NEH Awards $260,000 Grant to Expand ‘College Women’ Archives Portal


collegewomen.orgIn Summer, 2015 we announced the beta launch of the cross-institutional archives portal  College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education (, a collaboration between the institutions once — and often still — known as the “Seven Sisters.” The site development was funded by a Foundations planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and allowed us to begin imagining a resource that could serve both researchers and the casual browser interested in the shared histories of women’s education at some of the first U.S. women’s colleges in the Northeast. Today, we can now share that the National Endowment for the Humanities has recently awarded a Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant to Bryn Mawr College that will allow us to expand the digitization project with our seven partner institutions beginning in Summer 2016.

A Poetry Hour on Bryn Mawr's Campus (1930) via

A Poetry Hour on Bryn Mawr’s Campus (1930) via

The College Women archives portal brings together digitized writings and photographs from our seven libraries, dating from the mid-nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries, and documenting the experiences of students attending Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Vassar, Wellesley, and Radcliffe (now the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University). In the first phase of our work, the partners established a metadata schema, built and tested the beta site, and developed an approach to building subject-focused digital collections that can serve as a model to other institutions pursuing collaborative ventures. The portal currently holds a sample selection of 318 items, mostly photographs; the next phase of the project will focus on the expansion of content, allowing us to digitize, catalog, and upload 50,000 new images to the portal with a focus on student writings from letters, diaries, and scrapbooks. The research value of these sources will be greatly increased by the ability to consider a wide range of student materials in conversation with each other, as part of a larger phenomenon in the history of women in America, rather than as isolated fragments that document only the history of the individual colleges.

In an era in which women’s access to education still cannot be taken for granted, and women’s colleges in the United States are increasingly pressured to justify their continued existence, the exposure of these unique collections will be a key resource for researchers interested in tracing the experiences and impact of women’s higher education. By linking these materials under a common searchable access point, we hope to illuminate questions that still resonate today: how did young women’s social and intellectual relationships inform their entry into the public sphere?  How did differences in social and economic status between students influence day-to-day life on campus? How did the atmosphere of women’s education as nineteenth-century “experiment” influence their attitudes and experiences, both in their undergraduate years and beyond–and how might we use those histories to build supportive educational environments for marginalized populations around the world today?

Are you interested in using archival primary sources to explore the history of women’s higher education? Tell us what kinds of materials you would like to see included in in the comments!

For more information, contact Eric Pumroy (epumroy [at] brynmawr [dot] edu) or Christiana Dobzynski (cdobrzynsk [at] brynmawr [dot] edu).

Wiki Education Foundation at Bryn Mawr

This month, the Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education and Bryn Mawr LITS are pleased to partner with the Wiki Education Foundation to discuss​ how and why instructors might consider building Wikipedia assignments into coursework.

On Tuesday, February 16 from 4:30-6pm in the Quita Woodward Room (Thomas Hall), we will host a workshop with Jami Mathewson, Educational Partnerships Manager at Wiki Ed, who will introduce the resources and tools available to support instructors teaching with Wikipedia. Jami will bring ideas from the NWSA women’s studies initiative, and share new plans for 2016’s Wikipedia Year of Science — including ways for instructors and students to join efforts aimed at increasing the representation of women in science on Wikipedia.

RSVP for the workshop here. Bring your devices, your questions, and your ideas!

Wikipedia and Women’s Studies

For more than a year, we’ve been following the National Women’s Studies Association’s Wikipedia Initiative, addressing the vast gender gap on Wikipedia. The easiest way to improve Wikipedia’s representation of women, they have shown, is to participate in the Wikipedia Education Program, a project in which students contribute content to Wikipedia in place of a traditional research paper through a classroom activity. The Wikipedia Education Program in the United States and Canada is run by the Wiki Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization that builds connections between universities and Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects in the United States and Canada.

About Wikipedia​

One of the world’s most widely read websites, with approximately 550 million unique visitors per month, Wikipedia articles are often the number one hit when using a search browser. Its broad public presence, open for editing to anyone, offers a unique opportunity to participate in an online community of practice.

W​hy teach with Wikipedia?

As an educational tool, the development of Wikipedia articles allows students to create collaborative work with a visible impact on a global audience. Whether adding new sources to existing Wikipedia pages or creating new pages on notable topics, students gain deeper insight into their course material and learn to evaluate critically the reliability of sources. With faculty and students reporting enthusiasm and high levels of motivation for the Wikipedia assignment over the more traditional, Wikipedia assignments have the potential to deliver education that goes beyond a semester.

Questions? Contact Monica L. Mercado, Director of the Greenfield Digital Center, at All are welcome.

“College Women” at the Digital Library Federation Forum [video]


College women beta site 6-11The October talk featuring Greenfield Director Monica Mercado, Rachel Appel (Bryn Mawr College Digital Collections Librarian) and Joanna DiPasquale (Vassar College Digital Initiatives Librarian) is now online via The University of British Columbia Open Collections. “College Women: A Collaborative, Cross-Institutional Archives Portal” begins at 00:14:50.

“Sisters Launch Digital Archive” in the Alumnae Bulletin

Thanks to the Bryn Mawr Bulletin for featuring our seven institution collaboration, College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education in the November 2015 issue, which also features an important set of “Letters to the Editor” on the topic of Black at Bryn Mawr. We look forward to sharing our work with more alumnae/i in the new year!

Read more at the Bulletin site, here, and explore the College Women site online at


Finding Religion at College? Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education


Mount Holyoke students walking by Abbey Chapel, ca. 1940s. Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections, via

After returning from the Digital Library Federation Forum in Vancouver, I reflected on one of the College Women site’s lesser themes, religion. How might we go about studying religion at the women’s colleges?

As someone who has studied, taught, and written about American religion and American women’s higher education separately for quite some time, I’m intrigued by conversations about the place of religion on college campuses, in both the built environment and the curriculum. Our Seven Sisters digital project ( and conversations with my students who participate in religious life on the 21st-century campus show me new ways of continuing these lines of inquiry, in the College Archives and in our new virtual portal.

Read more over at Religion in American History: Finding Religion at College? Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education. [link]

‘College Women’ Goes West: DLF Forum 2015

DLF-Forum-2015-logo-150210We’re in beautiful Vancouver, BC this week for the Digital Library Federation Forum. On Tuesday afternoon, Greenfield Director Monica Mercado, Bryn Mawr College digital collections librarian Rachel Appel, and Vassar College Libraries digital initiatives librarian Joanna DiPasquale will be presenting a project update on our archives portal, College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education.

There’s a few ways to follow along:

We’re looking forward to presenting with the University of Virginia Scholars Lab project Take Back the Archive, a public history project created by UVa faculty, students, librarians, and archivists to “preserve, visualize, and contextualize the history of rape and sexual violence at UVa, honoring individual stories and documenting systemic issues and trends.” How can digital women’s archives work together and share in other conversations after we return to Bryn Mawr?

Greenfield in the Classroom

Setting up for Professor Alicia Walker's seminar, "Building Bryn Mawr." (Photograph by the author.)

Setting up for Professor Alicia Walker’s seminar, “Building Bryn Mawr.” (Photograph by the author.)

Although I’m not teaching a course this semester, I’m still getting to spend time in the classroom, sharing the Greenfield Digital Center’s resources with students and faculty across disciplines. Together we look not only at the growing array of resources Greenfield supports on the web –, Black at Bryn Mawr, and Greenfield’s own collections exhibits – but also at materials housed in the College Archives: scrapbooks, photograph albums, papers, and more. Some classes are an obvious choice for a Special Collections visit, such as Professor Alicia Walker’s seminar, “Building Bryn Mawr,” where students are studying the early stages of development of Bryn Mawr’s campus, exploring the ways in which the founders of Bryn Mawr understood architecture as a key aspect of the institution’s image and aspirations. But I’ve also worked with faculty to integrate archives materials with class sessions on race and photography, or storytelling and digital narratives. If you ask me, the possibilities are endless! Continue reading

College Women: A Collaborative Cross-Institutional Archives Portal


Bryn Mawr College archery team, undated, via

Bryn Mawr College archery team, undated, via

In June, we announced the launch of College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education (, a project of the seven institutions once known as the “Seven Sisters” colleges. With a one-year Foundations planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, we developed an archives portal that brings together–for the first time online–digitized letters, diaries, scrapbooks and photographs of women who attended the seven partner institutions: Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Vassar, Wellesley, and Radcliffe (now the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University).

This summer we put the finishing touches on a white paper documenting our collaboration for the NEH Division of Preservation and Access, Humanities Collections and Reference Resources. The white paper joins our application narrative, freely available on the NEH site; both serve as useful documentation for thinking through collaboration across multiple institutions. The white paper, in particular, makes the case for finding ways to collect geographically disparate collections in a vital and sustainable site, and over the long term, using that site to stimulate significant new work in women’s history. But, as we wrote, the project partners also saw a secondary goal of creating an open-source infrastructure and set of procedures that could be adapted by other institutions interested in developing their own subject-based digital collections. Our white paper, its accompanying standards documents, and the site architecture, design and accompanying documentation available through Barnard College’s GitHub, are all readily available for other initiatives interested in pursuing this approach.

To read more, download the “History of Women’s Education Open Access Portal Project” from the Bryn Mawr College repository, here.

College women beta site 6-11

Our work on this project is ongoing and collaborative. College Women is currently available in a beta version, featuring 300 photographs, letters, diaries and scrapbooks from the seven partner institutions. As more of our historical documents are digitized and catalogued, we plan to expand the content of the site, and continue to write new grants towards these goals.


Going to DLF? College Women project team members Rachel Appel (Bryn Mawr College), Monica Mercado (Bryn Mawr College), and Joanna DiPasquale (Vassar College) will discuss the collaboration as part of the program on Tuesday, October 27.

We continue to welcome feedback on the site, in the comments below, and through a form on the College Women homepage.

Translating Archival Materials into the Digital Realm: Samone Rowe Uncovers a “Candid Campus”

Recent graduate Samone Rowe (BMC ’14) interned with The Greenfield Digital Center and Special Collections to create an original digital exhibit featuring the College Archives. Here she reflects on her connection to the archival materials documenting early Bryn Mawr students. You can view Samone’s project, Candid Campus, and other exhibits built on Bryn Mawr’s collections here.

Page from the scrapbook of Lucy Shoe (Meritt), Class of 1927.

Lucy Shoe Meritt, Class of 1927, Bryn Mawr College Scrapbook and Photo Album Collection, Special Collections, Bryn Mawr College.

Last summer, I was granted the opportunity to work with the Photo Album and Scrapbook Collection within Bryn Mawr’s Special Collections. My research, completed over ten weeks, resulted in Candid Campus: The Lesser Known Narratives of Bryn Mawr College, a Greenfield Digital Center exhibit detailing hidden aspects of the college’s culture. The scrapbooks and albums included postcards, photographs, playbills, newspaper articles, and a myriad of other trinkets and clippings.

Since the internship summer served as the precursor to my final year at Bryn Mawr, I appreciated seeing which moments of their academic careers the school’s alumnae held most dear and comparing those experiences to my own. Even now, months later, I continue to wonder how I fit into Bryn Mawr’s legacy and what effect the school will have on my future.

A scrapbook I developed a somewhat personal connection with was that of Frieda Woodruff (née Wagoner), a graduate of the class of 1951. The design of her album was simple: small black-and-white photos explained by minimal text. Yet, the sentimentality of the album starkly contrasted its stark layout.  Her photographs, which chronicled her final two years at the college, unexpectedly mirrored experiences of my own. Initially, I was amused by images of Woodruff and classmates waiting for their modern art course to begin and an allusion to “The Thinker” sculpture. As I continued to gaze at photos of her friends studying, sunbathing, and joking around, everything in Frieda Wagoner’s album seemed so natural and familiar to me. It was thrilling to see how the Mawrter spirit hasn’t changed much over the years.

Euretta Simons, Class of 1936, Bryn Mawr College Scrapbook and Photo Album Collection, Special Collections, Bryn Mawr College.

Euretta Simons, Class of 1936, Bryn Mawr College Scrapbook and Photo Album Collection, Special Collections, Bryn Mawr College.

Creating the exhibit was both exciting and illuminating. As a history of art major with a strong interest in new media, working with the Greenfield Digital Center allowed me to explore translating visual and physical materials into the digital realm. Since the summer, I have continued to sharpen my newly-gained virtual exhibition skills by curating digital exhibits for class assignments and scanning and editing various types of archival materials with Special Collections. My ten weeks spent with the Greenfield Digital Center and the Scrapbook and Photo Album Collection were invaluable, and I hope I get the privilege to complete projects similar to Candid Campus in my post-Bryn Mawr endeavors.

“Where We Are…”: Adventures in Mapping Bryn Mawr History


Bryn Mawr College driving directions (n.d.) in Bryn Mawr College Campus Maps on Triptych.

Bryn Mawr College driving directions (n.d.) in Bryn Mawr College Campus Maps.

Maybe it’s because I’ve only been here for two months, or maybe it’s just nostalgia for my own college days, but with Customs Week at Bryn Mawr wrapping up, and classes getting underway, I’m feeling sympathy for new students and faculty navigating campus. Even with ten days living in a Pem East single as a CLIR Fellow under my belt, I still keep a copy of the current campus map in my bag and bookmarked on my iPhone. (At least I’m no longer confusing Taylor with Thomas!)

I’ve also been thinking a lot about maps after taking my first introduction to ArcGIS mapping software last month, as part of a Mellon-funded Tri-Co Environmental Studies initiative organized by Swarthmore College. Over three days, I joined nearly twenty Tri-Co faculty members interested in the possibilities of organizing spacial data. With most of us new to ArcGIS, the workshop opened with two basic questions:

  • What kinds of spacial questions do you encounter in your research?
  • What kinds of spacial questions do our students encounter in their classes?

To put it another way, maps can tell us where we are, but can they tell us who we are?

Continue reading