In an older photo, six people are onstage performing a play, most of them in cabaret-style clothing with hats and leotards, with one in a shiny white wedding dress.

Uncovering Williams History

Uncovering Williams History

Two student research fellows spent the summer engrossed in the library’s Special Collections, teasing out different slices of Williams’ history.

Asher Gladstone ’24 examined the lives and work of college staff members from 1857 to 1902. During that period, Williams was large enough to have a substantial number of staff and standardized bookkeeping practices. It was also before specific job titles and budgets were absorbed into larger departments as the college became bureaucratized.

Using accounting ledgers, newspapers, census records and more, Gladstone’s work, distilled into a detailed spreadsheet and research paper, offers insight into Williamstown residents whose contributions may have been lost to history but who, nevertheless, shaped the college. Asher discusses his research process, how the college is a microcosm of broader economic trends and what he learned about telling the stories of others in an interview on today.williams.edu.

Meanwhile, Jiwoo Han ’25 explored the history of thought about Shakespeare among Williams’ scholars and their manifestations of his work. Before the theater department was established in 1951, groups such as Cap and Bells performed for the community. Han’s research begins in 1948, when a troupe called Undersigned presented Macbeth. From that point to today, she collected newspaper reviews, playbills, directors’ notes and student papers to piece together a history of the Williams community pushing the limits of the Shakespearean tradition.

Han accessed four different manuscript collections, interviewed staff and faculty, and gathered photographs from different eras. In addition to an exhibition and public talk, she published “What (will) you, Will? Shakespeare at Williams” on the digital storytelling platform ArcGIS StoryMaps.

The Library Special Collections Summer Research Fellowships program funds student research in the Chapin Library or the College Archives. Working closely with library staff, students can cultivate an area of interest or work on an ongoing project. Learn more about these and other fellowships on the Special Collections web page.

Photograph: A 1976 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, courtesy of Williams College Archives and Special Collections.