Selection of the Month

Echoes of the Past

Month: 
July, 2020

The Western Washington University community has faced extraordinary challenges in 2020. Conditions of pandemic, racial injustice and economic crisis have forced many of us to abandon long-standing plans as well as deeply held assumptions.

Part of Heritage Resources’ mission is to serve as “memory keepers” for the Western community: to empower people to draw on the lessons of the past, and to preserve the experience of this unique time for future generations. We do this through articles like “‘Contagious Vigor’: Public Health Crises in Western’s Early Years,” (Heritage Highlights, Vol. 8, Issue 1), which featured material from the 1918-1919 pandemic that halted on-campus learning, and “Telling Our Stories: Western's Response to COVID-19,” a collecting initiative to chronicle this moment through a diversity of voices.

Even in – especially in – unprecedented times, we turn to archives for wisdom and warning, insight, inspiration, and perhaps a dose of humility. In that spirit, July’s Selection of the Month is a marriage of past and present. During the spring quarter, Western Today has featured a Photoblog by Office of University Communications Visual Journalism interns Cody Clark and Hannah Gordon-Kirk, documenting the online-learning campus experience and “Western's resilience and sense of community in the face of the coronavirus crisis.”

We have paired images and captions from the Spring Quarter Photoblog with published material from Western’s past (accessible online through the MABEL platform). How do these texts speak to one another? Can the voices of the past be heard echoing in contemporary images? What might emerge out of these conversations across time? 

Carly Lant, a Multidisciplinary Studies major, takes a break from rollerblading around the South Hill neighborhood.

Western Today Spring Quarter Photoblog, April 17, 2020

In the image above by Hannah Gordon-Kirk, Carly Lant, a Multidisciplinary Studies major from Bainbridge, takes a break from rollerblading around the South Hill neighborhood. Lant is a member of the Dead Parrots Society and rows for the WWU women’s team. When she is not on stage or in a boat, Lant is blading around town. "Blading is like breathing, I can’t live without it,” she said.

Excerpt from the October 12, 1918 issue of the Weekly Messenger (Western's student newspaper), describing student activities while classes were cancelled due to a flu pandemic.

Weekly Messenger, October 12, 1918

On October 8, 1918, Normal School suspended classes to fight the spread of influenza. Then, as now, students took to the outdoors: “The scramble through the woods, and over rocks and water was immensely enjoyed. For speed in getting over rough places, Miss Cummins and Miss Earhart are the winners. Many ‘Dorm’ girls were present, as well as others from nearby houses.”

 

Max Hunt, an English major from Oakland, California, plays a tune on his twelve-string guitar.

Western Today Spring Quarter Photoblog, April 23, 2020

In the image above by Hannah Gordon-Kirk, Max Hunt, an English major from Oakland, California, plays a morning tune on his twelve-string guitar. Hunt is taking spring quarter off to focus on his work and music.

Excerpt from the November 30, 1918 issue of the Weekly Messenger (Western's student newspaper), describing student Lena Smith playing her ukelele soon after the flu-related quarantine ended.

Weekly Messenger, November 30, 1918

The campus quarantine ended on November 18, 1918. Twelve days after classes resumed, the Weekly Messenger, forerunner of the Western Front, published this brief item— definitive evidence that Western students have been strumming on porches since at least 1918. 

Western students Sophia Regimbal and Claire Howerton peacefully protest on the corner of Chestnut and Railroad.

Western Today Spring Quarter Photoblog, June 4, 2020

In the photo above by Hannah Gordon-Kirk, Western students Sophia Regimbal and Claire Howerton peacefully protest on the corner of Chestnut and Railroad.

Article from the April 10, 1990 Western Front (Western's student newspaper) describing the return of armed police to campus.

Western Front, April 10, 1990

“But two Western students who do feel the campus will be safer with armed police are Camy Broom and Lisa Crossler.” “‘Police should carry weapons because if something did arise, they should be able to protect themselves and others,’ Broom said. ‘The way society is going police need to have guns,’ Crossler said.”

Painted brick with a message honoring Breonna Taylor, who would have turned 27 on June 5, 2020.

Western Today Spring Quarter Photoblog, June 5, 2020

The photo above by Hannah Gordon-Kirk shows one of many recently painted bricks on Western’s campus; the message is in honor of Breonna Taylor, who would have turned 27 today.

Clipping from the March 12, 2002 Western Front (Western's student newspaper), showing other painted bricks from around campus.

Western Front, March 12, 2002

“‘Others will walk in the path you’ve created,’ Western ceramics professor Patrick McCormick told his ceramics students, as he has every quarter for the past 33 years. ‘Not only literally, but the information that you left you can pass on.’”

Recent images from Western Today Spring Quarter Photoblog. Historical material from Western Front Historical Collection, available through MABEL.

Written by David Schlitt, Judaica Project Archivist and Interim Special Collections Manager.