Rollins Archives Celebrates Its 65th Anniversary

Students examining primary source materials in the Archives for a class assignment

In February 1954, President Hugh F. McKean submitted a proposal to the Board of Trustees to establish the Department of Archives and Historical Records at Rollins. The previous year, the trustees had appointed a Diamond Jubilee Commission, charged with organizing the College’s 75th Anniversary celebration in 1960. As part of their work, the Commission had begun organizing official and historic records of the College, and the need for a formal organization had become clear. As President McKean stated, “It is our responsibility to provide for the preservation of our valuable records.”

Although the official founding did not occur until 1954, efforts to collect historical items began much earlier. Historian Alfred J. Hanna ’17 ’45H, who led the effort to celebrate the College’s 1935 Semicentennial celebration, began collecting materials to mark this anniversary in 1933, with the assistance of Watt Marchman ’33. Though this was an informal appointment, Mr. Marchman was the first person to hold the title of Archivist at Rollins.

Prof. Alfred J. Hanna ’17 ‘45H (left) and Watt Marchman ‘33

Among the items collected for the Semicentennial were dozens of “Rollins Reminiscences” from our earliest students and faculty members, including those of Prof. William Webster Lloyd, who taught on the first day of class in 1885.

William Webster Lloyd, Professor of Ancient Languages from 1885 to 1886

The first official archivist was Frederick Lewton ‘30H, who was appointed on a part-time basis soon after the Archives was formally established. Dr. Lewton had been one of the College’s earliest students, which he felt gave him “a rich background of memories which I find most helpful in my present work for the college.” He served as the College Archivist until his death in 1959. Mrs. Lewton later wrote fondly about her husband’s work in the Archives, saying, “He enjoyed it so much as he loved Rollins.”

Fred Lewton and fellow students boating on Lake Virginia in 1889

In the years following its establishment, the Archives added tens of thousands of photographs and administrative documents, scholarly papers, campus publications, a collection of maps, and College memorabilia to its holdings. A card catalogue to manage the growing collections was created in the 1960s, under the supervision of Prof. Alfred J. Hanna and Evelyn Draper, who served as Archivist from 1960 to 1973. Both were assisted during these years by Dorothy Shepherd Smith ’33.

Archivist Frederick Lewton, Dorothy Shepherd Smith, and Della F. Northey (editor of the Union Catalog  of Floridiana), pictured on the left in 1956-1957. Archivist Evelyn Draper is pictured on the right.

The card catalogue was the primary collection management tool for approximately forty years, including the many years the Archives was managed by Prof. Kathleen J. Reich and Archival Specialist Gertrude Laframboise. During this time, the department expanded to include collections such as Rare Books, the Special Florida Collection, and the William Sloane Kennedy Memorial Collection of Whitmaniana, officially becoming the Department of Archives and Special Collections.

Prof. Kathleen Reich (left; Archivist from 1985 to 2001), and Gertrude Laframboise (Archival Specialist from 1985 to 2010) in their offices at Mills Memorial Library
Prof. Julian Chambliss and his students working in the Archives, with the card catalogue in the background. Although no longer the primary collection management tool, the card catalogue remains in use as a reference source.

Today a digital collection management tool allows researchers to search our finding aids online and browse photographs in our Digital Archives. Our digital presence is growing, with many scholarly works, College publications (such as The Sandspur and the Tomokan yearbook), and oral histories preserved in our digital repository, Rollins Scholarship Online. The College’s website, a primary source of important “born-digital” information, is also regularly archived. The Archives is excited to be collecting official Rollins social media posts too, through a tool called ArchivesSocial.  Preserving our local and institutional history in the digital realm is the work of our Digital Archivist, Prof. Rachel Walton.

Prof. Rachel Walton with a class in the Archives

The digital era presents new opportunities to reach out to the Rollins community and others interested in the history of the College and Central Florida. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow the Archives to share news and information online, and email makes it possible for us to provide research assistance to patrons and scholars from around the world.

Members of the Class of 1969, visiting the Archives during their 50th Reunion weekend

The Rollins College Archives team is happy to welcome an ever-increasing number of students, alumni, faculty, and community researchers to our physical and online spaces. Whether print or digital, we take pride in sustaining the same mission and work of our founders, Alfred J. Hanna and Frederick Lewton: To assemble, preserve and make accessible official College records and other special collections, in support of historical research, teaching, and learning at Rollins.

Prof. Wenxian Zhang, Head of Archives and Special Collection, with a class in the Archives. Prof. Zhang has served as the College’s Archivist since 2001.

~ by D. Moore, Archival Specialist

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