By Tessa Dufresne
Ever wonder what is tucked away behind Alden Library’s fifth floor glass doors?
The Robert E. and Jean R. Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections is open to anyone interested in history and holds unique, primary documents, such as student diaries and scrapbooks, original photographs, and memorabilia that represent the life and history of southeast Ohio and the state's first university.
In celebration of Ohio University’s founding in 1804, University Archivist and Records Manager Bill Kimok shared some of his favorite pieces from the archives.
Before the days of Backdrop Magazine, The Green Goat, the campus’s first independent student publication, launched Jan. 1913, was known for its “satire, humor, and some raciness,” said Kimok.
Founded by Virgil Falloon and Carl Foss and sold for 15 cents, the magazine, written by members of the University’s fraternities and sororities, sought to amuse and gently ruffle a few feathers.
After disappearing for more than nine years, The Green Goat reemerged in 1922. The magazine was known for its sassiness, covering issues such as sexuality and its necessity.
“Students of today are surprised that students were actually talking about some of these things back in the 1920s and 1930s,” said Kimok.
The magazine fell again in 1933 as the Great Depression made it tough for students to shoulder the printing costs of an independent publication. Its final run was from 1951 to 1961 as a scandalous, rarely censored off-campus student publication.
Joanne Prisley, a 1953 OHIO alumna, said The Green Goat is something she “remember(s) fondly” from her days on campus. She said the staff who “took pride in what they were doing” and patterned their work on national magazines.
The handwritten letters that span the first steps of Orson Knisely and Bernice Varner’s romantic relationship while at Ohio University depict the 1930s from the eyes of students.
“(They are) not only an account of their relationship, but are a good representation of student life at Ohio University during that time,” said Kimok. And they also represent “social traditions and customs of the time, especially as they applied to dating.”
In the letters, the pair discusses matters such as their families, their desires to visit one another, their studies, and their activities on and off campus.
The collection, donated to the University by the couple's daughter Barbara Bernice Knisely Gaeddert, covers 1932 until shortly after their marriage in 1935.
Jessanne Timon Allen’s compilation of four scrapbooks document her time as a student at Ohio University from 1966 to 1971, when the strict gender rules were beginning to change significantly.
Each book records a single academic year, organized chronologically, and includes documents of each year’s events from fall through spring. Her written accounts, ticket stubs, event programs, souvenirs, newspaper clippings, and even color photographs of the May 1968 flood fill the scrapbooks.
Kimok touts Allen’s scrapbooks as some of his favorites, among the many alumni albums the archives holds, as they truly capture the scope of student life at the University.
The more than 1,500 posters housed in the archives illustrate the vast political, social, and cultural climates on the Ohio University campus over 90 years.
The first poster is from Theodore Roosevelt’s visit to Ohio University in 1912 while on his campaign trail for the presidency.
The collection features professionally printed posters advertising speakers during China Week in 1973, low-budget handbills imploring students to join the Civil Rights Movement, and construction paper-and-marker signs for residence hall events.
“They excellently represent their times and they are a wonderful mix of color and texture, and professionally slick versus homemade,” said Kimok.
“The most important thing about being a college woman is being a lady,” begins the 1963-64 “You the Coed” student handbook.
The handbooks collected from 1922 to 2002 instruct University students on the proper campus procedures and manners, and have a range of titles, including “You the Coed,” for females, explaining social expectations and proper dress, and “You the College Man,” explaining proper behavior for men in college.
Among the rules for women, Kimok said one still often reminisced about is the female curfew, called “hours.” Women were required to be in their residence halls by 10:30 p.m. Men were not subject to “hours.”
Kimok said, “Women students of today especially are surprised and entertained in learning that women had such different and strict rules than the men as late as the late 1960s.”
Prisley said the atmosphere on campus was different. She noted that women would have been expelled for engaging in 21st century dating practices.
Kimok’s five favorites provide a glimpse into a large and varied collection encompassing hundreds of objects. The staff of the Mahn Center encourage you to visit and discover your own favorites. The Robert E. and Jean R. Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections is located on the fifth floor of Alden Library Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays noon to 4 p.m. For more information, please click here.