I stumbled across this list of “objects representative of the time” that were placed inside the cornerstone of Fondren Library in 1947. I was immediately struck by how bland these objects were. See for yourself:
I’m sorry but that’s just dull. I feel like if I could do it today I’d make more interesting choices. But there’s no denying that the choices fit well with the dignified tone of the short speech that President Houston, who’d only been at Rice a bit over a year, gave at this occasion. It’s clear from his words how much this new library meant to the campus and he advances a vision of the role of the library in the intellectual project of the university that I find still compelling:
One last thing: I’ve been getting some backtalk recently from a couple of readers who want to know why it seems like I never find the things I’m looking for in the place I expect to find them. Well, my answer to this sassiness is up in the top left corner of the first page of this speech. That’s Miss Alice Dean‘s handwriting, instructing that the documents should be filed under “Cornerstone.” Wh–?? Why? How would anyone ever know what’s in there? This is what makes it all so exciting, of course. I’m surprised very nearly every day.
Bonus: This view of Reckling (and beyond) came today from loyal reader John Wolda, who took it from the window of his doctor’s office.
They put the contractor and the librarian in the cornerstone? That does not sound bland to me!
RED BILL’S WRITTEN REMARKS DO NOT MENTION RICE’S FIRST AND ONLY LIBRARIAN, ALICE DEAN, WHO WAS SITTING RIGHT BESIDE HIM AS HE MADE THOSE REMARKS. PERHAPS HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN PUT IN THE CORNERSTONE, TOO!
Sadly, she never got her due for all the years of work building that library. I do my best to correct that!