University Archives Collections Reveal Student Life

Ed note: This winter and spring we’re tweeting the daily diary of Margaret Boyd(@MaggieBoyd1873), Ohio University’s first alumna. On the blog, we’ll be featuring posts describing the issues that Boyd discusses in her diary or that she would have encountered as a student in 1873.  This post is by Bill Kimok, University Archivist, and describes the wealth of materials about student life available in the University Archives. 

The Ohio University Archives is a rich source for researching student life as it has existed and changed over the years. One needs only to look in the margins of Elizabeth Hollow’s Ohio University, 1804-2004 : The Spirit of a Singular Place  to see dozens of examples of images and items that the author gleaned from the archives to illustrate several of her wonderful stories about student life. (As one might assume, University Archives is also full of collections of papers which document the administrative history of the institution which it serves.)

While perusing information and images related to the life and times of Margaret Boyd is one way of examining Ohio University campus life and expectations during the early 1870s, the following are more examples of how Ohio University Archives collections, located in the Mahn Center, span the depth and breadth of student life over the course of the University’s history.

  • Green Goat Collection. Supreme among the many student publications that are contained in University Archives, the Green Goat is an excellent example of the humor, good prose, and even some poetry verse that may be found in such volumes.  Founded in 1913, and published intermittently until 1960, the Green Goat was known for its satire, humor, and some raciness that was expressed in creative covers, clever cartoons, and good writing. Although contemporary life is certainly the focus, today’s students often discover through reading the Green Goat that student thought has remained consistent through the years, even if the means of expression of student thought has changed.
  • Orson Knisely-Varner Letter Collection. The Knisely-Varner Letter Collection is comprised of handwritten letters between a couple who began dating while attending Ohio University during the early 1930s. The letters span from 1932 until after they were married in 1935, and they are not only an account of their relationship, but they also are a good representation of student life, social traditions and customs of the time, especially as these things applied to dating.
  • Student Scrapbook Collections. University Archives has several student scrapbooks which chronicle student life at OU during various decades. They are a great measure of change over time in culture, politics, social matters, behavior, and expectations, to name just a few areas.
  • University Photographer Collection. This is a huge collection of tens of thousands of photographic negatives and proof sheets depicting buildings, people, events, awards, athletics, classrooms, college greens, and other elements of student life in both posed and candid shots taken between 1960 and 2000.
  • Ohio University student newspapers on microfilm. Including the Green and White, 1912-1939, and the Ohio University Post, 1939-present, these newspapers are the absolute best source for beginning research into changes in student life over time, from concerts, dances, and festivals to athletics, student government, and social issues.
  • University Poster Collection. More than 1,500 posters representing various events, visitors, organizations, and causes over time beginning in late 1920s through the 1990s.  The posters are a wonderful mix of color, texture, and artistry. From the professionally produced slick public relations posters to cheap construction paper inscribed with magic markers, these posters are very popular items in any displays as they trigger alumni and staff memories.