Mullen Library Hosts Centennial Tower Exhibit –
Photo courtesy of Alannah Murphy
By Alannah Murphy
At the end of September 2022, an exhibition was inaugurated presenting the independent newspaper run by students from the Catholic University, the Tower. The exhibit is located in the Mullen Library on the second floor and was created to celebrate the Tower100th anniversary. The Tower published its first issue on October 27, 1922, with the goal of becoming a better source of campus information for the AUC community.
The exhibition presents different issues of the newspaper during its centenary existence. Parts of the exhibit are dedicated to different topics, such as social life, sports, engagement, national events, campus changes, editorials, and special issues. Another section of the exhibition deals with the origins and development of La Tour and includes a copy of the first issue of the newspaper. Several nameplates in the exhibit show how the newspaper’s appearance has changed over the years; the nameplates reflect both the time they were used and show the types of designs relevant to that time period.
Special Collections Archivist Shane MacDonald and Special Collections Technician Hannah Kaufman are two people responsible for assembling the exhibit.
“My job includes a lot of communicating with researchers and making sure they get the information they need,” Kaufman said. “I love being able to provide that access, and one of my favorite things is being able to use my knowledge of collections to give them more resources that they maybe didn’t know we had.”
Original materials from decades ago are preserved and stored in the AUC archives. The archives keep their documents in acid-free boxes in secure, climate-controlled storage rooms on campus. Archivists work to record each item to keep track of it for security and access. There are several storage locations, but the central location is in Aquin’s room. According to MacDonald, archivists check these locations at least once a day, and staff can often be seen walking around campus.
“The Archives constitute the official memory of the University. We maintain official school records, but also work to document campus life. In addition to recording the University’s history, we collect materials related to American Catholic history,” MacDonald said.
Besides newspapers and nameplates, there are other original items that have been preserved and put in the display case. A few of these items are an old leather football helmet used in the 1940s, student government pins from the 80s, and a Brookland Subway pennant from the 70s that was used at the opening ceremony of the Brookland subway station.
According to MacDonald, exhibits require a lot of coordination and planning. “We had to work with our colleagues at the Mullen Library to secure the space for the exhibition, as well as with our suppliers to ensure the necessary props were available on time,” MacDonald said.
While mounting the exhibit, Shane and Kaufman combed through many issues of the Tower and compiled a list of topics they felt best represented what the journal had to offer; after that, it was a matter of choosing articles that highlighted these different themes. The duo made a physical mock-up of the display cases to ensure each object would fit properly before transferring the items from the archives to the Mullen Library.
Both Kaufman and MacDonald agree that the hardest part of putting together the exhibit was being able to tell the story of the Tower100 years of publishing.
“When we opted for a thematic approach, we had to select the themes that best corresponded to the Towerthe story of and what stories/objects would best reflect these themes. This involved reading many numbers of the Tower“, said MacDonald.
“A student newspaper is not just the legacy of the newspaper itself. It is the heritage of the students and their relationship with the Catholic University. Visiting the exhibit is a way to engage with the past,” Kaufman said.
MacDonald encourages students to visit the exhibit, since the Tower is a testament to how AUC students shape and transmit campus culture, with each featured article written by student journalists and recording student activities and opinions.
“I think this is not a static display, but a snapshot of an ever-living and evolving culture of student journalism and campus life,” MacDonald said.
The Mullen Library continues to present exhibits to students, the next exhibit planned for Mullen is from the Institute of Oriental Christian Research (ICOR) library and will focus on Armenian resources in the university’s collections.
The exhibition will be open until December 12.