One of my guiltiest pleasures (in the archives, anyway) is nosing around in what other people are looking at. I’ve found a lot of things that way that I never would have come across otherwise. Last week one of my colleagues recalled a small collection from the Library Service Center for processing. So when I went into the back room I saw four boxes labeled “Rice University Studies Records,” which I had no idea that we even owned. This is total catnip for me–something I’ve never seen!
Once I dug around in the boxes, though, it quickly became clear that there is a good reason why I’d never looked at this before. It’s a pretty dull collection: mostly draft manuscripts of articles that were published in the journal and correspondence with the authors. But there was one small folder that contained a notebook, and here I found something of interest. (I admit it took a minute to figure out what it was.)
This notebook goes back to the origins of the Rice University Studies as the Rice Institute Pamphlets. A core part of Edgar Odell Lovett’s vision for Rice was that it was to be a center not just of teaching, but of the discovery of new knowledge. As this idea of the university grew dominant during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, America saw the rise of the scholarly journal as a means to disseminate new knowledge. The Rice Institute Pamphlets was meant to be the new institution’s contribution to the world of scholarship, showcasing the work of our own faculty as well as other scholars of high reputation.
Lovett was also a very talented public relations man who understood that this publication could also serve the (perhaps somewhat less-elevated) function of advertising the new school. What this early notebook contains is lists of people and categories of people to whom copies of the journal were sent. If you click on the pages to enlarge them, you can see exactly what he was thinking. Although there are certainly academics here, most of the copies seem to have gone elsewhere: among others to recent high school graduates, Texas newspaper editors, and a very large number of women’s clubs. It seems safe to say that these folks would have found the Rice Institute Pamphlet impressive as all get-out. Smart. Very smart.
If you’re interested, most of the run of the Pamphlet is available online at the Rice Digital Scholarship Archive. Its digitization was funded by the Rice Historical Society and by Tom Williams, (Ph.D., class of 2000), (who was a classmate of mine here and a kinder, more interesting man you’ll never find.)
Those who aren’t already members might want to consider joining the Rice Historical Society. They provide real service in helping preserve Rice’s history. They also throw great parties.