New Collection-Prince William County Historic Newspapers

Special Collections Research Center received a new collection of historic local newspapers from the Prince William County Library in November 2016. We have been working to reorganize and address preservation needs of these papers for future use by our patrons. The papers in this collection date roughly from 1861 to 1992. They are currently organized by date and paper title which has been split up into six series. The series are:

  • The Manassas Journal
  • The Prince William News
  • The Manassas Messenger
  • The Journal Messenger
  • Potomac News
  • Miscellaneous
    • This contains article clippings and issues from other papers like the Alexandria Gazette, The Fauquier Democrat, The Richmond News Leader, and The Richmond Times-Dispatch

We began processing this collection in January and have just finished boxing the documents and created the Finding Aid in early February.

Processing Coordinator and Manuscript and Archives Librarian looking through new collections in the processing area of Special Collections Research Center.

Along the way, we found many interesting articles. One article that stood out to us came from The State:

“A Woman in Pants” from The State. Undated but between 1870’s to 1890’s.

And of course the advertisements are always entertaining, like these from The Manassas Messenger dated November 15, 1951:

“Magic skin bodies…”


So if you are doing research on local history, love newspapers, or just have some free time, stop by and check out the new Prince William County Historic Newspaper collection, #C0301! The finding aid is now up on our website and you can find it here by searching our collections alphabetically or by subject under Northern Virginia and Regional History. You may also e-mail us at 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.

Robert Clark papers and the Process of Processing

Robert (Bob) Clark was born in May 1922 in Omaha, Nebraska. He received a B.S. and M.A. while studying journalism and politics. He went on to become a Washington and White House correspondent for ABC News throughout the 1950’s and 1970’s, but continued to work for ABC until the 1990’s. Most notably, he covered and witnessed the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. Later in his life, around the 1990’s, he was a guest commentator on C-SPAN. Bob Clark passed away in December 2015.

I have been fortunate enough to process this collection in its entirety. This is something I have wanted to do for a little while now. I am currently the Research Services Assistant, which means my main tasks are to assist researchers and answer questions they have along with updating our social media sites. This role is a graduate student position here at GMU and I have worked here since August of 2015. I have been lucky enough to pick up other tasks within my position, and processing is just one of those things that I have wanted to learn more about. Since this was a small donation, it was a great collection to start with. The donors, Douglas and Sandy First, were neighbors of Robert Clark and had organized his papers into five boxes which were then given to us. My first step was to re-folder all of the papers. Some were already in folders but many papers were placed in the boxes. I took papers out of old folders and placed them into new, acid-free folders. Other papers had to be organized into smaller sections based on the subject. There ended up being so many added folders that I had to add another box.


Empty boxes that the Robert Clark papers were in when they were donated.

Once all of the papers were in new folders, I arranged them into Hollinger boxes. Most of the documents were already organized by subject. We typically keep all papers and materials in the same order they were donated in, if we can, so that SCRC staff and researchers can better understand the context and intent of the donor or author.


Folders from all six boxes were then reorganized into these nineteen Hollinger boxes.

All folders have the collection title, “Robert Clark”, on the top left side. The middle of the folder is left for a brief title which explains the content, date, and sometimes the sort of materials that are in each folder. The right side always lists the box number followed by the folder number. In the image below, the folder says 8.1, meaning box 8, folder 1. This makes it easy for researchers to view our finding aid and know where to look for information and which boxes to request. It also helps keep everything in order. At this point, I had a pretty good idea of the contents of these boxes. I knew that I wanted to organize them into six series: JFK assassination, Politics, Foreign relations, Domestic issues, Personal files, and ABC files. But first, an inventory had to be made.

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The boxes are then organized into series by subject. Folders are labeled with the collection name, a description of what the folder contains, and a number which lists the box and folder.

An inventory is the first step to creating a finding aid which will later be uploaded to the website for people to search. The only information required for this step is box and folder number, title, and date of materials in each folder.


All of the information is placed into Excel to create an inventory of the materials to eventually be used for making the Finding Aid.

We currently use Archivists’ Toolkit for our collections. After the boxes are organized and the Excel inventory was created, I filled in the necessary information such as the description and container summary. I listed the six series that I thought best organized the collection and I added notes about copyright, restrictions, the donation and other details that go on our finding aids. Once that is completed, I hit the “Export EAD” button, which saves the file so it can be opened in Notetab and coded for our website. When all the coding is done, an html file is created and is made available to the public.


Archivists’ Toolkit file for Robert Clark

The final step was to print out labels, place them on the boxes, and shelve them in our stacks with the other collections. Now the Robert Clark papers collection can be searched online, used for research, or used by SCRC staff for social media posts!

Putting labels on the new boxes before shelving.

Putting labels on the new boxes before shelving.


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 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 view collections.

Arena Stage reprocessing project completed by SCRC staff!

After years of work and a combined effort by many archivists and student assistants, we have finished the Arena Stage reprocessing project.   The project culminated in the creation of a brand-new finding aid, including a 739-box inventory, to help researchers access the riches of the collection.  The scope of the collection covers both the administrative and artistic sides of Arena’s work, documenting over 60 years of the life of a ground-breaking theatre institution.

Arena Stage ’s impact on American theatre is hard to overstate.  Since its founding by the indomitable Zelda Fichandler and her drama professor Edward Mangum in 1950, Arena has challenged the racial and political status quo, while pushing artistic boundaries and presenting high-caliber theatre.  One of my favorite discoveries in the collection, one that I posted on Facebook a few months ago, was a simple brochure advertising the 1967 premier of Howard Sackler’s The Great White Hope.  The ad features a photo of James Earl Jones (pre-Darth Vader!) and Jane Alexander, with Alexander’s head resting on Jones’s shoulder (pictured below).   In the context of the time, this image is deeply significant – interracial marriage was illegal in the state of Virginia until the Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia decision in 1967, just months before The Great White Hope’s world premiere at Arena.  An advertising image depicting an interracial couple – married or not – was a brave choice in 1967 Washington, DC, just across the Potomac River from Virginia.  Such courage and principle was typical of Arena, however, particularly in those years.


James Earl Jones and Jane Alexander.  Arena Stage Records, Box 143, Folder 27.  Collection #C0017, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University Libraries.

Aside from documenting Arena’s incredible contributions, the collection is a treasure trove of information on actors, including a number who went on to major careers in film and television.  The collection’s personnel sub-subseries includes  headshots, CVs, and/or correspondence from James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman, Sigourney Weaver,  Annette Bening, Ron Perlman, Henry Winkler, Edward Hermann, and many others.  Particularly entertaining is a series of letters, headshots, and a CV from John Lithgow (also posted on Facebook), who very much wanted to act and possibly direct at Arena Stage as a young man in the early 1970s, decades before he was on Third Rock from the Sun and voicing Lord Farquaad in Shrek.

Reprocessing the Arena Stage collection has been an adventure – the sheer scale of the task was monumental, but it was also a source of constant discovery and surprises.   We hope that the reprocessed collection and the finding aid that accompanies it allow researchers to experience the incredible history of Arena Stage and make discoveries of their own.

Picturing the Eastern Front: Postcards and Watercolors from the Gustav Klemp World War I German Graphic Materials Collection

One hundred years ago, Gustav Klemp, a trained artist from Podgorz-Thorn in what was then West Prussia, served as a medic in the German Army on the Eastern Front in World War I. Today, selections from the postcards and artwork he sent home to his wife and family during the war are on display outside of Special Collections and Archives (SC&A) in Fenwick Library.

The journey that the collection took to get to Mason reflects the complex 20th century history of the former German Empire and Eastern Europe. After Germany and Austria-Hungary’s defeat in the First World War, Poland became an independent nation for the first time since the 18th century. The victorious Allied Powers gave most of West Prussia to the new country, and the Klemps and other ethnic Germans in the province were given the choice to become Polish citizens or emigrate elsewhere. Klemp and his family chose to leave for the United States, and they initially went to Iowa before settling in Wisconsin. Their hometown of Podgorz-Thorn is now Torun, Poland. Gustav Klemp’s grandson, Richard Passig, resides in the DC area, and he donated his grandfather’s extensive collection of postcards and original watercolors and sketches to SC&A in autumn 2014, one hundred years after the outbreak and early months of the war in which his grandfather served.

Watercolor by Gustav Klemp of a grenade exploding, March 1916

Watercolor by Gustav Klemp of a grenade exploding (March 1916). Gustav Klemp World War I German graphic materials collection, Box 1, Page 22. George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections & Archives. Copyright not held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives.

Klemp’s postcards and artwork provide an intimate portrait of what life was like for ordinary men on the front lines of World War I. Klemp himself was not a soldier (he was in his early 30s during the war, and was older than the ideal age to fight), but he lived alongside and experienced many of the same hardships as the men he tended to as a medic. Several of the postcards that Klemp sent home show soldiers and medical staff in the downtime between the German Army’s offensives against the Russian Empire in modern-day Poland, Romania, and Ukraine. Klemp himself is featured in many of the photos, playing cards, celebrating Christmas in bunkers, and sitting and smoking with his comrades.

Gustav Klemp (bottom left) celebrating Christmas 1915 with his comrades.

Gustav Klemp (bottom left) celebrating Christmas 1915 with fellow staff and soldiers (December 1915). Gustav Klemp World War I German graphic materials collection, Box 1, Page 6. George Mason University. Libraries. Special Collections & Archives. Copyright not held by George Mason University Libraries. Restricted to personal, non-commercial use only. For permission to publish, contact Special Collections & Archives.

The collection is remarkable for the human face that it provides for an army that was the enemy of the Allied Powers, including the United States beginning in April 1917. In the spirit of Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and the French film Joyeux Noel, both of which illustrate the common experiences of soldiers and staff on both sides of the First World War, SC&A is proud to present Picturing the Eastern Front: Postcards and Watercolors from the Gustav Klemp World War I German Graphic Materials Collection, on exhibit until April 2015.

A unique look into post-independence Nigeria: students showcase their artistic work in “egghead”

– Blyth McManus

Publications highlighting art works produced by Nigerian college students in the 1960s aren’t necessarily what one would expect in to find in the research collection of a Robinson professor in GMU’s International Affairs department, but GMU’s Special Collections & Archives recently acquired exactly that. Within Dr. John N. Paden’s generous donation of nearly 90 linear feet of material were two rare student art publications which provide insight into a very specific time and place in art history.


Robinson Professor John Paden

In the 1970s, Dr. Paden was a professor at Ahmadu Bello University in northern Nigeria. The University was founded in 1961 and began admitting students in 1962. Dr. Paden’s work there was an important component of his larger work in Nigeria.

The publications provide a snapshot of the struggles Nigeria underwent shortly after securing its independence from England in 1960. Years of political and social turmoil followed its move into autonomy. Civil war broke out in 1965. The strong responses of some of Ahmadu Bello University’s students to the growing turbulence are candidly expressed through the visual arts and the written word in a publication produced by the Fine Art Department. Entitled “egghead,” the premiere issue was published in 1963. A second issue followed in 1964. The Smithsonian’s Collections website notes the existence of three issues in total, with the third listed as undated.  In addition to poetry and short stories, “egghead” features textile designs, three dimensional work, and paintings.


Excerpt from “egghead”, published by Ahmadu Bello University Fine Art Department, 1964. John N. Paden papers, #C0194, Box 89, Folder 3, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University Libraries.

In the inaugural June 1963 edition, two pieces stood out to me as particularly representative of the moment. First, an article by Josephine Osayimwase entitled “’Adire’ Cloth” discusses the traditional Yoruban cloth dyeing technique called “adire.” Osayimwase also discusses a later, altered form of adire, known as “eleko.” Formal evaluation of the patterns coupled with examination of techniques used to create the designs suggests a connection between traditional Yoruban artisanal production and some textile work being done in the US in the 1960s as tie-dye entered the visual lexicon of American craft. To learn more about adire textiles, visit the website of the Victoria and Albert Museum here. Hints of tie-dye fashions to come are visible in the 1960s patterns shown. The suggestion that traditional Yoruban textile work exerted global influence in that era is supported by scholarly research. One source states that by 1976, the export of Nigerian textiles was essentially a “cash crop.”[1]


Examples of furnishing fabric designs from “egghead”, published by Ahmadu Bello University Fine Art Department, 1963. John N. Paden papers, #C0194, Box 89, Folder 3, Special Collections and Archives, George Mason University Libraries.

Painters also contribute to the publication. Julie, by John Ogo, shows a woman gazing into the distance beyond the viewer’s left shoulder. Her hand rests protectively on her belly, implying pregnancy. The expression on the subject’s face and the strength of her gaze seem to indicate to the viewer that she and her unborn child are part of a new Nigeria that is focused on the future.

This publication is important because they show the students’ unfiltered responses to dramatic cultural upheaval. The creative production of these students provides a snapshot into what a generation of Nigerian people was experiencing at that time.


Resources: To learn more about the role that student publications played within the greater system of education in Africa, refer to:

  • Lindfors, Bernth. “Popular Literature for an African Elite,” The Journal of Modern African Studies,  September 1974. JSTOR –
  • Joseph, Marietta B. “West African Indigo Cloth” contains information about textile production and indigo work specifically. JSTOR –

Visit the finding aid for the John N. Paden papers to learn more about Dr. Paden’s collection as well as others available for research.

[1] Joseph, Marietta B. “West African Indigo Cloth.” African Arts, Vol. 11, No. 2., pp. 34-37, 95.

UCLA James S. Coleman African Studies Center: 1978. 95.