Friday, April 14, 2017

Fools on the Hill

T S Elliot claimed April to be the cruelest month, but, according to a quote attributed (as many, often erroneously, are) to Twain, "The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year". Of course the two are not mutually exclusive; some April Fools' pranks have been cruel, but the best are just funny, or preferably, plain wacky.

Definitely in the wacky camp was the April 7, 1977 edition of the Ridgerunner, which devoted several pages to April foolishness. Either that, or 1977 saw some very strange happenings.

The lead story about Rupert Murdoch buying control of the Ridgerunner, was, given the rate at which Rupert was buying up media outlets back then, improbable rather than impossible. But after that, things just got weird.
The Murdoch story mentioned a big hairy bat, and this theme is taken further in, "Short People Face Perils" which describes how big hairy bats (which are "very big indeed") do not like being hunted or stalked (Who does?), and can seize anything under five feet seven inches in height, and weighing less than 130 pounds.
A particularly zany story on pages 3 and 4 has a definite Pythonesque quality about it, as the sad fate of Dr. Ernest Leigh Schlitzuntpretzel (Great name!) is revealed.
The image of the poor doctor being trapped alive in the molecular structure of a wall, and a "In Memorium" plaque extolling him to "hang on in there", are goofy, but the part about the Feds only paying half the grant, because Schlitzuntpretzel only got halfway through the wall, seems especially brilliant. And we'll leave it to better minds than ours to calculate when the good doctor will finally emerge from the wall.
We'd like to go on and report of other Aprils when craziness and/or artificial stimulants, got to the writers of the student newspaper, but unfortunately (although some might say fortunately), it does not seem to have happened, and 1977 was a one-off. Or April Fools stories were written, and we just missed them amongst the nuttiness of normal life.
And talking of nuttiness.....
A story from the Blue Banner of April 25, 1985, told how hacky sack was invading campus. For the most part, this seems a genuine, albeit slight odd, report, but the comment about someone starting to play hacky sack at a Grateful Dead concert, does make us wonder.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Thomas Rain Crowe: A Writer’s Life: An Interview and Reading

Thomas Rain Crowe: A Writer’s Life - An Interview and Reading

Thursday, April 20, 5:00 - 6:30 pm
Laurel Forum, Karpen Hall
UNC Asheville

Thomas Rain Crowe
Thomas Rain Crowe, internationally known poet, essayist, and critic, will talk about his life as a writer on Thursday, April 20 on the UNC Asheville campus.  Crowe will be interviewed by Renee Ambroso, a UNC Asheville English Major and intern in UNCA’s Special Collections. In addition to discussing his life as a writer, Crowe will also read several selections from his work. The interview and reading will take place in Laurel Forum in Karpen Hall on the UNC Asheville Campus from 5-6:30. The reading is free and open to the public.

Interviewer Renee Ambroso has been working with a collection of Crowe’s writings as part of her internship in UNCA’s Special Collections this semester, cataloging over 200 articles and reviews by and about Crowe that in appeared in Western North Carolina newspapers and journals over the last several decades. The resulting “Thomas Rain Crowe Regional Publications Collection” will provide access to these hard-to-find articles and reviews by this acclaimed writer, and will be available later this spring on the UNCA Special Collections website. The collection also includes a number of works published by New Native Press, Crowe’s Cullowhee-based publishing company.  The collection was donated to UNCA’s Special Collections by Crowe earlier this year.

Thomas Rain Crowe has published over thirty books of original works, translations, anthologies, and recordings. He is a critically acclaimed poet and his award-winning 2005 book Zoro’s Field: My Life in the Appalachian Woods, has been favorably compared to works by Henry David Thoreau and Wendell Berry.

The reading is sponsored by the UNC Asheville Department of English and Special Collections at Ramsey Library. The interview will be moderated by Gene Hyde, Head of Special Collections at UNCA. For questions about the reading, please contact Gene Hyde at 251-6645 or

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Best Laid Plans....

Three months into a monthly trawl through student  newspapers to celebrate forty years of the Southern Highlands Research / Special Collections, and a dearth of newspapers from March, prompts a quick rethink. This month's blog therefore is a look back to 1977/78, the first academic year in the life of the Southern Highlands Research Center, seen through the pages of the university yearbook, Summit '78.

We noted in the January blog, that on campus parking is a perennial problem (Proving the point, it is the cover story in this weeks' Blue Banner) and it warranted a page in Summit '78.

The days of "paying $5.00 for a parking sticker" are long gone, and although there is no explanation of the car on the pole, this seems more likely to have been a marketing device, rather than an approved parking spot. Though why someone placed the car in the woods, is a mystery.

Summit '78 has a good (albeit slightly tongue in cheek) description of the registration process: Much standing in line, signing forms, and getting approved, all without a computer. Though we suspect that many current students would forgo online registration if they could pay 1977 fees!

Changes in technology are also apparent in the photographs of dorm life, that indicate that a small portable, probably black and white, TV with a telescopic aerial was the entertainment.

One thing that we like to think has been left in the 1970s, is the attitude of the "letters home", although we fear that it has not.

Summit '78 was not all about campus life. One page had images of the severe flooding in the fall of 1977, while, on a much happier note, there were also pictures of the "biggest and best" Asheville Christmas Parade.

We end, slightly self indulgently, with a page about the library. The required Bibliography course, is no longer required, but the "large red doors" remain. Online resources were still things of the future in the late 1970s, and there was no mention of the newly opened Southern Highlands Research Center, tucked away somewhere in the basement. Oh well.

Monday, February 13, 2017

COPLAC, Technology, and Love

Continuing the celebration of forty years of Special Collections, the first stop on February’s drift through the historical backwaters is 1994, and an important event in the history of the university.
That year, UNC Asheville and eight other institutions, created the Council of Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) to, as the Blue Banner reported on February 24, "improve options for undergraduates at state funded universities" [by combining] "the traditional advantages of outstanding liberal arts colleges with the special mission and responsibilities  of public campuses".
Another import event in the relationship between  UNC Asheville and COPLAC occurred in February 2009. 
On February 19, of that year, the Blue Banner reported that UNC Asheville was now host to the national headquarters for COPLAC, and that UNC Asheville history professor, Bill Spellman, would be the first full-time director.
Spellman, who had been at UNC Asheville since 1998,  outlined his belief that "the liberal arts experience should not be limited to the private sector", and saw his role as "developing new learning opportunities for students and faculty at the 25 COPLAC institutions".
Under Spellman's direction,  COPLAC (which now has 30 member institutions) has, among other things, hosted summer faculty institutes, launched an undergraduate research journal, and instigated a number of digital liberal arts projects to provide multi-campus, team-taught, distance seminars in digital scholarship.
Online courses such as those promoted by COPLAC, and the use of technology in classrooms, are "now the norm for students" as the Blue Banner reported in February 2012, with online assignments, testing and grading, and the use of "smart classrooms" on campus all being utilized. And all this has happened since 1991, when "the physics department was among the first UNCA offices to hit the Web".
Changes, such as those ushered in by technology, are never without problems and disagreements. The February 26, 1998 lead story in the Banner described a UNC Chapel Hill decision to require freshmen in the year 2000 to own a laptop, and that laptops had been a requirement at Wake Forest since 1995, and Western Carolina since 1997.  While there were mixed feelings about the Chapel Hill decision, UNC Asheville saw things differently, with Thomas Cochran, UNCA associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, feeling that use "will be mandatory in the sense that all students are going to feel like they must have more computing becomes integrated into instruction and labs".

Some of us who were around in the distant early days of computing (Hello, the 1980s!), can remember being told how computers would herald the paperless office.

Well, we know how that turned out.

And who pays for the paper?

Until 1999, the answer seems to have been the university. "UNCA is one of the last branches of the university system that continues to offer free copying to its students", Robert Bland, the associate university librarian for technical services, told the Banner in February, 1999. But that was to soon change, as the library and computer labs began charging students to print. Mike Honeycutt from the computer center told the Banner, charging was necessary due to, the "increasing amount of wasted paper", and "the substantial increase in volume of copying from internet sources".

We can't leave February, without a mention of Valentine's and love, and even here, the impact of technology has been felt.

In February 2014, the Blue Banner told of a new Facebook page that had "exploded in popularity", and how "everyone on campus was talking about" 'UNCA crushes', a forum for students to "publicize their love, lust or appreciation".  One student was quoted as saying the page is "going to go on, because it fills a certain need".

We're not sure about the Facebook page, but the 'UNCA crushes' Twitter account was last updated in 2013.

Love, like technology, can be so fleeting. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

More than Death and Taxes

The old adage is wrong - death and taxes are not the only certainties. There's also lack of parking spaces at UNC Asheville, and complaints about the university's snow policy. Or, that is the impression gleaned from looking through forty years of student newspapers for the ruby anniversary of Special Collections.

Firstly, since this blog looks at things that happened in January, we'll mention snow. On January 23, 1986, the Blue Banner reported that students received an extension to their holiday break when, on the first day of the semester, classes were delayed due to snow and icy roads. Delayed start equals longer lie in bed and happy students, right? Not according to the Blue Banner editorial, which considered the roads "quite passable", complained about the "inconsistent snow policy", and that whilst some students would enjoy the additional relaxation, "the more pragmatic, money-mind students [would] see it as a loss of their investment in the institution".

Err, maybe.

The Banner, Jan. 29, 1998

However, there were seemingly no complaints in January 1998, or they went unreported, when the Banner (during a period of its life when it wasn't Blue) had a front page story about a surprise snow storm that caused cancelled classes, and damaged cars.

From damaged cars to parking cars.

Blue Banner, Jan. 26, 1995
As noted previously, lack of parking spaces is a perennial cause for compliant, and additional spaces seemingly don't always lead to peace and harmony. In January 1995, the Blue Banner had a front page lead about the opening of the new parking deck, and although some seemed happy there were additional spaces, there were complaints about still having to park "way down below Owen [Hall]", whilst others just saw student "laziness".

There's no pleasing some folks.

Blue Banner, Jan. 25, 2007
To wrap up this month's retrospective blog, a mention of blogs, and a reminder of how quickly things change.

Way back in the days of yore (i.e. January 25, 2007), the Blue Banner reported that, "Gone are the days when people protested in city streets with fists and picket signs, They've packed up and headed into the blogosphere."

After explaining what a blog was, the Blue Banner quoted several student bloggers, who advised that blogs be "read as a secondary source of news", and that by bloggers "eliminating false reporting", the blogosphere was more credible than the New York Times.

So, blogs or the Times? There may be some bias here, but if you want a credible information source, see a librarian. Or an archivist.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Forty Years On

1977. The year Star Wars arrived, and Elvis left the building for the final time. While, across the Pond, the Sex Pistols released God Save the Queen to commemorate (if that's the right word), Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee.

Also in 1977, the Southern Highlands Research Center (SHRC) opened at UNC Asheville. Although less of a global event, we in Special Collections think it is at least as important as those in the last paragraph, because the SHRC became UNC Asheville's Special Collections.

So happy 40th to us!!

During the upcoming year, we will be dipping into the archives of UNC Asheville student newspapers since 1977, and highlighting the things we think are historic, interesting, or just plain quirky.

We start, not in January 1977 (too obvious!), but September that year, and a report from the Ridgerunner, about the opening of the SHRC.

Although much has changed since 1977, it is notable that the focus of our collections has not. Back then, Bruce Greenawalt described how the SHRC would collect materials reflecting, Asheville's role in the development of the region, the religious history of the region, the history of the African-American community, the records of local organizations, and photographs of the region. Fast forward to 2017, and that is what we are still doing. As our mission statement says, Special Collections "collects, preserves, organizes, describes, and provides print and digital access to manuscripts, books, photographs, and other materials that document Asheville and the surrounding region", to support UNC Asheville students, along with community members, and other scholars.

Which means this cartoon from the same edition of the Ridgerunner applies as much to Special Collections as it does to a history class. (And we like to think cartoons have got funnier since 1977.)

Next time, a look at January events since 1977. There may be mention of snow.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Happy Ladshaw Day!

Ladshaw Day, you say? While not a familiar “holiday” to all, it is a day revered by whitewater enthusiasts who paddle the Green River, the wild, rapid-filled waterway that runs in a gorge just south of Asheville near the South Carolina state line.

Ladshaw Day celebrates the actions - or, rather, the unfulfilled plans of George Ladshaw, a Spartanburg, SC, civil engineer who proposed damming the Green River in 1906, and this is where UNCA’s Special Collections comes into the story. 
Ladshaw & Ladshaw's 1906 plans for the Green River Gorge, part 1
A few weeks ago several whitewater paddlers visited Special Collections to view two blueprints from the Speculation Lands Company Collection. This Collection contains deeds, correspondence, maps, patents, surveys, and other documents related to the buying and selling of Western North Carolina lands by the Speculation Lands Company in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

It also includes several 1906 blueprints by Ladshaw & Ladshaw, Civil & Hydraulic Engineers from Spartanburg, SC.  These blueprints show detailed plans to dam the Green River, which would have altered the roaring, plunging whitewater that paddlers love today. The blueprints were dated 110 years ago today, but the Ladshaws’ plans never came to be. It’s this exact lack of completion that is celebrated by whitewater enthusiasts on Ladshaw Day - the celebration of something that did not happen.  Our visiting paddlers poured over the blueprints, noting how the dam sites would have drowned out several of the river’s most famous whitewater challenges.

Ladshaw & Ladshaw's 1906 plans for the Green River Gorge, part 2

We thought we’d share this event by posting these two photographs of the documents in question. For more on Ladshaw Day, check out these links:  the American Whitewater Ladshaw Day web page, an article in Blue Ridge Outdoors about Ladshaw Day, and a post from two years ago by the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Happy Ladshaw Day!