From the Archives

issue 03 | fall 2015
UnCommon Ground - From the Archives Fall 2015

Last spring, a Good Samaritan with no connection to Denison tracked down our archivist Sasha Griffin to tell her she had found this 1945 scrapbook in an antique store in Illinois. There were Denison postcards, a program from a May Queen ceremony, photos of Professor William Utter, and signs of a diligent student working on her honors project. Kappa Kappa Gamma sisters posed on the steps of the Cherry Street house, and friends sunbathed at Spring Valley, everyone’s favorite local resort in the 1940s. The book was signed “B.J. Oestmann.”

Betty Jane was in the class of ’46, as was her twin sister, Mary Jane. Both B.J. and M.J. studied chemistry, were members of Phi Beta Kappa, and it looks like they also found time for some fun in college.

How this book found its way into an antique shop, and even less likely into the hands of someone who knew we’d want it, remains a mystery. But we’re grateful. In the passing of time, these photos have grown beyond the personal and tell us so much about the zeitgeist of Denison: the clothes, the faces, the splendid priorities of being 20 and in college in 1945. Remember your alma mater when you’re cleaning out your closets.

Most of us don’t think too much about what might happen to these seemingly ephemeral artifacts after we’re gone—into the recycling along with the copies of National Geographic, or moldering with other family artifacts in a nephew’s attic. We tell ourselves they have no meaning to anyone but ourselves. Think again. If you’re downsizing or thinking of downsizing, Denison’s Archives would love first dibs on anything Denison, no matter how incidental, out of focus, or you-had-to-be-there it might seem to you.

Published November 2015
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