University Libraries is celebrating Homecoming – as students, staff and faculty have returned home to campus after a tumultuous year – with a virtual and in-person display called, “It’s All Coming Back.” The virtual exhibit will be a history of Homecoming at Ohio University, which has been celebrated for over 100 years. The physical display will be available for viewing on the fourth floor of Alden Library Oct. 4 through Oct. 9. And will include yearbooks, alumni magazines, student newspapers, posters and many other interesting historical items representing 200+ years of OHIO history.
Bill Kimok, university archivist and records manager, curated the physical exhibit inside Alden and created the online exhibit with help from the staff in Digital Initiatives.
“The title is a double entendre,” he explained, “meaning that this year some people will be coming back to celebrate physically rather than just virtually …[and] the virtual exhibit itself is a trip back to old Homecoming traditions, which are still carried on to this day.”
In addition, the Libraries will be hosting button making for Homecoming on Oct. 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. outside Alden Library’s fourth floor entrance. According to Jen Harvey, the Libraries’ events coordinator, participants will be able to make custom buttons for themselves using copies of old OHIO yearbooks.
Homecoming has a long and rich history at OHIO including the annual parade and football game. The virtual exhibit will highlight archival materials of those traditions from years past that tell the stories of some particularly memorable Homecomings.
For example, in 1924 the University held a 1000-pound ox roast and 90-gallon burgoo (a type of stew) feast, and a few years later in 1927, people were excited to have some of the Homecoming events captured on a movie camera for the first time. There are some traditions that haven’t survived – like the fraternity polesitters, where fraternity brothers would climb up a very tall pole and sit there for the entire weekend; that ended in 1964. When Delta Tau Delta brothers were deposited on top of the pole by a cherry picker, according to Kimok, “the tradition…did not survive the weekend.”
The Libraries’ annual in-person Homecoming display has become a favorite tradition of current students and alumni alike. Although the coronavirus pandemic meant that much of the physical Homecoming celebrations were cancelled in Fall 2020, University Libraries’ librarians and archivists carried on the tradition through a virtual display.
“We hope that alumni will be interested [in both exhibits],” Kimok said. “Of course, we are always hoping that anything the Libraries does will also have a historical, educational aspect for present-day students. Just as important to us is that both alum and students recognize the value of our digitized resources, which are always open for them to explore.”
The online display is becoming a new Homecoming tradition, as last year’s virtual exhibit proved to be popular and helped people who couldn’t visit campus to connect with the University again during Homecoming Week.
Whether current and former OHIO students can make it in person to see “It’s All Coming Back,” or view the virtual exhibit remotely, the Libraries helps to connect them with the history of the University and reconnects them with their time and memories at Ohio University.
“When people say sometimes, ‘It’s all coming back to me now,’ they are often reminiscing about the past. That is what I hope they will do when they experience these Homecoming exhibits,” Kimok said.