Ohio University

The Libraries Will Celebrate Founders Day with Music


Founders Day 2020 Banner
Graphic design by Herbert Frimpong/Ohio University Libraries

With the beginning of the new decade, Ohio University is celebrating 216 years since it was established by the general assembly of the state of Ohio on Feb. 18, 1804. Every year, the University celebrates Founders Day on Feb. 18, calling back to a time when it was the only institute of higher education in the old Northwest Territory. Now OHIO is recognized as the oldest university in the state of Ohio and the eighth oldest public university in the United States. Since its founding, Ohio University has expanded to offer 250 academic programs to students at 11 campuses across the state, with all 50 states represented in the student body at the main campus in Athens. 

To help commemorate Founders Day this year, the Libraries will be displaying an exhibit called “Celebrating Music at OHIO” on the fifth floor of Alden Library. The exhibit, which will open with a reception on Tuesday, Feb. 18 from 4-5:30 p.m., will highlight music that has been played by OHIO students, outside artists who have performed on campus, famous musical alumni and how the Athens community has celebrated music. The reception will feature several Ohio University ensembles, such as a graduate string quartet, and light refreshments will be provided. 

The Ohio University School of Music wasn’t established until 1917, but the music history at OHIO goes back much further. There is also a large amount of music on campus that happens outside of the academic programs. 

“We didn’t just want to focus on the School of Music,” said Joey Walden, Libraries support specialist and co-curator of the exhibit. “We wanted to make sure we [included] how music was influenced all throughout Ohio University, and how it related back to the community through Athens. The exhibit is not just stuff related to the School, but it includes some of the music enjoyed by the students as well.” 

Carla Williams, co-curator of the exhibit, is the music and special projects librarian for OHIO Libraries and the interim co-department head of Arts and Archives. She said she hopes that people will realize how much music has happened and is currently happening on campus. 

“[The exhibit] covers everything from popular music and classical music to Convo events and festival music,” she said, “we cover the School of Music, everything [is] fair game.” 

Williams explained that she had no idea how many popular people had played in Athens before she started digging into the history. Occasionally, some really famous acts played on OHIO’s biggest stages. 

“Hands down, the coolest thing I’ve found is that Led Zeppelin played here,” Walden said, “and the funny thing is they weren’t even the headliner! That year the man who sings Feliz Navidad [José Feliciano], he was the main act, and Led Zeppelin was the opener in the Convocation Center.”

The exhibit will feature information on past performances and professors at Ohio University, as well as sections highlighting the Marching 110, part of the University’s extensive sheet music collection and many other artifacts and documents. Portions of the exhibit featuring famous alumni will include pictures by photographers Herman Leonard and Charles “Chuck” Stewart, who photographed many famous jazz musicians after graduating from OHIO, and an exhibit on Sammy Kaye, famous bandleader and songwriter during the Big Band Era in the 1930s and 40s, which will feature part of the Libraries’ Sammy Kaye Collection.  

The oldest artifacts on display will be several illuminated manuscripts, or sheets of music that were written and artfully illustrated before the invention of the printing press, that date back to medieval times and are now housed in the Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections at Alden Library.

Williams hopes the history will appeal to a wide audience, beyond just music majors.

“Obviously I’ll invite all the music folk over…but I think anybody, if you’re interested in history or music history or the University history, or even just events and some of the things that were going on, you’ll be interested in the exhibit,” she said. 

Many of the photographs, sheet music and other resources came from the Music and Dance Library in Glidden Hall and the Libraries’ archives. The yearly Founders Day exhibits offer a chance for the Libraries to share some of the many unique artifacts in its collections. 

“Pretty much everything that we’ve got we had either in the archives, [or] we had it in the Music and Dance Library already,” Walden said. “If you want more information, the most obvious place would be the Music and Dance library, tucked away in Glidden Hall, and you’d want to see Carla Williams to get more of an idea of what’s happened here.”

The “Celebrating Music at OHIO” exhibit is free and open to the public, and will be available for viewing through the remainder of the spring semester. To request accommodations for the reception on Feb. 18, contact Jen Harvey.