2023 Virginia Archives Month

Colorful banner with the collaged archival images in the background and the text "Archives are community made."

To highlight the power and opportunity in the DIY efforts of both archivists and archives users, this year’s Virginia Archives Month theme is Community Made: Zines and Self-Published Material. Archives are reflections of the communities who built them, and our users often find themselves inspired to add to the community’s story or to use our materials to create something new. Archives aren’t only for scholars and researchers; they can be for artists and writers and anyone!

A zine (pronounced zeen) is a self-created magazine about anything! They can be made from basic supplies like paper, scissors, pens, and markers, and then reproduced by simple photocopying.

Making a zine can be as simple or as detailed as you’d like it to be. Below, we’ve included a diagram that shows how you can make a zine with just a regular letter-size piece of paper and a pair of scissors.

A cartoon-style graphic depicting the steps of folding and cutting a small zine.
Make your own mini zine!

Whatever goes inside is up to you! Zines can be used to tell a story, share artwork, bring together a community, spread information, or just for self-expression. You can cut and paste images on the pages, write, draw, or all of the above!

This month (and also all the time) we’re encouraging our friends everywhere to try making their own zines. Even if it’s just for you and no one else, you’re still part of a community of creators and we’re happy you’re here! Virginia is lucky to have several zine libraries and collections of self-published materials in repositories across the Commonwealth. We have a small collection of materials here at UMW too!

Cartoon of the head and shoulders of person wearing sunglasses. Their shirt says "Static" in a large wavy font. The text reads "WMWC 540 AM, Spring '93, vol. 2, no. 3."
Spring 1993 issue of Static

One such example is Static, which was briefly the official student publication of the Mary Washington college radio station WMWC. The self-published newsletter showcases the classic cut-and-paste and hand-drawn aesthetic of 80s and 90s punk and, while generally focused on music and culture, openly invited submissions of all kinds.

A person's hand holds open a zine to a page where the bold headers "Who is an archivist?" and "What is an archive" are prominent.

There’s plenty more self-published and community made materials in the UMW Archives! Come visit us at our Archives Month table on Tuesday, October 24 from 4-5:30pm. We’ll be on the first floor of Simpson Library making zines and we invite you to join us! We’ll have all the materials on hand for you to get started! We’ll also have some examples from UMW’s collections and our own personal libraries for you to view, and some free Virginia Archives Month stickers and swag.

See you there!

Congratulations to our Graduating Student Aides!

It’s been a bittersweet week in Special Collections & University Archives as we bid farewell and good luck to our two student aides, Jamie Van Doren and Kathleen Martin, both graduating this semester! Jamie and Kathleen have worked with us over the past year and made so many of our projects successful. Their work included curating two exhibits in Special Collections, assisting researchers in the reading room, processing and captioning oral histories, fulfilling digitization requests, creating metadata for digital collections, researching and developing technical workflows, and so much more! Before their last day with the department, they answered a few questions about their time here and their thoughts on the future of archives. Check out their answers below! (Spoiler Alert: Dr. Ferrell’s classes frequently lead to employment in our department!)

  • What brought you to work in Special Collections & University Archives?
    • JVD: I decided I wanted to work in Special Collections & University Archives when I found out about it through Dr. Ferrell’s 298 class. I was really fascinated by getting to see the rare books and the Digital Archiving Lab.
    • KM: Spring of 2022, I was taking History 297 (now 299, as it was the transitional semester) with Dr. Ferrell, and we came into Special Collections and the Digital Archiving Lab to get introduced to our Omeka project. I didn’t know they had existed prior to that day and I was enchanted the moment I walked in. When it was mentioned that the Archives was hiring for a student aide for the following semester, I knew I wanted to do that; at the end of that class session, I asked for a job.
  • What was your favorite project that you worked on during your time as a Special Collections & University Archives Student Aide?
    • JVD: It’s hard to pick a favorite project, but if I had to choose I think I would go with the Black Alumni Oral History project. The content was obviously fascinating, and I also feel like I learned practical/useful skills with that one (the captioning process, how to use Premier Pro and Media Encoder).
    • KM: While it was tedious work, I thoroughly enjoyed doing captioning for the oral history projects. I enjoy problem-solving and feeling useful, and revamping the workflow for that project made me feel both of those things. Of course, I’ve enjoyed much of what I’ve done here, but that one gives me a real feeling of accomplishment.
  • What is your favorite item (or collection of items) in UMW Archives and why?
    • JVD: My favorite collection of items in UMW Archives is the yearbook collection. One of my favorite things to do is flip through a random yearbook and look at pictures of places that I recognize (or don’t recognize). I think they give such a rich perspective on what UMW was like in different time periods, and I enjoy them a lot.
    • KM: I have a soft spot for the student handbooks. I found them while doing research for a patron and enjoyed them so much that I did my senior thesis with them as my primary source. I think they give a really interesting look at the structure of student life, which is a topic that fascinates me endlessly.
  • What is your favorite book from the rare book collection and why?
    • JVD: My favorite book is Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. The book itself has such a fun story. I think it’s an awesome addition to the collection, a beautiful book, and an interesting one with the writing in the margins and the insides of the front and back covers.
    • KM: I enjoy the James Joyce Ulysses collection we have, both because I enjoy Joyce’s work (though I’m mostly familiar with Dubliners) and also because I am entertained by the fascination that previous archivists clearly had with Joyce. The collection takes up several shelves, all filled with various editions of the same book, and that entertains me to no end.
  • What are your post-Mary Washington plans?
    • JVD: My post-Mary Washington plans are to start my job as Senior Library Assistant in Access Services at George Washington University’s Gelman Library. I will also be pursuing a Master’s degree in Library and Information Sciences from University of Washington through their online program.
    • KM: I just interviewed for a museum position in Maryland, so fingers crossed, but if that doesn’t work out, I’m keeping my eyes open. I’m a very opportunity-driven person (see above, when I applied for this job because the opportunity jumped out in front of me) so I don’t have any specific plan I’m trying to follow. That being said, I enjoy working in both Museums and Libraries, and I think I would like to continue working in one or the other. That might eventually force my hand to grad school, but I’m going to see what I can do with my Bachelor’s first.
  • What kinds of archival resources do you think researchers will use in the future when looking back at what Mary Washington was like in 2023?
    • JVD: I think the school newspaper will be incredibly useful, as well as social media accounts for the school and it’s programs—SAE, CPB, sports teams and clubs, etc.. Those will say a lot about what day-to-day life was like for UMW students. If there’s a way to archive the social media posts of campus organizations, I think that information would be very useful for people to have.
    • KM: I think digital-born archives will be heavily utilized, such as course catalogs, student handbooks, and archived emails, but I also think that things like archived websites and student blogs could come in handy as well. In my opinion, physical archives will never become obsolete, and things like scrapbooks and journals will always be useful and interesting.
  • Do you have any favorite Mary Washington memories?
    • JVD: I have lots of favorite Mary Washington memories! In SCUA, I think one of my favorite days was the big reunion we had over the summer in 2022. I had a ton of fun showing people their yearbooks and the interesting items we have in the Rare Book Room and stuff like that. I don’t think I was necessarily having fun at the time, but I also love looking back on climbing the stairs up from Russell to go up to campus. The tree with a bunch of shoes on it is one of my favorite things, plus the view as you make it up the hill and can see the Bell Tower and stuff like that.
    • KM: I have enjoyed my classes here and I have enjoyed the people I met here. As I am a “non-traditional student” (which I think is a silly label) I have looked at Mary Washington as just another job. I don’t live on campus and I haven’t done many student activities or events. Still, getting to form a friend group who have similar interests and values to me has been a dream, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to do so.

Special Collections & University Archives is so appreciative of all the excellent work Jamie and Kathleen accomplished this year, and we can’t wait to see what they do next!

UMW Rare Books Spotlight Series #3: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

Check out the third video in the UMW Rare Books Spotlight Series! In this installment, Dr. Antonio Barrenechea discusses our first U.S. edition of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, published in 1792. A common favorite among staff and students, and frequently used in classes, this book is currently out for conservation treatment with the help of Giving Day donations. The treatment will include restoring the corners of the covers to better protect the pages inside, and reattaching loose pages.

This video was filmed and edited by Nick Onorato ’23.

Welcoming our first Rare Books Faculty Liaison, Dr. Antonio Barrenechea

This semester, Special Collections & University Archives is excited to welcome our first Rare Books Faculty Liaison, Dr. Antonio Barrenechea. Dr. Barrenechea is a professor of English at the University of Mary Washington. He holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from Yale University. Upon arriving at Mary Washington in 2005, he developed two primary research tracks in literature and cinema studies. In both cases, his work ranges over the territories of North, Central, and South America from the pre-Columbian era to the present. His 2016 book, America Unbound: Encyclopedic Literature and Hemispheric Studies (University of New Mexico Press) is a study of how big novels reimagine early European and Native American cultural encounters in the New World. Dr. Barrenechea is currently working on an intellectual history of Literature of the Americas with the support of a Reese Fellowship from the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. In summer 2023, he will begin an M.C. Lang Fellowship at the University of Virginia’s Rare Book School.  

Dr. Antonio Barrenechea standing in the Special Collections Reading Room.
Dr. Antonio Barrenechea is a professor of English at the University of Mary Washington and the Rare Books Faculty Liaison with Special Collections & University Archives in Spring 2023.

Dr. Barrenechea is working with Special Collections & University Archives this spring to enhance the visibility of Simpson Library’s rare book collection, which includes over 2,000 volumes of unique books and serials. The collection holdings include many first editions, signed volumes, and historic books published as early as 1496. As part of his work, Dr. Barrenechea will research the history of the rare book collection, survey the collection for strengths and potential future development, and work with interested faculty in incorporating rare books into their courses. One project also includes the creation of a series of videos highlighting distinctive books from the collection. You can check out the first video discussing the Library’s first edition copy of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four here:

UMW Rare Books Spotlight Series #1: Nineteen Eighty-Four

In 1965, Dr. Sidney Mitchell, Professor of English and member of the first rare books committee, was quoted in an alumni newsletter stating the collection’s purpose: “It is important that the Rare Book Room not be confused with a museum or repository for peculiar objects protected behind glass barriers. It is not. The Rare Book Room is an integral part of the library, and its contents are purchased and cared for solely in order that they may be available to students and faculty for examination, study, and research.” Since the formal beginnings of the rare book collection around 60 years ago, the primary purpose of the collection has been to be available for faculty, staff, and student research, and our hope is to continue to increase usage and engagement with the materials across the community.

Special Collections & University Archives has open hours on Tuesday & Wednesday afternoons, 1:30pm-4:00pm; available for anyone to stop by and work with our collections! We’re also available by appointment throughout the week – email archives@umw.edu to schedule an appointment.


Terrell, Joseph. “Rare Book Room Open for Students.” Mary Washington College at the University of Virginia Alumnae News, Spring 1965. Accessed March 13, 2023. https://umw.access.preservica.com/IO_83e6963d-3e78-4821-aa76-22031eefcc8d/

Black History at UMW: James Farmer Collections

James Farmer, an older Black man wearing an eye-patch and dressed in a suit, seated at a desk. Farmer is smiling and has his hands placed on the desk.

It’s no surprise that Civil Rights leader and icon James Farmer has placed his stamp on UMW history. His bust has stood outside of what is now James Farmer Hall for over two decades now, along with his quote that encourages young people to stand up and speak out on behalf of people denied their rights. Alumni who were fortunate enough to take his Civil Rights History course when he taught at Mary Washington between 1985-1998 tell incredible stories of his inspiring and powerful lectures. James Farmer spoke from the unique perspective of someone who truly lived at the center of a historic moment, and he spoke of his his experience with a profound mixture of honesty, knowledge, and courage.

While most members of the UMW community probably know about James Farmer’s history, many may not know how much of it still lives in the archives. Special Collections and University Archives holds multiple collections of James Farmer materials that add breadth and depth to the story that we know. These materials are open and available to use in Simpson Library’s Special Collections Reading Room.

The James L. Farmer, Jr. Papers is a manuscript collection of Dr. Farmer’s materials collected by the archives from his Spotsylvania home after he passed. The papers are mainly reflective of his life while at Mary Washington, and they include correspondence, printed materials, photographs, audiovisual materials, and other items reflective of his activities towards the end of his life.

James Farmer, an older Black man wearing an eye patch, standing at a podium with a microphone. He is speaking and pointing outwards.
James Farmer addressing Farmer Scholars, 1988.

The James Farmer Records from University Relations and Communications is a collection of materials transferred to the archives from the Office of University Relations and Communications, dating from 1984-2008, with the bulk of the contents from the late 1980s through the mid 1990s. The majority of the collection’s content includes public media materials such as television and radio appearances, and newspaper and magazine articles. The collection also includes correspondence, secretarial notes, speeches written by James Farmer, and documentation of some of Dr. Farmer’s many awards and honors. This collection offers insight into the life of James Farmer’s career as an educator and public figure later in his life.

Both of these collections are rich with audiovisual material that can be viewed or listened to in the Reading Room due to copyright restrictions. Fortunately, we also have many AV items available online that are publicly accessible from anywhere in the world! The James L. Farmer Digital Collection has a substantial collection of photographs, along with several videos of class lectures filmed at Mary Washington and audio of a 1968 speech delivered at Kent State University.

Contact us with questions or to make an appointment at archives@umw.edu. We also have open hours in the Reading Room from 1:30 – 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Come visit us in Simpson Library, Room 217!

Recent Acquisition – The Adventure of Cobbler’s Rune

In December, Simpson Library added a new book to the rare book collection: The Adventure of Cobbler’s Rune by Ursula K. Le Guin. Cobbler’s Rune was published in 1982 through Cheap Street Press, an independent press located in New Castle, Virginia, just outside of Roanoke. The press, specializing in science fiction and fantasy, was owned and operated by George and Jan O’Nale from 1980 to 2001.1 The Ursula K. Le Guin Literary Trust and the book itself note that only 277 volumes were produced, and Simpson Library holds number 71. The text is signed by Le Guin and the illustrator, Alicia Austin.

Cover of the Adventures of Cobbler's Rune
The Adventure of Cobbler’s Rune

Cobbler’s Rune joins a growing collection of special Le Guin publications in the rare book room, which includes signed first editions of the Left Hand of Darkness and Tales from Earthsea. The majority of this original collection was donated by Dr. Warren Rochelle upon his retirement from the English department at the University of Mary Washington. The purchase of Cobbler’s Rune was made possible by donations to Simpson Library, and staff look forward to sharing this book with the UMW community as part of Ursula K. Le Guin’s extensive works, and as an interesting example of Virginia independent press publications.

Jamie Van Doren ’23 contributed research and writing to this post, as well as digitized the cover and pages from The Adventure of Cobbler’s Rune.


  1. Winne Wagaman, “Till Death Do Us Part,” The Roanoker, December 1, 2010, accessed February 3, 2023, https://theroanoker.com/interests/history/till-death-do-us-part/

Great Lives Lecture Series & the Rare Book Room – Thomas Paine

Did you attend last week’s Great Lives lecture by Craig Nelson on the subject of Thomas Paine? If so (or even if not!), you might be interested in stopping by Special Collections & University Archives to view some of the items in our collection written by Thomas Paine and published during his lifetime. Paine (1737-1809) was a pamphleteer and political activist whose writings greatly influenced the American Revolution. He is often known for his most famous piece, Common Sense. Simpson Library’s rare book collection includes the following titles, all published in the 1790s:

The title page and table of contents from The Works of Thomas Paine (vol. 1), located in Special Collections & University Archives. This volume was published in 1797.

Stop by the reading room during our open hours or schedule an appointment to take a look at these publications!

Jamie Van Doren ’23 completed the digitization of pages from The Works of Thomas Paine (vol. 1) for this post.


Welcome to the new home for news and updates from UMW’s Special Collections & University Archives department. Staff will use this blog to share announcements regarding new exhibits, digital collection updates, exciting additions to our collections, upcoming events, interesting information about our rare books and archives, and much more. New stories will be published on the Library’s website, and you can also subscribe using your preferred RSS feed reader. We hope to add an email subscription option soon, too. 

If you’ve been a longtime reader of our previous blog, Spinning Wheel, you’ll still be able to access previously published articles. However, with changes to UMW’s blog hosting system coming this summer, Spinning Wheel will be an archived website, and will no longer be a functioning database with a search feature. If you’re having trouble locating a specific article, or have any questions, please contact us at archives@umw.edu

A collage of activities in the Reading Room and the Digital Archiving Lab, including a class visit to view rare books, students scanning in the lab, two students using an archival collection, one student using a computer in the lab, and one student viewing student handbooks in the Reading Room.
A collage of activities in Special Collections & University Archives, including class visits, archival research, and digital projects.
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