July 15, 2009

Database chronicles SIUC’s history of diversity

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A new initiative from Morris Library University Archives and the Office of the Associate Chancellor for Diversity means you can now easily search a computerized database for student newspaper stories and photos that chronicle Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s history of diversity.

The Yesteryear Daily Egyptian Diversity News Index is now online at www.lib.siu.edu/diversitycollection.

“19 Track Letters Awarded: Payton Leading Scorer” reads the June 5, 1935, Daily Egyptian headline about the accomplishments of the Maroon track and field team. “Dick Gregory, Dizzy Gillespie Here Thursday” announces a May 2, 1961, story about the accomplished black entertainers appearing on the SIUC campus. Gregory is an SIUC alumnus.

“Clock Hands Helped SIU Win Amid Foe’s Fierce Comeback” is the headline from Jan. 27, 1965. It tells the story of sophomore Saluki forward Walt Frazier scoring 30 points to lead SIUC to an 84-77 win over Tennessee Tech. These are just a few of the hundreds of stories you’ll find on the Web site.

An early student newspaper began in the late 1800s at the University and lasted just a short time. The Egyptian began in 1916, more than a decade after its predecessor folded. The Egyptian and later the Daily Egyptian, along with untold other historic documents, are preserved on microfilm in the Morris Library Special Collections Research Center.

The online Yesteryear Daily Egyptian project begins with 1930 and goes through 1970, according to Leah Broaddus, University archivist for the Special Collections Research Center. She said editing work is ongoing and then archiving will continue to bring the collection up to more current issues.

When visiting the news index, you’ll see when and where each indexed story appeared in the Daily Egyptian. Each listing includes that information along with a scanned copy of the original story and/or photo and a transcribed, typed version of the story and photo description. The online index includes a search feature as well.

Brandon Smith, a senior radio and television major with art minor, has spent untold hours looking at old SIUC yearbooks and other sources, getting information to help him identify the various clubs, organizations and people to be included in the diversity index. Smith, who is from Centralia and is the son of Rhonda Smith, said it’s been an interesting task.

“What’s really stood out to me is how diverse SIUC has been through the years,” he said. “You can really see it, especially in our athletic programs and organizations. Consistently you see key basketball players who make a name for themselves as Salukis and things like that.”

Broaddus said soon after arriving on campus, she learned of the University’s “great history of diversity going way back, longer than many schools,” and she wanted to make available to the public the stories of that rich diversity through an index of student newspaper articles. Seymour Bryson was the associate chancellor for diversity and was quick to endorse the idea, even providing the funding for Smith’s salary.

“School newspapers are a great source of information about a university’s history, a great place to start,” Broaddus said.

Since 2006, Smith has reviewed countless microfilms of old Daily Egyptians, looking for references to the people and events that attest to the University’s diversity. He skimmed countless lines of type and photographs. Through his research, he knew to look for key words, such as Dunbar Society, as well as a variety of names and faces. Working independently most of the time, he scanned, transcribed and catalogued the stories and photos. Morris Library’s membership in the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois, known by the acronym CARLI, provides a host for the recently launched database.

Broaddus said the library recently acquired new text recognition software that will speed up Smith’s efforts to document more recent news of minority populations at SIUC. She also hopes that in the future, they can expand their scope, digitizing not only the student newspapers but also the various newsletters that also tell the tales of the campus and its people.

“We know what we have is not exhaustive. But, it’s a good beginning, a representation, a starting place,” Broaddus said. And, she said, The Daily Egyptian Diversity News Index offers insight into the historical accessibility to higher education that SIUC has provided to students of different races and ethnic origins.