Treasures From the Archive- Nature’s Face Lifters

One of the things I like most about working in the Archives and Special Collections area is that I never know what I will find next.  The following is an item I ran across in a box of donated items that mostly were concerned with concerts and ceremonies held on campus in the 1940s.  This however stood out in that box as something really special.  I felt obligated to share.



Old Tape Players, and Guest Speakers

There are two things that have always fascinated me, photographs and sound recordings. In a lot of ways, it seems like some sort of actual magic that we can take a photograph of a single moment in time and then look at it later, or that we can record a voice or a sound and listen to it later. I love looking at old photographs and noticing the clothes, the facial expressions, the subtle body language in people in the backgrounds- it is fascinating. Old sound recordings hold this sort of fascination for me too. Listening to the way people talk, their pauses, their “go-to” words, background sounds- fascinating.

The problem with sound recordings though is that over the years we have changed the way we make recordings. In 1857 Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville invented the phonautograph, which basically took a picture of sound. Then in 1877 Thomas Edison invented the phonograph which made a sound recording of sound. Since then there have been several popular recording methods used and many of them have fallen by the wayside. Occasionally in my travels, I come across an Edison sound cylinder (not the proper name for those, I am sure), or an 8 track tape, reel-to reel tape, or various other out of style recording types and I always wonder what moments in time are saved on them. Most times I never find out, but sometimes I do….

Probably because of my fascination with sound recordings, I have for the past almost 50 years kept up with my father’s old reel-to-reel tape recorder. It is very heavy and has been moved from house to house and over the years has played many reel-to-reel (and 8 track tapes) that I have found. This week while at work in the Archives in McConnell Library, I was brought several reel-to-reel tapes and the question of whether anything could be done to find out what is on them. I brought in my machine and have had a fascinating time listening to voices from days long gone. The machine is heavy and unweildy, so I decided to leave it here for a while, I figured it might come in handy again one day, and it didn’t take long before it did.

Our college radio station, WVRU 89.9 FM used to produce and air a show called Other Voices in which interviews of visiting speakers, or of various faculty members would be aired. This being a university, we often have authors, activists, critics, reporters, musicians, artists, politicians etc as guest speakers, so the radio show interviews are a quite important part of the archives. This month is Women’s History Month, and so I thought it might be fun to look through our archives of Other Voices and pick a few of the interviews that might be of interest and digitize them. The show was recorded on reel-to-reel tapes and as mentioned above, I happen to have a reel-to-reel machine sitting on my desk. Playing old tapes is sometimes scary, they tend to be delicate and were sometimes recorded in varying speeds and volumes- still though, being able to listen to an interview done 30-40 years ago made it all worth while. So have a listen!

Gloria Steinem– a leader in the American feminist movement, journalist, activist, author, and public speaker.

Bella Abzug– feminist, activist, author, U.S. Representative, co-founder of the American Women’s Movement.

Dorothy DeBolt– known for bringing attention and acceptance to the needs of handicapped children in public schools, and for educating the American public about the need for adoptive homes for special needs children.

Women’s March on Washington Interview Series

I thought this might be a good time to repost a link to our interviews of participants in the Women’s March on Washington that happened on January 21, 2017. If you follow this link you will find 17 interviews and a montage type video overview of the project. Some of these interviews were done very soon after the march, some were done one year later. Some of the marchers were from the DC march and some were at various sister marches. We interviewed as wide a variety of people as we could to get various perspectives. We are beyond proud of each and every person who participated in this project and think in time this will be a very valuable snapshot of the time it happened and hopes of those participating.

Our thought in creating this collection was that the thoughts, ideas, and hopes of people participating in the event needed to be preserved. In addition, it was our hope that these interviews could serve as a way for people who did not participate, or who did not agree with the event to learn exactly why others did participate and what they hoped to gain from it. In doing these, we tried to think about questions we personally had, but also thought about criticisms we had heard from others about the march and the marchers. Our hope is that that those who were opposed could watch these interviews and hopefully have their questions and concerns addressed in a completely passive and non-confrontational way.

We mostly brought up a thought or question and just let the person talk. Wherever their answer went was OK. Sometimes one thought led to another in a surprising way. Several people mentioned that their interview was the first time they had really processed the march, or that was the first time they had thought about whatever question we had asked. At times people cried, laughed, become agitated or became lost in thought- all of it was genuine and sometimes raw. Other times, people had an amazing ability to recall details and gave wonderful descriptions of what was going on.  This was a wonderful project.

Women’s March on Washington

Personal Correspondence of John Preston McConnell

Letter writing is something that I find truly fascinating.  Honestly, I should probably say letter reading is something I find truly fascinating because I often don’t find much fascination in actually writing them.  Letter reading then.  In letters people give details about current events, tiny details about people related to them, opinions, ideas, and every other kind of thing.  Reading books about historic times or events is one thing, but reading the actual words a person wrote while living through periods of time gone by is quite another.  Our Archives department here in McConnell Library recently acquired two collections of personal letters, one collection was written by John Preston McConnell to his son Carl, the other is a collection of letters written by Carl McConnell to his father John Preston McConnell.  It was discovered by careful ordering and reading that many of these letters went together- as in one letter was in answer to another.  By interfiling these we actually see a conversation between J.P. McConnell and his son. As far as I know, this is the first time we have had a glimpse of the family dynamic of the McConnell family in such a real way.  What makes this even more fascinating is that these letters were written during the Great Depression and we get to see some of the thoughts of a college president during those troubled times.

In these letters, J. P. McConnell gives fatherly advice, relates things that bother him (these were the Great Depression years and in several letters he mentions being told to cut employee pay by 30%!), he tells Carl about various acquisitions the State Teachers College (which would later be known as Radford University) had made, talks a bit about the library that I happen to be sitting in at this moment was being built, talks about student enrollment, and talks very very often about his relatives in real and personal ways.  Seeing this side of our university founder is something I don’t believe we have had the opportunity to do before.

Because we think this collection will be of interest and value to researchers, we are presenting a digital collection of some of this correspondence:

McConnell Family Correspondence Collection

St. Albans School and the Promus

The following post was written by our intern, Kaitlin Scott. Kaitlin is a student of the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science. She has recently completed digitizing our collection of yearbooks for the St. Alban’s School for Boys. Visit the collection here, the Promus.

St. Albans School for Boys was founded in 1892 by George W. Miles, who served as headmaster of the School. Miles founded the school after ten years as a professor at Emory and Henry College at the age of 30. Built to accommodate 50 boys in order to prepare them for university or business, the school was founded on the premise that boys have an educational home away from the temptations and distractions of a city. St. Albans buildings were built in the colonial style with wide verandas, white columns and classic gables as can be seen from a photo taken from the 1893-1894 issue of the Promus.

The school started out very successfully, but was fully closed in 1911. In 1915, the building was bought by Dr. J.C King who established the Saint Albans Sanatorium. A substantial addition to the mental hospital was made in 1980 and continued in operation until 2004. In 2001, Carilion Health System donated the St. Albans buildings to Radford University, pursuing a plan to construct an RU West campus there. In 2008, Radford University sold much of the property at auction. Paranormal investigators have flocked to the location since its closing to see if the site lives up to its name as the most haunted location on the east coast. Public tours of the building and grounds are available between April and September.

Much has been learned about this historic school through the yearbooks it left behind. Named the Promus, its chief aim was to present the athletic records of the school. Radford University has in its Special Collections volumes of the Promus for the years 1893-1904, excluding the year 1897-1898. These copies were donated by James P. King, M.D throughout the 1970’s. Presumably, Dr. King came across these issues of the Promus while serving as the medical director of St. Albans Sanatorium, which he retired from in 1976. There is also the assumption he may have inherited the property on the death of his father, the founder of the Sanatorium, Dr. J.C King.

The Promus included the headings of Personals (background of new students and faculty), As Others See Us (superlatives), Athletics, The Promus Entertainment (plays, musical and dramatic entertainments), and Ads. Various other headings are present and change from year to year.

St. Albans School quickly gained a reputation for being a rough and competitive school where bullying was encouraged. Many of the boys were “lost” during the years of operation. These “lost” boys are enshrined in the Promus with a picture and written snapshot of that boy’s character. One such boy, Irving Malone, is thus featured in the 1895-1896 issue of the Promus.

Despite the 113-124 year age difference between them and the boys of today, they still have a few things in common. The most obvious of course is sports. As can be seen in this picture taken from the 1898-1899 edition of the Promus, football and baseball were popular even then.

And of course, you can’t forget the girls……. Apparently boys in 1904 preferred brunettes!


St. Albans School. (2014). Are you afraid of the golf? Retrieved from:

What was There. St. Albans School/Sanatorium. Retrieved from:!/ll/37.1390113830566,-80.5801620483398/id/9608/info/details/zoom/14/

(1893, July 2) St. Albans School: It Ranks with the Best in America- A Few Points of Interest. The Atlanta Constitution. Retrieved from:

(2004, January 18).Obituary of James Peter King. Southwest Times. Retrieved from:

Women’s March on Washington Collection.

The Archives and Special Collections department here in McConnell Library at Radford University is conducting interviews of participants in any of the Women’s Marches that happened January 21, 2017.  We feel the event was historic and so have started a collection of video interviews, written interviews, photographs, signs, and anything else applicable.

The video interviews are being posted on our Archives Vimeo account page-  and can also be found on our library homepage in the list of digital media.  Please watch and learn from these interviews.  Over time many more will be added to this collection- at the time of this posting there are 5 interviews posted and 1 video preview- but again, more are coming soon.

If you participated in a march- any of the hundreds of marches around the world that day- and would like to be a part of this project, please let us know!  Below is a preview video showing small bits of several of the interviews.


Radford University Celebrates the Inauguration of our Seventh President




1013161500On Thursday, October 13, 2016 Radford University held the Inauguration Ceremony for our seventh president, Dr. Brian O. Hemphill.  He came to us most recently from serving as the tenth president of West Virginia State University in Charleston, WV.  We welcome Dr. Hemphill!

Here are a few photos from the ceremony-


Radford University faculty line up in preparation to enter the ceremony grounds.  The processional was led by the Radford University Highlanders Pipes and Drums under the direction of Timothy L. Channell, EdD.



The Presidential Podium sits on the stage area of Moffett Quad, the site of the Inauguration Ceremony.



Students, staff members, retired faculty, members of the public and invited guests filled Moffett Quad to be a part of the festivities.



The Radford University Choruses under the direction of Meredith Y Bowden, DMA provided choral selections.


img_0629    img_0632

The Radford University Wind Symphony under the direction of R. Wayne Gallops PhD provided musical selections.



Dr. Joseph Scartelli, Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs served as Master of Ceremonies.  Throughout the ceremony many speakers addressed the audience and Dr. Hemphill, among them The Honorable Dietra Y. Trent PhD- Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia, Peter A Blake-Director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, Jacinda Jones- President of the Student Government Association, E. Carter Turner PhD- President of the Faculty Senate, Sandra Bond- President of the Administrative and Professional Faculty Senate, Marie Testerman- President of Staff Senate, Kevin M. Rogers- President of the Alumni Association, The Honorable Bruce E. Brown- Mayor of the City of Radford, Johnetta Cross Brazzell PhD- Vice Chancellor Emeritus of Student Affairs at University of Arkansas, George S. Low PhD- Dean of the College of Business and Economics, and E. Gordon Gee- President of West Virginia University.


 img_0659  img_0661

The Presidential Medallion is presented to Dr. Hemphill by Christopher J. Wade- Rector of the Board of Visitors.


img_0662   img_0663

The Academic Mace is presented to Dr. Hemphill by Dr. Joseph Scartelli.



At the end of the ceremony, the recessional was led away by the Radford University Highlanders Pipes and Drums under the direction of Timothy L. Channell EdD.



We welcome Dr. Brian O. Hemphill as the seventh president of Radford University.


img_0682   img_0680 img_0679

Extra music was provided by our very special Radford University Highlanders Pipes and Drums under the direction of Timothy L. Channell, EdD.




Treasures from the Archive- Grapurchat




I find it fascinating to look through old issues of the Grapurchat- our original school newspaper from January 27, 1921 until May 18, 1978. I know what you are thinking- “What is the deal with that name?” Turns out, I know the answer to that one- while trying to come up with a name for the newspaper, the students at the time decided to combine the two school colors- gray and purple- and the word “chat” and came up with… Grapurchat.  That must have been a good name because for the next 57 years, the paper retained the name.  As far as names of school newspapers goes, I think it is a pretty good one too.

Throughout the years, the Grapurchat ran stories about all aspects of life at the college.  There were articles written about dances, dating advice, real news, fashion, all manner of things.  Today, while looking an issue while I digitized it, I found a story that really caught my eye and piqued my curiosity.  I was not actually reading this issue, just looking at it to try and match text with the correct page but two photographs caught my eye and I had to stop and read the article associated with them.  One photo showed a student standing in her doorway wearing shorts and a shirt and the caption read “Without?”, the other picture showed her in the same doorway wearing a coat and the caption read- “or With?”

Apparently, in May 1960 the students and administration were in debate over the school dress code.  The idea that there was any sort of dress code at a place of higher education may certainly seem foreign to us today but many years ago, things were a bit different apparently.  Here are two articles with differing opinions on the matter.

I frequently wonder what current news stories will be interesting to readers in the far distant future.  Food for thought?


Treasures From the Archive- A Few Random Items

I enjoy finding random items that spark my interest.  Here are a few random items I enjoyed looking at-

The Radford Garden Club Yearbook- This small pamphlet shows that Radford had a vibrant garden club with many members and committees and activities.

Blog008 Blog009 Blog010 Blog011

These two items from conferences show that conferences have been a vital part of education for a long time!

Blog005 Blog014

A New Interview in our Banjo Masters collection.



On May 3, 2016 Tom Nechville of Bloomington Minnesota’s Nechville Banjos stopped by our Archives offices and talked to us about banjos, his innovative ideas about banjo design, and about what it all means to him.  He is an innovator in banjo design and has a lot of very interesting and unique ideas so our conversation was fascinating.  We got the rare opportunity to film Tom explaining his ideas and innovations in great detail.

This interview is the newest in our Banjo Masters series and is the first banjo builder we have interviewed.  Masterful players need masterfully built instruments and one is as vital as the other in music.  So please check out this newest interview: Tom Nechville- Banjo Building’s Mad Scientist.