldn’t like that at all.)

But if season 6 finds you seated at an immense pipe organ, wearing a sash with Greek letters on it and grimly dispatching of rotters, walkers, biters and the like with just the skill in your fingers and the determination in your heart, we wouldn’t have a problem with that, either.


This post is part of a series of Open Letters to musicians, authors and others that we hope will connect our collections to prominent people in America. If you have someone to suggest, or if you’re the subject of this post and want to drop us a line, send us an email (digitalcollectionsinfo@baylor.edu).

Season 6 of The Walking Dead premieres this fall. You can follow them on Twitter at @walkingdead_amc.

Caps, Gowns and College Towns: Collegiate Life in The Spencer Collection

It’s cap and gown season here on the campus of ol’ BU, and the class of 2015 has a lot to celebrate. Years of study, focus and passion come together in a 20-second walk across the stage to acquire their sheepskins and cross the threshold into alumni-hood.

Themes related to college life find unique expression in a collection of early 1900s sheet music found in the Frances G. Spencer Collection. We thought it’d be fun to look at a few – including their lyrics! – as we say “adios” to the men and women of ’15.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 10.16.03 AMCover, The Co-Ed Waltzes, by Clara Douglas, 1909

We think the young lady on the cover bears a striking resemblance to one of Baylor’s own 1909 graduates: Mary Elizabeth Walker.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 11.22.53 AMAbout Walker, this was written in the 1909 Roundup:

Mary is a studious Senior, though at times one might question her dignity. She ran for Baylor’s old maid in ’08 and, much to her sorrow, was defeated. She has made a splendid record in Baylor and has won the confidence and respect of her classmates. She hopes to have a red automobile by the time school is out, like the one she saw in England.”

It’s worth noting that the tone of the early yearbooks is often quite comedic, so there’s no reason to think Ms. Walker would actually have her dignity questioned. But we do suspect she saw a red automobile in England; that seems too specific to be contrived.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 10.34.07 AMCover of Lincoln’s College Flag by Heelan and Helf, 1912

The lyrics to this piece indicate that, while other young people pledge their commitment to the flags of their alma maters, young Abraham Lincoln pledged his life to the service of the United States.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 10.12.39 AMCover for And They Say He Went To College, by Moran and Furth, 1907

Lest you think the folks of 1907 gave too much deference to college educated men, check out just the first verse and the chorus of this song from the musical comedy The Orchid.

VERSE
In a Restaurant the other night, the best one in New York
I saw a man who vainly tried to eat soup with a fork
My heart went out in pity, every time his fork would plunge
He didn’t know the right way to eat soup is with a sponge

CHORUS
And they say he went to College,
Where he gained a lot of knowledge
He acted like a lobster with an amputated claw
When a bowl near him the waiter laid
Why he wash’d his hands in lemonade
And they say, they say he went to college
Rah, rah, rah!

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 10.32.02 AMCover, Her Eyes Are Blue For Yale, by Hough, Adams and Howard, 1909

Women don’t make out especially well in the comedic college-related songs of the era, either, as this tune about a girl who’s pledged her love to collegiate beaus of varying hues.

VERSE
Never give your heart just to one
No man’s worth it under the sun
Keep them guessing and they’ll adore you
It’s lots of fun

College days are full of joy
Play the same game with ev’ry boy
The College flirt wears her favorite colors
Combined in one

CHORUS

Her eyes are blue for good old Yale,
Her lips are Harvard’s hue
And her golden hair with a bow of black
Are Princeton’s colors too
She wears Chicago’s old maroon
Ann Arbor’s maize and blue
Because to fifty college men
She’s trying to be true

You may say her heart is untrue
Still what can a pretty girl do?
Why on earth should she save all her charms for
Just one or two

College days are fleeting as Spring
Youth and joy and love may take wing
Still in memory’s tender dreams
Come back to you

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 10.26.21 AMCover, Here Comes A College Boy, by Horwitz and Bowers, 1909

Lastly, here’s a piece about the chaos that attends a college boy’s return to his hometown. Waiters and theater owners beware!

VERSE
Who’s that walking down the street
Rah, rah, rah, rah, rah, rah
Rather young and rather neat
Hip-a Hip-oo-ray!
Walks as if he owns the town
Will he turn it upside down
Spreading news about the town
Here comes a college boy

CHORUS
Oh joy, oh joy! A noisy college boy!
Here comes a college boy
He is his daddy’s joy
Full of knowledge learn’d at college
Boxing, rowing, football knowledge
Now give the college cry
Um-pa, um-pa, ump, oh my
Close the theaters, tell the waiters
Here comes a college boy

VERSE
Who’s that spending money there
Rah, rah, rah, rah, rah, rah
On a lady young and fair
Hip-a Hip-oo-ray!
Who’s that fellow opening wine
Asking ev’ry one to dine
Treating everybody fine
Why, that’s a college boy.


To all our graduating Baylor Bears, we say best of luck in the great, wide world, and watch out for tricky bowls of soup!

A Campus Divided? The Historic Precedent for the “Bearlin Wall”

To the Baylor Campus Community,

As President Abraham Lincoln said during the dark days prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Those words may have slipped into the realm of cliche to those of us in the enlightened 21st century, but they hold truer than ever as we face the great struggle of our time: the Bearlin Wall.

The Wall

The Wall

Battle lines have been drawn. Entrenchments have been entrenched, forts have been fortified, provisions have been provided for: conflict is imminent. Passions are inflamed as loyalties are pledged to the King in the North (Art Briles) and the King in the South (Burt Burleson and/or Ken Starr – there appears to be a power struggle afoot).

But may we, your humble digital collections social media team, ask you all to cool your ardor for confrontation and consider that this divisive situation actually has historic precedent, as made evident by this surviving artifact of what became known as the 5th Street War of 1939*.

And this conflict featured a brick wall.

This hand drawn map, created by E.H. Ramirez, documents a time of division and turmoil that coincided with the general political unease felt around the world in the run-up to World War II. Here is the map in its entirety:

1939 map of campus by E.H. Ramirez (Click to enlarge)

1939 map of campus by E.H. Ramirez (Click to enlarge)

As you can see, the majority of campus development at the time was in the more industrialized, heavily settled South. The dividing line then, as now, was Fifth Street. While the North was largely rural at the time of the 5th Street War, it did house the Rena Marrs McLean Gymnasium, which meant the Northern forces had access to a swimming pool, so they had that going for them (which was nice).

But a closer look shows that even in the halcyon days of the late 1930s, there existed a structure whose very purpose was to divide, to exclude, to prevent the very kind of conflict we’re living through today: the Brick Wall.

inset-map-BU-1939

Inset of 1939 map. Click to enlarge.

Yes, in the days before the great edifice known as the Bill Daniel Student Center/the SUB was there to serve our every Dr Pepper Hour and last-minute Chik-fil-A craving, there stood an imposing barrier of brick and mortar, a stark delineation between the people South of the Wall and those North of It.

The Brick Wall’s ostensible purpose was to keep bystanders from wandering into the field of play while gridiron and baseball action was taking place on Carroll Field, but its real function became obvious in time: to keep the Others out.

No one knows who fired the first shots that eventually culminated in the 5th Street War of 1939. Perhaps it was a zealous Southerner, caught up in the unquenchable thirst for a dip in the pool. Or perhaps a nervous Northerner, long envious of the fine brick structures of the South, unloaded on a hapless Southerner after misunderstanding the punchline to a joke that was popular at that time. The historical record is silent on its cause, but the after effects of the 5th Street War of 1939 were stark. Consider:

  • In the years following the War, every structure shown on this map that lay to the North of 5th Street (except for Marrs McLean Gym) was destroyed. In its place today are structures like Morrison Hall, Fountain Mall, Sid Richardson Building and the Moody Memorial Library.
  • The South suffered loss as well: the Baylor Men’s Hospital, Little Theatre Work Shop, Baylor Beauty Shop and more were lost.
  • The presence of livestock near Waco Creek (represented on the map by a “contented” longhorn cow) was completely eliminated from the campus.

But despite the pain, loss and clutching of pearls that followed in the wake of the 5th Street War of 1939, the campus slowly mended its divisions in the ensuing decades and entered into a Golden Age of unity, presided over by the dual guiding lights of academic excellence and (eventually) football dominance.

Let us take our example from these previous generations and work to unite in the face of a potentially disastrous situation. We must embrace the things that make us all Baylor Bears, that transcend the temporary inconvenience of a few yards of construction barricade. After all, as the great Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie sang on their hit song “Black Sun,”

There is an answer in a question
And there is hope within despair
And there is beauty in a failure
And there are depths beyond compare
There is a role of a lifetime
And there’s a song yet to be sung
And there’s a dumpster in the driveway
Of all the plans that came undone

Let us choose the hope within despair, and let the dumpster in the driveway (5th Street) be hauled away, filled with the rubble born of aesthetic progress. If we can but hold firm for a few fleeting months, our fair Fountain Mall will once again bring forth sparkling waters from the fecund bosom of the Earth, as seen in this artist’s rendering.

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 1.14.22 PMSo embrace your Northern kin, Southern Bear. Share a meal with one another, cavort on the mall, fling your green and gold afar, hand in hand as you go. The schism of today will be the fond memory of tomorrow, and we will live with the examples of both the 5th Street War of 1939 and the Great Unification of 2015 firmly in our hearts … together.

– Your Friends in the Digital Projects Group


*Not an actual war. This whole piece is, of course, a work of satire, based around the opportunity to showcase a really cool (and very real) map of the campus drawn by a student in 1939. But you all knew that already – after all, you ARE smarter than the average bears.

The 1939 Map of Campus by E.H. Ramirez is from the holdings of The Texas Collection. See the map in our Digital Collections here.

 

Classic Post: In A Time Of Uncertainty, The Pursuit of Permanence Reinforced

The article below originally ran on April 18, 2013, one day after a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas destroyed the facility and caused 15 fatalities (mostly first responders) and millions of dollars in property damage. We are reposting the article on this, the two-year anniversary of the event.

The aftermath of an explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, April 17, 2013. (Photo via BusinessInsider.com)

At the time of this writing, the campus of Baylor University is quiet, subdued under a twin burden thanks to the dismal weather (due to a cold front/rainstorm combo) and an event that occurred just twenty short miles up the road in West. As reports roll in documenting the destruction – physical, emotional, communal – wrought by an explosion at a fertilizer plant on the north side of town, the Baylor community is responding with a prayer vigil, offers of donations of materials and financial gifts, and the use of our collective expertise in helping the citizens of West find new hope in the rubble of last night’s wreckage.

As we try to come to grips with the scope of devastation, it comes at a time when the national mood is already unsettled due to the bombings at the Boston Marathon on Monday. Add into the mix the fact that this, the third week in April, has seen traumatic national events in the past two decades (the Columbine High School massacre, the Oklahoma City bombing and the Branch Davidian standoff, chiefly) and you have a general sense of discomfort, a time of unwanted reflection on the darker side of human nature.

All of this may seen like a strange topic for a blog post focused on digital collections, but it reinforces an absolutely inarguable point: life is uncertain. We can build legal structures, steel-studded concrete walls, social norms and inner rationalizations to protect us from the things beyond our control, but they can only take us so far. For all of us will face an event in our lives that we cannot control, that is beyond our power to influence. And in the midst of that uncertainty, it helps to have reminders that our daily work to preserve the documented history of our campus, our community, our world is one way we can provide the tumultuous present with a concrete anchor to the past.

“The Preservers of History”

Chiseled into the stonework of the façade of Pat Neff Hall, Baylor’s main administration building, is a quote from former Baylor president (and two-term Texas governor) Pat Morris Neff. It reads, “The preservers of history are as heroic as its makers,” and I believe this sums up our role in the Digital Projects Group in a simple, profound way that paragraphs of explanatory text cannot. We are the preservers of history, yes, by the nature of our work to digitize physical history and preserve its digital surrogate for access by the future. But more important than simply scanning and archiving data, we are preserving the stories contained within those documents and we are ensuring that those stories will be accessible and available to people many years from now. On days like today, it seems particularly important to preserve the stories happening all around us, even if they aren’t as newsworthy as an explosion, a natural disaster, or a terrorist attack.

This is not a responsibility we take lightly, of course. For every artifact, archival resource, photograph, map or other item that comes through our doors, we know we are handling the “real stuff” of history and it is our job to take that one unique thing and give it a new life, a greater usefulness in the realm of academic scholarship and worldwide access. In a sense, we serve not so much as the preservers of history but as its spokesmen, the professional communicators tasked with taking something out of its phase box, Mylar sleeve or acid-free folder and putting it on an international stage via the Internet so its unique story can reach people on our campus, on our continent, on the other side of the world.

The Way of All Flesh (and Data)

We are given only a short time on this Earth to do the work we were created to do. There will come a time when the words of this blog will be seen as a record of what one group of people thought was important in the early decades of the 21st century. They will read of a fertilizer plant explosion in a small, Czech community in central Texas and want to know more about how it spurred a library staff member at Baylor University to write about its relation to digital preservation.

To those future researchers –and to my 2013 contemporaries reading this post today – I can only say that as this week’s unexpected events have unfolded on the East coast and a half-hour drive from my front door, it drives home to me the frailty of life, the knowledge that the things we create today are not promised to exist tomorrow, and that the challenge for our field is to try to find some permanence in the world, to promise our grandchildren’s grandchildren that they will have access to the world we are living in today. And, more importantly than all of this, that they will have access to our stories.

If you would like to assist the people of West in their recovery and rebuilding efforts, please visit Baylor’s “Response for the City of West” web age or contact the Central Texas Red Cross. Photo from REUTERS photographer Mike Stone via Business Insider (www.businessinsider.com)

“Lord, Don’t Forget About Me” – Thoughts on Sustainability, Digital Collections and Museums

buffet_quote_imageThis week, I’ve been attending the Texas Association of Museums’ annual conference in Ft. Worth (a.k.a. Cowtown, a.k.a. Funkytown). Amid the usual offerings on how to engage preschool visitors, trends in collections management and how to navigate federal law as it relates to Native American ceremonial items, one of the recurring themes has been the idea of sustainability. Not in the environmentally friendly, pro-recycling sense of the term, but in something more stark: do struggling museums deserve to survive, and if so, what can we do to help? Are museums doomed to fail because they are in thrall to their habits – good and bad – and unable to undertake significant change?

Specifically, there was a major report funded by the Summerlee Foundation that examined the state of historic museums in Texas, and the findings were eye-opening. Many of the state’s history-focused institutions have entered into a mode that can charitably be described as “perpetuation.” In other words, they’ve grown past the initial fervor that brought them into being in the first place – saving a historic structure, for example – and have entered into a second or third generation of leadership whose focus is on maintaining the status quo, or, at worst, keeping the whole affair from closing altogether.

This is discomforting news for many of the state’s 1,000+ historic sites and museums, as it indicates a lack of strong leadership, compelling history, innovative business models and the other positive attributes identified by the Summerlee report that are key to an institution’s survival. Implicit in all of this discussion is a question many museum professionals are hesitant to ask: If an institution that has pledged itself to add permanence to an impermanent resource (i.e. a physical collection or structure) is now in jeopardy, at what point do we say, “enough is enough?” We don’t expect for-profit institutions and businesses to last in perpetuity; stores go out of business all the time. But we DO expect our museums to last forever because they serve a higher purpose, namely, holding cultural assets in the public trust.

So Where Do Digital Collections Enter Into The Discussion?

The crux of this conversation focuses on our brick-and-mortar (and lathe, and log, and millwork, and adobe) brethren, but there are lessons here for institutions like our Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections, too.

While we aren’t restricted by the requirement that we care for an aging, actively deteriorating physical structure, we do have built-in costs related to our work. Servers, digitizing equipment, staffing, storage for physical items: all of these costs are inherent in the work we do. Without a scanner, a server and people to run them both, we can’t create a digital surrogate of a rare black gospel 45, and we can’t put it online for the world to experience it.

Being part of a major university certainly makes our position more stable than many of our historic sites colleagues, but even we aren’t immune from the changing whims of researchers, students and the general public. So long as the requests keep coming in for access to 19th century sheet music, the works of women poets and back issues of our campus newspaper, we will see the obvious demand for the resources we are committed to creating and hosting into the future.

But if there comes a point where online access to collections is considered as quaint as handling an authentic butter churn – that is, something you do once on a vacation and not something that has relevance to your daily life – that’s when we’ll know we’ve moved from a cause to a burden. It’s at that crucial point where so many historic sites are caught today, and it’s something we are actively planning to avoid.

We Must Sing In Full Voice

A big part of avoiding the “in perpetuation” mindset is to keep our voice fresh, to keep seeking new ways to engage with users of all stripes, and to spread the word about the uniqueness, usefulness and openness of our resources.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, wrote a number of rules for singing in his congregations. One of them was,

Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.

I think that advice is fitting for us as we work to create and promote our university’s unique cultural heritage assets via our digital collections. If we are engaged with the work, if we are focused and enthusiastic about what we do, that will show in our output, and people will carry the torch for us. But if we falter, if we give only a halfhearted effort, that, too, will show, and we’ll see an attendant downturn in interest.

But fear not, friends of our work: we have no plan to grow weary, to find our work a cross to bear rather than a song to sing, and we are fully committed to maintaining and expanding our collections “forever and ever, amen.” And the more you can help us by spreading the word to your friends and colleagues, the easier it will be to make sure our work is sustainable for generations to come.

One last note: if there’s a historic house museum, a county historical society or other history-related resource in your area, do all you can to support them. Pay them a visit, make a donation, volunteer to serve on their board of trustees, post something nice about them on Facebook; any help we can provide to our fellow culture preservers only benefits us as a society, and it keeps some really great people employed, too.