Where does Mount Holyoke College historical material come from, and how does it get to Archives & Special Collections? Well, sometimes it comes out of the walls!
Last week two facilities staff members, Mike Hurley and Jerry Blain, were repairing a fireplace mantel in the Brigham dormitory when they discovered a small cache of old papers in the brickwork. The two gentlemen immediately recognized that these materials may have historical value to the college and Mr. Blain delivered them to the Archives.
How very lucky for us that they discovered these papers, saved them, and brought them over!
Here's what we have...
There are two calling cards (one for a Miss Kennedy; another for a Mrs. Mead); an undated picture postcard from Mt. Lowe, CA; a student note replying to a faculty invitation to a dinner party, circa 1912; a February 1913 calendar page; and, finally, a letter tucked neatly inside an envelope postmarked from Crete in April 1912.
It's this last item, the handwritten letter written almost exactly 100 years ago, that is the most interesting of the bunch to me. With the signature of the letter writer ("Eleanor"),
the name of the addressee ("Miss Amy Hewes"),
and a bit of digging into 100-year-old Mount Holyoke course catalogs I was able to learn more about it.
The letter was written by Eleanor Rowland, an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Psychology, to her colleague Amy Hewes, Professor of Economics and Sociology. Rowland, who was about 22 years old at the time, was traveling in Greece and reporting back on her activities and adventures. She is a wonderful letter writer and fills her six pages of paper with details.
Professor Rowland seems to have been accompanying other travelers who were part of an anthropology dig and mentions seeing "graceful little pots" and "a tiny alabaster pig come out of their retiring place after 4000 years in hiding." Her letter has only been hiding at Mount Holyoke for 100 years, but we are delighted to have it!
How did this letter and the other papers find themselves behind a Brigham fireplace? We may never know for certain, but we do know that Amy Hewes lived in Brigham along with other faculty members in 1912. I imagine Professor Hewes placing that letter and decorative ephemera on top of the mantel only to have the items slip down between the wall and the mantel and disappear.
Come and visit these treasures in the Archives reading room, Monday through Friday, 9:30 to noon and 1 to 4:30pm -- they've been waiting 100 years to meet you!