At 4:30 p.m. on September 17, an exhibit curated by the students of “Making History Public: Boston College” opens in the History department on the 3rd floor of Stokes South. The exhibit—#WeWereBC—uses archival material from Burns Library to chronicle the first 100 years of Boston College’s history, a period during which a small, urban, day school for boys developed into a sprawling, suburban university serving a largely residential and coeducational student body. Open to the public, the exhibit will remain on display in Stokes throughout the Fall Semester.
In the spring of 2015, the 14 undergraduate students of “Making History Public: Boston College” revisited their institution’s history, soon after the 150th anniversary of its founding. A result of their research is an exhibit—#WeWereBC—on display in the History department, located on the 3rd floor of Stokes South.
In short, the exhibit considers the transformation of a school to a university by highlighting some of the key—though since forgotten—individuals, moments, developments, and conflicts that helped shape Boston College’s first 100 years. Profiled are such topics as the strict rules for first teachers at Boston College and their encouragement of eloquence in their students, the surge of students’ patriotism during the First World War, and their response to President Kennedy’s assassination. The exhibit also considers the historical importance of the Boston College-Holy Cross football rivalry and the efforts by three women to gain larger roles for females at Boston College. The exhibit, inspired by the students’ predecessors in 1913, uses the page design of an early yearbook.
All the topics in this exhibit were selected by the students, who each conducted individual research using a variety of primary sources as well as relevant secondary literature. Each panel is based on a larger research paper, and nearly all of the items the students chose to feature in their panels came from the archives of the John J. Burns Library.
“Boston College” was the fifth “Making History Public” course, a collaborative project begun in 2012 between the History department and the Boston College University Libraries. Information on the previous courses can be found on the library website.
“Making History Public: Boston College” course meet weekly in the Burns Library in the Spring 2015 semester. It benefitted greatly from the invaluable assistance, advice, and patience, both in the classroom and in the research room, provided by several staff members at Burns, including Amy Braitsch, Head Archivist, Justine Sundaram, Senior Reference Librarian, Andrew Isidoro, Library Assistant, and Shelley Barber, Reference and Archives Specialist. The exhibit’s design was guided and executed by Kevin Tringale, Exhibits Specialist, and Patrick Goncalves, Digital Services Assistant. University Librarian Thomas Wall and Burns Librarian Christian Dupont provided administrative support. In the History Department, the class benefited from the support of Kevin Kenny, Chair of the department, and Colleen O’Reilly, the Department Administrator. The exhibit contains some special photography by Gary Wayne Gilbert, Director of Photography. Fr. Terry Devino, S.J, University Secretary, Patricia DeLeeuw, Vice Provost for Faculties, and Kevin Shea, Executive Assistant to the President, granted students access to restricted archival materials, including records of the University Trustees, the Black Talent Program, and the University Historian. Pat DeLeeuw and Christian Dupont also attended and commented on the students’ final research presentations, joining those in-class comments offered by James O’Toole, Clough Professor of History; Ben Birnbaum, Executive Director, Office of Marketing Communications; and Fr. William Leahy, S.J., University President.
Through their individual research and development of their group exhibit, the students of “Making History Public: Boston College” arrived at two conclusions. First, the shaping of Boston College—by people, moments, and conflicts, internal and external—continues and will continue for as long as the institution exists, and, second, that constant reshaping is perhaps the most important source of vitality and improvement at Boston College
For more information about the Burns library, visit libguides.bc.edu/burns. You can also like the Burns Library on Facebook, follow the Burns Library on Twitter, view Burns Library Collections on Flickr, and subscribe to the Burns blog.
—Seth Meehan, PhD ‘14, instructor of “Making History Public: Boston College,” associate director of the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies, and coauthor of The Heights: An Illustrated History of Boston College.