Archives in Summer
Posted on July 1, 2013
Ben Weinstock W'14
Time passes strangely at Wheaton. There are lulls, long stretches where everything seems asleep. My friends call these times “Camp Wheaton”. But then, all-of-a-sudden the gears begin to shift, and remarkably, life is happening. I always feel like the academic calendar gives way to this lurching start-stop motion, like time got the hiccups, or something.
Since you’ve been away, campus has gone very quiet -- this is one of the lulls. I’m spending my summer working in the Archives, though, and the experience is changing how I think about Wheaton’s hushed moments. The faculty are still here, busily thinking, researching, and planning; but even in your absence they have been joined by a devoted community of students seeking answers. Together we are searching for oceans on Europa and patterns in Anglo-Saxon poetry.
We are reading and writing; we are taking on projects and cleaning house. Even the squirrels have grown bolder. Last week I saw a cluster of them (“a scurry of squirrels”) communing for morning meeting on the Dimple, too absorbed in their business to be bothered by my presence.
Archives is reorganizing. In the last month, Logan Hinderliter W‘14 and I have moved hundreds of boxes as we have sorted through all of Wheaton’s old stuff, reboxing, relabeling, and taking inventory. It’s a lot of work, but we’re trying to put the important stuff front and center. I’ve posted some of the fun stuff to Facebook -- Einstein’s signature, the boots of Mrs. Tom Thumb, a lovely picture of the Wheatones circa 1963 -- but these are oddities. The Archives collection, taken as a whole, tells a powerful story. The collection is comprised of student essays and personal letters, academic correspondence (not to mention nearly two centuries of inter-departmental gossip,) the first issues of Rushlight, registries and real facebooks, clothing, banners, pennants -- blueprints and handprints. You really get a clear sense of how we grew up, and how we have changed. Archives tells us where we came from, who we were, and who we are now.
Perhaps I’m just enjoying the Archives’ powerful air conditioner, but I think we’re doing something capital-I Important down here. Wheaton is quiet, for sure, but keep your ear to the ground and you will realize that the gears are turning.