We all know that Colgate University was founded in 1819 by thirteen men with thirteen dollars and thirteen prayers, but is that really all that there is to know? Most certainly not, and that is why George Dorland Langdon Jr., Professor of History and Africana & Latin American Studies Graham Hodges, and his colleagues met last Wednesday at the Colgate’s New History Panel discussion. Panelists included Russell Colgate Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy and Anthropology and Native American Studies Tony Aveni, the Thomas A. Bartlett Chair and Professor of English Jane Pinchin, as well as University Librarian Joanne Schneider.
In only eight years, Colgate will celebrate its bicentennial. The most recently written work on Colgate history is Howard Williams’s History of Colgate, and it continues to be one of the most definitive works on the subject today. However, Williams’s book only gave an account of the school’s history through 1969, leaving the four decades since then still undocumented.
Although the new history will act as a supplement to the History of Colgate, it will go in a decidedly different direction than the latter work.
“The new history will be less institutional in approach and focus more on such major changes as Colgate’s adoption of coeducation, the creation beginning with the Africana Center, of programs dedicated to studying diversity at Colgate and to the rapidly changing nature of Colgate’s student body,” Professor Hodges said.
This new direction is shown in the unique approach discussed in the colloquium. This approach contains two separate mediums in which the history will be told. The first proposed medium is a coffee table book that will be marketed toward alumni and parents of students. The coffee table book component would be less of an in-depth historical look at the legacy Colgate, and more of something for people to display at home and be proud of. The book’s emphasis would be on large illustrations and other visual items. The textual component would provide a supplement to Williams’s history.
However, for those interested in a more in-depth, scholarly history of their favorite school, it will be provided on the second medium of the new history: a historical multimedia website.
“The website would offer innumerable short histories of academic programs, important Colgate figures and events, athletics and the Greek system and virtually everything associated with the school,” Professor Hodges said.
Spearheaded by Ms. Schneider, the website is ambitious in its scope and relevance. Not only will the short histories cover almost any Colgate subject imaginable, they will be accompanied with many multimedia facets. When reading about the university’s coeducational efforts, the side of the web page might be display a letter from the President on the same subject or a short clip of film. There are also innumerable interviews with retired Colgate faculty that have been just recently recorded. These interviews can be posted on the website and provide invaluable firsthand accounts.
The only issue in dealing with the Internet is keeping the technology up-to-date.
“If we’re going to do this, we’re going to have to do this really well with intentionality,” Schneider said. “It can’t just be the library…we need that institutional buy-in.”
Although the website will be difficult, Schneider is confident that they can succeed.
So as the bicentennial anniversary approaches, keep a look-out for Colgate’s new history and inform yourself on your almamater’s glorious past.
Contact Matt Knowles at [email protected]te.edu.