Letter from the editor

Lately I’ve been eager to uncover and curate collections beyond college. I’ve recently considered applying for masters programs upon graduation in the spring, and I am beyond excited to look into furthering my education. My experience at Columbia College Chicago Archives has influenced me to seriously think of library sciences as a possible career path with the mindset of continuing to work in archival collections.

As of this month, I have worked at Columbia College Chicago Archives for a little over a year, and I can confidentially say that it has been an invaluable experience for my career and my personal growth. I was picked up by the department at a job fair, and when they asked about my experience, I gave them a few of my writing samples from my personal blog. My writing was well received, and they hired me to assist in generating content for the department’s  website. I was able to add the management of their blog and social media to my writing resume, and suddenly new freelancing opportunities opened up for me. Now I’m at a place where I can say that I write professionally, which had been my goal all along.

That being said, there is something intrinsically satisfying about opening a worn suitcase to find it brimming with yellowing letters and leaflets. Working in an archives, you’re able to break into these time capsules of the past, restore them, digitize them and preserve them for others to discover. Being a student worker at my archives, I’m personally tied to many of the collections I work with. I learn about the people who were at the college before me, their accomplishments and missteps. Working with archives, you are constantly researching, constantly learning about the past and how it applies to current times.

Thank you for reading!

Calley Nelson

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Columbia College Chicago may inundate paper scheduling for winter semester

Scheduling classes is a less tedious process today than it was in the 70s, but it’s about to get harder. Imagine you are in your senior year at Columbia College, only it’s not 2014: it’s 1974. You’ve been through the headache that is class registration many times before. You have all your forms filled out and your course papers ready, but you have to move fast to get the classes that you want. This will be back in effect next semester.Columbia College Chicago

Winding lines of students circle around bookshelves, leading to fold out tables where professors flip through stacks of note-cards and papers organized in some archaic fashion unknown to you. You are sweating in your bell bottoms and would like to use the bathroom, but you’re stuck in a line of 30 students in front of the English table, hoping that there’s still a seat open for you in Women’s Studies. “Only two more lines,” you think to yourself, taking a swig of your Tab and clutching a stack of papers to your hip. If you can’t get in this class, you’ll have to find a different one. Maybe you’ll check out the cork board at the front of the library to see what classes were recently added if your schedule doesn’t work out.columbia college chicago

While you wait, you watch a professor at the Radio table switch his pipe from one corner of his mouth to the other for every student he registers. An older woman in front of you is reading an article about the Vietnam draft amnesty in the Chicago Tribune. You spot a couple of your friends in the Film line and wave hello, wondering how long they’ve been in line, and how much longer they’ll have to wait. It might be another hour yet.

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Sounds pretty simple, right? This process was a typical one for college students at that time, but you won’t have to worry about it making a comeback- it’s WAY more cumbersome than OASIS, even with its outages and shortcomings.

Columbia College Chicago

To see the rest of Registration Flashback exhibit, visit the third floor of the library. For other exhibits from the archives, visit http://about.colum.edu/archives/exhibits/current-exhibits.php.

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Student Convocation: “HELL YEAH”

What’s better than starting college at the biggest art school in the country? Starting it with a HELL YEAH!




New Student Convocation is how Columbia welcomes students to its unique and creative community. The annual event features an iconic assembly with Columbia’s president, a student services exposition and a catered party with live bands, performance art and more. Convocation showcases the talents of our current students and alumni. It is a required event for all new students, faculty and staff.

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Student Perspective: On Social Media

How do you convince the internet to read what you have to say? Do you need a witty, attention grabbing title? Do you intersperse your posts with gifs to keep the interest of your audience, but wonder if your audience will actually read what you’ve posted instead of just scrolling through the pictures? Do you have original and concise content? Even if you follow all of these dos and don’ts for a perfect post, that doesn’t mean you’ll have one. There is so much more to blogging than just formulating your research and thoughts into something that someone can understand, and much of that has to do with marketing yourself on social media sites.

I’ve been an ardent boy-cotter of social media since high school. I condemned facebook and twitter as time wasters, as little personal pockets of narcissism that were secretly fed on mobile phones like virtual mini-human tamagotchis by their creators. I constantly assured myself that I wasn’t missing out on anything and that none of those profiles had anything to do with me or my endeavors. Now I’m realizing they do.

Especially being a part of the art world, social media is a tool that I’d be dumb not to use. Not only are platforms like Facebook and Twitter useful for networking, but also for self marketing. The quickest and cheapest way to reach readers is to link my blog to Facebook. When I advertise my post on social media, I have 500 potential readers just because I have 500 friends on Facebook. Sure, not all 500 will read this post, but my 50 friends who write might. There’s a web of feedback, a flock of readers, just sitting at their computers WANTING to read something… why can’t it it be something you wrote?

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New Expression

New Expression

A study done in 1974 showed that urban minority students were underrepresented and lacked a place to express themselves. This led a woman named Sister Ann Heintz, a Chicago teacher, to found Youth Communication, a non-profit organization, in 1976.

The organization is now called Youth Communication Chicago (YCC) and has helped over 3,750 Chicago students.  The Chicago high school journalists research, contribute, write, and edit articles to produce the news publication, New Expression, which is circulated throughout Chicagoland. New Expression reports on current events, issues, college and career news, business, entertainment and sports.

What was happening 30 years ago in New Expression—November 1983? Let’s start with the cover—a group of kids hanging out in a stairwell, one of which is snorting cocaine. Coke became very readily available to teens living in the heart of Chicago, where before, it stayed mostly in the suburbs. The article states, “Perhaps because of its publicity as the ‘in’ drug of the rich and famous, teens see it as an image-builder.” At this time, 17% of all teens used cocaine.

There are also short stories in this issue and letters to Santa and Mrs. Claus. In the entertainment section, there is a review on Richard Pryor’s Here and Now videotape, which according to the reviewer, was his best concert films. “The quality that has always set Richard apart from other stand-up comedians is the fact that his material works both as humor and as commentary on how he lives.”

In the archives, we have issues from 1977-2008.

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Creative Writing Department: 1998

The archives has a collection of Oral Histories from 1998 featuring the Creative Writing Department and faculty. Here are some notable excerpts from the interviews. You can read more of each Oral History by clicking on the name of the interviewee. Check out the rest of our collection here.


Tony Del Valle 1998, Alumnus (1978) & Writing/English Department faculty

“I think that in a way I was a typical Columbia student at the time in that I was involved in a lot of things. You know, the students are still doing that. They’re still holding down full-time jobs, they’re pursuing their majors, they’re pursuing many other things, areas of interest, which makes them very interesting, actually, as people.”

“At the turn of the century, colleges were really English departments. (They) were about teaching literature to an elite small group of students who were interested in it. And the bastard child was the Writing Department faculty.”

Randy Albers 1998, Chair, Fiction Writing Department

“You know, we have a whole series of wonderful awards… last week Hair Trigger won a silver crown award, the latest in a whole series of awards from Columbia University’s Scholastic Press Association. It is one of the top journals in the country, you know, Hair Trigger has won first place awards from three different organizations. There have been a lot of individual winners of awards, writers in the program, all of which we’re very proud of, and in some ways I feel like things are just kind of starting to break for a lot of our writers and that we’re really going to have a period where- where I hope, anyway, we are- breaking out of the national scene here more.”

Sheila Baldwin 1998, Alumna (1977) & Writing Department faculty

On the split of the Writing Department: “There’s too much division here and we, if it continues like professional and other, you know, it’s just not a good deal, not a good deal.”


John Schultz 1998, Professor Emeritus, Fiction Writing Department

“(In the late 60s) I had just developed a wholly new way of teaching writing called story workshop approach, and started using this approach with classes.”

(The workshop method was introduced to Columbia in 1966)

Betty Shiflett 1998, Alumna (1976) & Faculty, Writing Department

“In fact, most of what (John Schultz) had put together for Story Workshop was in revolt against the way writing is taught in academia.”

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First Honorary Degree Recipient : Gwendolyn Brooks

Gwendolyn Brooks

Exhaust the little moment. Soon it dies. And be it gash or gold it will not come Again in this identical guise.

Poet Gwendolyn Brooks taught poetry and oversaw the curriculum at Columbia College Chicago from 1963 to 1969. Brooks was the first african american author to win the Pulitzer Prize. Among her notable works are Annie Allen and A Street In Bronzeville. Her poetry deals with subjects of identity, politics, and the civil rights movement. Brooks is noted as Columbia’s first honorary degree recipient, all though awards were given by Columbia before 1964. In the following years, many notable and accomplished people were given the award. How many are you familiar with? Other well-known recipients include: Ralph Nader 1968

The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.

John Fischetti 1979

The blessed are the peacemakers.

Rosa Parks 1973

Racism is still with us. But it is up to us to prepare our children for what they have to meet, and, hopefully, we shall overcome.

Sherman Alexie 1994

Sixty percent of all Indians live in urban areas, but nobody’s writing about them. They’re really an underrepresented population, and the ironic thing is very, very few of those we call Native American writers actually grew up on reservations, and yet most of their work is about reservations.

Buddy Guy 2006

Once I was checking to hotel and a couple saw my ring with Blues on it. They said, ‘You play blues. That music is so sad.’ I gave them tickets to the show, and they came up afterwards and said, ‘You didn’t play one sad song.’

Phil Ramone 2012

When you get to know an artist, you find out the things that have peeved them over the years, and it’s generally the stuff that has to do with somebody not wanting to do things their way in the studio.

A complete list of Columbia’s Honorary Degree Recipients can be found here.

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Student Perspective: Digitizing the Written Word

Columbia College Chicago Library

As a college student, I know how much you hate that mandatory speech class. Some of you have gotten it out of the way early, and good for you, but I know there’s that group of students who have been putting it off… and putting it off….  Soon enough, it’s your last semester, and you still haven’t gotten that ridiculous public speaking class out of the way. I mean, who needs it, right? You’re in art school! You gave enough useless speeches in high school to last you a lifetime.

But how many of you know that Columbia College Chicago opened in 1890 as Columbia School of Oratory? A speech school. Forget about that one semester of standing up in front of people, prattling on about whatever you crazy kids are doing these days, all eyes watching your every move. (Shout out to my fellow vocal performance students here.) But what about years of speech class? A degree in public speaking? Or even slightly more unheard of: doing it for fun.

Phi Sigma, established in Chicago in 1877, is a group dedicated to public speaking and is the oldest continuously running organization of its kind in Illinois. The collection pays homage to Columbia’s early curricula in oratory arts and it speaks to Columbia’s mission and curricula today. Think about it, a bunch of people sitting around giving speeches to each other. For fun. Anyone else get shivers at that thought? It can’t just be me. They came to us, having once been a school of oratory, asking us to take in their extensive collection into our Archives. Among many items was The Voice, a monthly publication including members’ personal writings as well transcripts of their speeches. The earliest issue I’ve come across thus far was written in 1879. And yes, they are the originals. That’s almost forty years before the First World War. The Civil War had only been over for fourteen years at that point! You don’t have to be a history buff to agree that my job is pretty awesome.

There’s something wonderfully haunting about holding a yellowing nineteenth century document in your hands. The people that wrote those words haven’t written a single letter since well beyond any of us can remember. (And by the way, whatever happened to good penmanship? It’s a lost art, I’m telling you.) But paper fades. These voices from well over a century ago will eventually turn to dust, it’s no question. That’s where we come in. Our goal is to make these pieces of history accessible to the public. Scans of the original documents will be available to the public within the next year, and until then, we’re hard at work getting them ready for the eyes of a new generation.

These documents have become incredibly brittle over the years, and it hasn’t been uncommon to find rusted bindings and moldy pages, so they must be treated carefully. They have to be taken apart in order to be digitized in order to get the best quality possible. The bindings range from materials like staples and brass fasteners, to decorative ribbons, glue, and string. Keep in mind, these things have been bound together for over a century. They don’t come undone without a fuss. We do our best to keep the integrity of the pages, but sometimes that patch of glue just won’t budge. The digital images are then cleaned up in Photoshop, covering any blemishes while also trying to keep the pages looking like the originals as they came to us. Then the issues are assembled into PDFs to be made available to you!

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The Many Names of Columbia

Columbia College Chicago has only recently been named as such. Watch this short video, created by student archives assistant Steve Smith to learn more.


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Columbia College: 10 Years Ago

What was happening at Columbia College ten years ago, on May 17, 2004? Columbia College Archives has issues of the Columbia Chronicle dating back to November 1973.

Procter and Gamble, producers of such soap operas as Guiding Light and As the World Turns, held a contest for college students. Those with ideas for long-term character story lines could enter for the chance to win a trip to New York to meed with the shows’ producers. Soap operas aren’t doing very well these days. In fact, Guiding Light, the longest-running television show in history, was canceled in September 2009 after 57 years. As the World Turns ended in 2010 after 54 years on air.

Student Michael Gutweiler spoke about his mother, who was killed at the age of 15 by NFL player Leonard Little, who hit her while driving drunk. Little was released after a 90-day work release jail sentence.

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There are many other interesting things to check out: Faculty are outraged when the college asks them to cold call high school students,  an opinion piece entitled, “Don’t forget to neuter your deadbeat dad,” an article about the pros and cons of online dating, scooter sales soar, Chicago in distress over two possible Wal-Mart stores,  and much more!

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Check out the May 17, 2004 issue here.



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