My Experience as an SCRC Graduate Student

Posted on March 6, 2012

Hi, my name is Rachel Thomas and I began work in the Swem SCRC at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year.  I am a Graduate student working towards my MA in Early American and US History.  I received my BA from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington in 2011.  I came to this archives from a much smaller archives that had no permanent staff in place and no professional archivist.  From my first day I was impressed by the organization and systems in place, and the fact that researchers flock to the archives on a daily basis.  In my first few months I have organized collections, assisted with displays, done transcriptions, and learned more about archives than I ever expected.  My recent project has been writing "On this day in WM history..." tweets for the SCRC Twitter page.  It has been a really interesting project. I have learned so much about campus history.  Some of my favorite stories were about the school traditions, legends, and the ever changing William and Mary mascot.  The mascot at one point was pony named Wampo who was continually stolen my rival teams, and was eventually sold in a war bond auction.  Some of my favorite legends at William and Mary include the Crim Dell Bridge and the idea that if a couple kisses in the middle they will end up married, but if you walk across alone you will be single forever.  Watch for SCRC tweets that will include links to this and other interesting campus stories!  

I am also working on my MA thesis using a collection housed in the Swem SCRC.  Researching in the Reading Room is very nice.  It is quiet and staff is very helpful.  I love being able to handle documents that are sometimes hundreds of years old.  My project involves transcribing a collection, and it has been very amusing.  One thing many people do not know is that nineteenth century people had very keen senses of humor.  My collection includes many jokes, and amusing anecdotes.

Today I read the diary of Private William James Lawler who served in the United States Military during World War II.  The diary was a record of his daily occurrences, movies he saw, dates with his wife, the birth of his daughter, and some of the sweetest love notes I have ever seen.  One of my favorite parts of the diary were the numerous entries written or added to by his wife nancy Selina Lawler.  Nancy was a very witty wo,an.  It seems that before she gave him the diary she went and marked in important dates so that he would never forget.  On her birthday she wrote "My honey's birthday, don't forget a present you big lug!"   In the address section in the back of the dairy she wrote "No females allowed to be listed here by order of Nancy Selina Lawler."  It was very touching to read a diary filled with such love between and man and his wife.  They constantly wrote of how they missed each other, and how they loved to be together.  William refers to Nancy throughout the dairy as my honey.  Almost every entry ended with "Gee I love my honey!"  It was a touching love story of two people, often separated by the war, whose love kept them strong.

Rachel Thomas is a graduate student in the Department of History and a 2011-2012 Archives Apprentice in the Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library. 

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