What a Difference Fifty Years Makes: The Original Fenwick Library Building Today

George Mason College Library, Fairfax, Virginia, 1967. George Mason University Libraries records, R0095, Box 194, Folder 5, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

What was once considered old has become new again!

1966 architect’s rendering of George Mason College Library, Fairfax, Virginia. George Mason University Libraries records, R0095, Box 139, Folder 6, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

During the fall of 1967, George Mason College of the University of Virginia opened its fifth building on the Fairfax Campus. The original four – North (now Finley), South (now Krug), East and West – went into service in August of 1964. A significant part of West Building served as the college library until the completion of the 14,000 square-foot two-story library in 1967.  During the building’s dedication in December, it was named for a local member of the state legislature, Senator Charles Rogers Fenwick.  Fenwick, a speaker at the event, was unaware of the naming plan until it was announced at the ceremony itself.  He was admittedly surprised and humbled by the gesture.

George Mason College Library Dedication ceremony, December 15, 1967. This space served as the Periodicals/Microforms and Reading Room from 1967 until December 2015. George Mason University photograph collection, R0120, Box 1, Folder 29, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

As Mason became an independent university, and enrollment tripled over the next sixteen years, Fenwick would undergo two major additions.  A tower was added to the southwest part of the building in 1974, and an identical one on the southeast side in 1983. By the end of the 1980s, administrators agreed that the university’s needs were growing faster than the library.  Plans for more additions to the library were drawn up but shelved to make budget room for the upcoming University Learning Center (known today as the Johnson Center).

By the early 2000s library administration and staff were planning again for a new addition to Fenwick that would add more space for study, programming, and housing of staff and library resources.  By 2013 ground was broken, and construction was underway.  The new Fenwick Library would take over two years to construct and add over 2,000 seats for study, a 24-hour café and study space, a state-of-the-art Special Collections Research Center with dedicated space for exhibitions, and dedicated areas that can be used for special library events.  The 150,000-square foot addition was completed in January 2016 and complies with LEED silver standards.

So, what happened to the original library space?

Interior of The MIX@Fenwick, July 2017. This is the same location as the 1967 photograph above. Photo by Emily Curley.

It has been transformed into the MIX@Fenwick.  The MIX network (Mason Innovation Exchange) consists of two on-campus entrepreneurship- focused collaboration and maker spaces. The MIX@Fenwick is a student-centered collaboration and event space that will promote and encourage entrepreneurship at Mason.  It opened its doors to the Mason community in June 2017.

MIX@Fenwick provides students, faculty, and staff with spaces and tools for co-working, collaboration, and experiential learning. Multi-disciplinary groups can come together to meet, develop ideas, research problems, craft solutions, and start companies. The MIX@Fenwick is intended to be a place to promote interactions among students, faculty, staff, alumni, investors, and business advisors.

The Mason Innovation Exchange network seeks to empower students with the tools to solve problems and pursue entrepreneurial opportunities; provide a place to meet, socialize, and collaborate; create a network of entrepreneurial-minded individuals; and create a start-up culture at Mason.

For fifty years Fenwick Library has been an anchor building on the Fairfax Campus, bringing together students, faculty, and staff. Now that the original has been replaced, it is gratifying to see the former space repurposed and used once again as place for collaboration.

Exterior of the north side of the former Fenwick Library with MIX graphic on the window. Photo by the author.

The President and The King or Art Imitates Life

I was traveling on an airplane recently and stumbled across an interesting film while browsing the in-flight entertainment options at my seat. Elvis and Nixon is an eighty-six-minute history/comedy treatment of the infamous December 21, 1970 meeting between “The President and The King”.  The film features Kevin Spacey as Richard Nixon, Michael Shannon as Elvis, and Johnny Knoxville and Alex Pettyfer as Memphis Mafia members Sonny West and Jerry Schilling. Having worked at two libraries holding materials created by the man who photographed the meeting, I am quite familiar with Presley’s visit to the White House. I had several hours remaining in my flight, the book I had been reading had become boring, and this movie seemed to scream “watch me!,” so I decided to view it.

Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon, the most popular photograph in the history of the National Archives and Records Administration. From the Oliver F. Atkins Photograph Collection, C0036, Box 21 Folder 8. Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

The meeting between Nixon and Elvis was hastily arranged by both Presley, himself, and Special Assistant to the President, Egil “Bud” Kroh.  Elvis simply showed up at the White House gate on December 21, 1970 and asked that a letter he wrote to the president be delivered to him. Presley, an avid badge collector, wished to meet with Nixon to discuss America’s growing problem with dangerous drugs and volunteer to help out in the effort to stop it. He also hoped that Nixon might give him a badge from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs for his efforts.  Krogh thought a meeting with the famous rock star would provide the opportunity for the president to earn a little “street cred” with America’s younger set.  Fifteen photographs of the meeting in which Elvis and Nixon exchanged gifts and compliments were captured by White House photographer Oliver “Ollie” Atkins.  At the conclusion Nixon instructed assistants to make certain the appropriate official secured the badge for Elvis.

Kevin Spacey as Richard Nixon (left) and Michael Shannon as Elvis Presley (right) in Liza Johnson’s ELVIS & NIXON, an Amazon Studios / Bleecker Street release. Credit: Steve Dietl/Amazon Studios & Bleecker Street. In this still from the film Oliver Atkins, played by Gus Rhodes, is taking the infamous photograph while Egil Kroh, played by Colin Hanks, looks on. Used with permission.

The National Archives and Records Administration’s Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library and Museum holds negatives to photographs Atkins took while serving as Nixon’s photographer (1968-1974). Included in this collection are all 15 images of the famous meeting between the two. The photo of the two in mid-handshake, smiling, and looking directly at the camera is regarded by NARA as it’s most requested photograph, ever.

The George Mason University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center maintains a collection of photographs personally donated by Atkins in 1977. Atkins was an early neighbor and long-time friend to George Mason University since the early 1960s. This collection features about 60,000 photographs he made between 1943 and 1974. The photographs document his work as a photographer for the American Red Cross, The Saturday Evening Post, and the White House.  The White House photographs, which comprise a selection of prints he made while he was White House Photographer, contain two different images from the Nixon-Elvis meeting. For more information on the Atkins Photograph Collection visit the finding aid at http://sca.gmu.edu/finding_aids/atkins.html.

A storage box from the the Oliver F. Atkins Photograph Collection, C0036. Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Photographer Olliver F. Atkins. Oliver F. Atkins Photograph Collection, C0036, Box 27 Folder 4. Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two films have been made and several articles and books, including one by Egil Kroh, himself, have been written about the very brief but intriguing meeting. Krogh’s 1994 work, The Day Elvis Met Nixon, is his personal recollection of the meeting from memory and notes he made while taking part in it.  Comparing the meeting as portrayed in Elvis and Nixon with Krogh’s written description of the actual meeting might lead one to the conclusion that a bit of artistic license was taken in parts of the 2016 film.  Of particular note is a sequence during which Elvis eats M&Ms belonging to Nixon and another where he teaches the president some karate moves. Each of these, while perhaps not historically accurate, is very funny!

Richard Nixon shaking hands with Elvis Presley, December 21, 1970. Oliver F. Atkins Collection, C0036, Box 21 Folder 8. Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

I found Elvis and Nixon to be a fast-moving and fun film.  Kevin Spacey and Michael Shannon each did a fine job portraying their character’s unique posture, gesture, and speech.  The film succeeds in portraying an actual historical event while flavoring it with clever comedic moments. It is one of those films which can reach a broad audience and illustrate a moment in history, all while being entertaining in the process.

 

To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. You may also e-mail us at speccoll@gmu.edu or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to request and view collections.

Ok…So we found THIS during Rare Book Inventory.

Wie die Ostmark ihre Befreiung erlebte. Adolf Hitler und sein Weg zu Grossdeutschland, 1940. Book is in Special Collections Research Center, Rare Books, DB 96 .H63.

We are in the midst of doing an inventory or our rare books collection in SCRC. While working in the folio section, a colleague and I stumbled upon this disturbing yet intriguing volume.  Wie die Ostmark ihre Befreiung Erlebte: Adolf Hitler und sein Weg zu Grossdeutschland (How Austria Experienced its Liberation: Adolf Hitler and his Route to Greater Germany) tells the story of the early years of Adolph Hitler, Nazism, and the Third Reich.  This time period, from Hitler’s birth up to the Anschluss, or annexation of Austria in 1938, might be considered “the good years” for people sympathetic to the Nazis’ cause.  Luckily for the rest of the world, things went downhill for the Nazi’s in the years after that.

 

Title page to Wie die Ostmark ihre Befreiung erlebte. Adolf Hitler und sein Weg zu Grossdeutschland. This page, and others throughout the book appear to have been made to resemble woodcuts.

 

 

Published in 1940, Wie die Ostmark ihre Befreiung Erlebte has over 300 illustrations. The majority of them are small tipped-in reproductions of original black and white photographs, each 2 inches by 2.5 inches. This gives it the look of a sticker-collection book. The rest of the illustrations are larger printed photographs and drawings that resemble woodcuts.

The typeface used in Wie die Ostmark ihre Befreiung Erlebte is the old Fraktur, which originated in the 16th century. Ironically, one year later Hitler banned the use of this font (which was used in both this book and on the cover of Hitler’s earlier work, Mein Kampf) claiming it was a Jewish font  since it was often seen on Judaic printed materials.  

This page shows images of Hitler’s parents and boyhood home, as well as other buildings relevant to his young years.

While Wie die Ostmark ihre Befreiung Erlebte probably was intended to be a sort of celebratory “coffee table book” in 1940’s Germany, it now serves as a visible reminder of the dangers of allowing individuals with sinister motivations to attain positions of power.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pages of Wie die Ostmark ihre Befreiung Erlebte use the Fraktur typeface. Fraktur was banned one year after the publication of this book.

George Mason University Mentioned in the Film Hidden Figures

When was the last time you heard George Mason University mentioned in a major motion picture? For this author, never. But in the 2016 film Hidden Figures, which was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Picture, George Mason University found its way into the script during a memorable part of the film.  The reference to Mason was made by Janelle Monae in her portrayal of Mary Jackson, a NASA engineer and one of three African-American women who played key roles in the early development of the United States’ space program.

Janelle Monae as Mary Jackson in “Hidden Figures” Twentieth Century Fox Studios. Screenshot from video clip accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aiWlZJ6Pfg on 8 Mar 2016.

During the scene Mary Jackson is standing before a judge in a Hampton, Virginia courtroom to ask permission to attend night school classes in graduate-level math and physics sponsored by the University of Virginia and held in the then-whites-only Hampton High School.  When the judge informs her that segregation is the law in Virginia, and that an African American woman attending a white school is unheard of, Jackson pleads with him:

“Your Honor, you of all people should understand the importance of being first…You were the first in your family to serve in the  armed forces. U.S. Navy. The first to attend university.  George Mason… Your Honor, of all the cases you will hear today, which one will matter in a hundred years? Which one will you make the first?”

While the scene in the movie takes place sometime in 1961, as a later reference in the scene to Alan B. Shepard implies, we know that Mary Jackson actually attended the classes several years earlier and completed the program in 1958. A 1961 reference to George Mason University would have been a bit premature.  Mason was known as George Mason College (it became George Mason University in April of 1972), was a two-year community college, and had only been in operation for four years by 1961. So, it is highly unlikely that this jurist would have just finished his work at George Mason and became a high-ranking judge.

Nevertheless, it was gratifying to see that the writers of the film chose George Mason as the institution for the judge to have attended. This might spur some interesting reference inquiries in the future!

Vietnam Moratorium “Scroll” Documents George Mason College Community’s Activism

Student representative from the George Mason College Vietnam War Moratorium Committee presents Chancellor Lorin A. Thompson with petition asking college administration to excuse members of the campus community from classes on October 15, 1969. From The Gunston Ledger, Volume 7, Number 4. October 14, 1969.

Student representative from the George Mason College Vietnam War Moratorium Committee presents Chancellor Lorin A. Thompson with a petition asking college administration to excuse members of the campus community from classes on October 15, 1969. From The Gunston Ledger, Volume 7, Number 4. October 14, 1969.

On October 10, 1969 a neatly dressed George Mason College student presented Chancellor Lorin A. Thompson with a loosely-rolled scroll of paper containing the signatures of over 600 Mason students, faculty, and staff. The document petitioned Thompson to excuse students, faculty, staff and administration from classes and college business on October 15 so that they might have the opportunity to take part in local events pertaining to the Vietnam War Moratorium.  The Moratorium was a day-long series of events held in municipalities and on college campuses across the United States and the world to call attention to, and protest the United States’ involvement in, the Vietnam War. Thompson, photographed while receiving the petition, displayed a less-than-enthusiastic reaction to the document both in his facial expressions and in his words. He insisted that the college’s obligations to the state and its citizens mandated that it remain open, and students, instructors, and staff must be present on that day. He left the matter of attending the Moratorium activities up to the individual, who would be responsible for any consequences for missing class or work.

Vietnam War Moratorium petition photographed while taped to the wall of an unidentified George Mason College building. From The Gunston Ledger, Volume 7, Number 4. October 14, 1969.

Vietnam War Moratorium Petition photographed while taped to the wall of an unidentified George Mason College building. From The Gunston Ledger, Volume 7, Number 4. October 14, 1969.

George Mason College was not known for news-making protests or acts of civil disobedience during the Vietnam War era. Nearly all 1,890 George Mason students lived at home in their quiet suburban neighborhoods, most of them hailing from families with military or civil service backgrounds. Though students spoke their mind about the war regularly in the student newspaper, The Gunston Ledger, there had only been a handful of isolated incidences of antiwar activities at Mason. These were limited to symbolic draft card burnings and teach-ins, involving a few Mason students and faculty. The Vietnam War Moratorium movement of October 1969 marked a high point in activism at George Mason College. Just under one-third of the entire student body, faculty, and staff played a part in this movement-even if it was as small as putting a name to a piece of paper.

Box containing Moratorium Petition. From the George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.

Box containing Vietnam War Moratorium Petition. From the George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.

While working in our collections storage area in SCRC, the author came across a map storage box with a label reading: “Petition (Anti-Vietnam War) 1969”.  It was opened, and the 12-foot-by-16-inch manuscript was carefully unrolled for a few photographs before gently re-boxing it. The document still bears the masking tape that was used to attach it to a wall of one of the six campus buildings that comprised George Mason College in 1969.  Attached to the bottom of the document is a memorandum of October 3, 1969 from Mike Baker, the president of the Student Government, acknowledging that the body had voted 8 to 3 to endorse the Vietnam Moratorium. Student, faculty, and staff signatures grace the manuscript, which, when unrolled, bears a slight resemblance to the scroll containing Jack Kerouac’s original manuscript to On the Road.

The Vietnam Moratorium Scroll opened up in the SCRC collections storage area. The document is over 12 feet long. From the George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.

The Vietnam Moratorium Petition opened up in the SCRC collections storage area. The document is over 12 feet long. From the George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.

Moratorium Petition. From the George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.

Top part of the Moratorium Petition. From the George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.

It appears that this document itself played a relatively minor role in the larger Moratorium movement, judging by the small amount of newspaper space (a few sentences in two small articles) dedicated to it. The Moratorium events and corresponding editorial commentary received major coverage in the student paper for weeks afterwards.  But the scroll has survived as an artifact to help tell the story of this brief moment in the institution’s history, and it enables us to take a little trip into the past and understand what was important those who were here nearly 50 years ago.  Discoveries like this one help illustrate the value of archives and the archives professionals who preserve them.

The document is part of George Mason University Office of the President records, 1949-2004 #R0019.