From Beanies to Letters to Concerts, Exhibit Explores Student Life
Library exhibit on display through March
It wasn’t easy being a freshman guy at Drew in the early 1940s. Bad enough you had to wear a placard around your neck with your name and hometown when you walked around campus freshman year, but you also had to keep your shoes shined, get a crew cut and wear your trademark “dink” green beanie at all times.
That’s according to a brochure titled “Freshman Rules for Brothers College” dated 1942-43.
Imagine being a female student in the 1920s and having a conduct letter written about you to the president of the university for the crime of wearing your hair in a short bob. It actually happened to a student, whose hair infraction caught the attention of the Dean of Women at the time.
These things really happened at Drew, and lots more according to “Student Life at Drew: 1867-2013,” an exhibit on display in the lobby of the Drew library and the United Methodist Archives & History Center through March 31.
On view are photographs, early historical documents, letters, rock concert posters and even a pair of 1960s regulation gym shorts.
“We’re hoping students will compare their lives now to the ones in the past,” says former Drew graduate students Matthew R. Beland G’08, Drew archivist, who co-curated the exhibit with Methodist Librarian Christopher J. Anderson G’06. “In some ways they were radically different.”
Some of the differences include the way students in the 1880s got financial aid. While tuition was free, students could borrow money from the McClintock Association to help pay room and board. A series of handwritten yellowed letters show that some students had a hard time paying back their loans and wrote asking for an extension – a challenge that still faces students today.
Similarities include student interest in sports, music and political activism. Rock icons from the 60s and 70s—including Jefferson Airplane,The Animals and Carly Simon—have appeared on campus, though music labels rarely send emerging bands to college campuses anymore. Athletes in black and white photos from the early 1900s can be seen playing volleyball in long pants and striped buttoned-up shirts.
“We want to let students know there are others who have done this before you,” Beland says. “There are similarities, things in common, including plays bands, musicals.”
The curators scoured the extensive collections at both the main library and the Methodist Library & History Center to draw in the university’s rich history – from its beginnings as a theological seminary in 1867 to its contemporary and diverse presence today. “I would like to see students view the exhibits as a (living) text,” says Anderson. “To spark curiosity and ask ‘What else is there.’”—Liz Moore