When we talk in the Woodson about “the glass plate negatives” we all know what that means: a couple of boxes of pictures taken on campus just before and during the formal opening ceremonies in 1912. This is the source of the iconic images of the opening that we’ve all seen many times, This one, for example:
But today, through a convoluted series of tiny accidents we rediscovered a completely different collection of glass plate negatives (or rather, two collections). They’d been sitting in a back corner of the vault on a bottom shelf, snug and cozy, where no one had paid any attention to them for a very long time. I would guess it’s been almost fifteen years since anyone has looked at them and this morning was the first time I’d ever laid eyes on them myself. There are a lot of images here, more than I could look at in a day, easily more than a hundred. I’m still reeling.
Much of what I saw comes from the late 1920s and early 1930s. There are some stunning photos (including some surprising nudity) and I’ll put more of them up as we go, but I’ll start with one of my favorites so far:
That’s Max Freund, who came to Rice to chair the German Department in 1925 and was a presence around campus even after his retirement until his death in 1980 at the age of 101. As I thought about how a picture like this might come to be taken, I wondered if he was sitting for a Campanile photo. In fact, he was. Campanile pictures are fuzzy, but note the tie, which is the same in both images:
Close examination of the 1930 Campanile turned up quite a few of the images I saw today. This is fortuitous–it allows me to identify people and generally make better sense of what I’m looking at.
What a great day.
Bonus: If you think it’s all quiet and calm in the archives, you are mistaken. That’s a lot of boxes, even for us.