Welcome to our first guest post here on the BU Libraries Digital Collections blog! We’re excited to welcome Sierra Wilson, a graduate student from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying Library and Information Science. Sierra has been with us this summer working as an intern. Her assignment: the sprawling Baylor University News Releases project, outlined in a previous blog post. Take it away, Sierra!
My name is Sierra, and I was an intern this summer at Baylor’s Riley Digitization Center. My last day is on Friday, and I’m sad to be leaving the RDC behind to return to school. I am not new to Baylor; I grew up in Waco and graduated from Baylor in 2008. Last year, I started graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where I study Library and Information Science. My main interest in grad school has been in archives and special collections, and how these materials can be made more accessible by the use of technology. My internship this summer was the perfect opportunity to learn more about the equipment and techniques libraries use to achieve this goal.
Although I have been lucky to work on many different projects this summer, most of my time here has been spent working on the Baylor Press Release project that Eric posted about earlier this summer. After we sorted thousands of press releases into chronological order (no small feat!), the next step was actually digitizing them. To do this, we load the press releases into binders and scan them with a machine called the Kirtas, which turns the pages of books to speed up the scanning process. This is the part of the process with which I have been the most involved. Back in June, I started scanning in 1960 (earlier press releases were scanned on a flatbed scanner); as of this week, my co-workers and I have scanned a decade and half of press releases!
I will admit that there have been times that I never wanted to see another press release again, but I’m sad that I’ll be leaving this project before its completion. Seeing this task go from a massive, daunting heap of boxes to an organized, streamlined system has been extremely satisfying. It’s been an important part of my learning experience this summer to see the digitization center’s staffers tackle such a hefty problem.
One of the most interesting parts of the project has been the opportunity to learn more about the history of Baylor and Waco. I read about the changing landscape of campus, with the addition of buildings like Moody Library and the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center in the late 1960s and early 1970s, as well as the continual growth of the student body. Of course, sometimes Baylor history repeats itself: the Noze brotherhood was banned from campus in 1965.
Over the time I’ve spent working on this project, I started keeping a list of the most unusual press releases I came across. I found myself surprised (and often amused) by the nationally known figures that came to Baylor to speak or perform. Baylor folk often talk about the “Baylor Bubble,” that invisible barrier that sometimes seems to shield the campus from the outside world, but these press releases prove that Baylor has always played an important, active role in the world around it. Sometimes Baylor’s visitors were prestigious, and some are just downright unusual, and I would never have imagined before this project that any of them would have come to Baylor.
Sierra’s Top Five Unusual Press Releases
October 20, 1972
Jon Voight comes to Baylor to campaign for George McGovern
There’s something strange in the idea that a big movie star like Jon Voight would come to Baylor to campaign for McGovern. That’s like Brad Pitt coming to campaign for John Kerry in 2004: hard to imagine. But he did, not that it made much of a difference for McGovern’s campaign for president.
April 30, 1965
Nina Simone performs at Baylor May Day festivities
Nina Simone was a well-known singer-songwriter, pianist, and civil rights activist, and I was shocked that Baylor would have brought in someone as famous as Simone to be their featured May Day performer. May Day seems to have been the predecessor to Diadeloso.
March 23, 1973
Lenore Romney speaks at Chapel
In March of 1973, Lenore Romney, the wife of George Romney and mother of current presidential candidate Mitt Romney, was a speaker at Chapel. She herself had recently lost a race for U.S. Senator in the state of Michigan, and spoke about her experience as a woman running for office. Who knew?
September 28, 1974
Erich von Daniken lectures at Baylor
If you’ve ever come across the History Channel’s “Ancient Aliens” program, then you are familiar with Erich von Daniken’s ideas about alien contact with ancient civilizations. At the time of this speaking engagement at Baylor, von Daniken had recently published Chariots of the Gods?, which details his unusual (and frequently discredited) theory that the development of human civilization could have aided by extraterrestrial contact. I wonder what the Baylor community thought about him?
May 28, 1965
President Lyndon Baines Johnson speaks at Baylor commencement
I bet you didn’t know that President Lyndon Baines Johnson had family ties to Baylor, did you? It turns out his maternal great-grandfather was the president of Baylor from 1861-2. LBJ wasn’t the first sitting president to speak at Baylor, either; he was preceded by both Eisenhower and Truman.
The Baylor University News Release collection is being scanned and processed at this time. Images above are for illustrative purposes and are not available via the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections at this time. We’ll post an update to let users know when they can access this impressive collection!