A Glimpse of history at the Watkinson Library

As a student, what do you feel defines your time at Trinity? What combination of local and global issues will you remember as having shaped your overall college experience? After graduation, what tangible evidence will exist to present this history to future generations? The Watkinson Library and College Archive’s new exhibition, “Ten Decades of The Tripod, 1904 – 2004: A Century of Trinity from the Student Perspective”, is centered around the student history of Trinity as shown through the lens of The Tripod, All the way back to its establishment. The exhibition examines the interpretation of the past through the medium of the student publication, and provides a fascinating glance into the interpretation of history: how do those in the past record and discuss events which are contemporary to them? The exhibition provides insight into a variety of events.
The topics covered focus on Trinity’s campus throughout the college’s history, as well as large-scale national and global concerns. An issue from September 27th, 1904, for example, discusses Physics II, an emerging class which is focused on “electricity and light”, accompanied by laboratory work. Trinity traditions which are still central to the campus today are already shown to be firmly in place – for example, a 1915 songbook for “‘Neath the Elms” is on display. The song was already thirty-three years old, having been written by Augustus P. Burgwin in 1882. Trinity’s history as the second-oldest college in Connecticut is emphasized with Trinity’s Centennial celebration in 1923. However, The Tripod also deals with larger issues, such as World War I and II. The college’s transition to a co-educational model is also discussed throughout 1968, with the transition taking place in 1969.
The inevitability of new female students attending the college to search for husbands, a stereotype that is now considered somewhat antiquated, is bluntly discussed. Eventually, the Tripod begins to cover Tuition increases, which can be seen climbing up to $200, and eventually over $10000 and beyond. Unsurprisingly, The National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 is covered extensively in the issues from 1983 and 1984. 1980 follows the introduction of computers on campus, and 1984 subsequently chronicles the introduction of a new major, Computer Science.
The introduction of computers, as well as the pros and cons of social media, are heavily debated. Although these developments are presented in a Trinity specific format, their cultural influence cannot be overstated. It is valuable to see their introduction through a primary source, and the articles displayed hint that the writers were aware and a little wary of the future significance of the developments they are covering. According to Dr. Richard Ring, head curator and librarian of the Watkinson, the decision to focus an exhibition on The Tripod was the result of two events. Over the past summer, Dr. Francis Egan, professor emeritus, presented a donation to the library of six boxes which contained issues of The Tripod ranging from the 1960s to present. The Watkinson matched this donation with an equal number of archived issues from the 1980s and 1990s.
Additionally, Peter Rawson was appointed Associate Curator of Archives and Manuscript Collections at the Watkinson this past August. As Dr. Ring explained, “We felt that an exhibition celebrating Trinity’s history with our archives holdings would be fitting.”The exhibition is currently on display in the Raether Library and Information Technology Center Atrium as well as the Watkinson Library. The formal opening in late September will be announced on Trinity Today. At this opening, as well as other events such as Family Weekend and Homecoming, students will have the chance to win older issues of The Tripod. “Ten Decades of The Tripod” is a unique exhibition worth visiting, as it gives current students the chance to view history through the perspective of Trinity students over the past century. It is important to understand how much has changed since the days of an older Trinity, and at the same time, how much has stayed the same. The exhibition runs from September 7th through November 27th.

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