Snippets from Dorm Life: The Indiana University women’s residence hall scrapbooks

Memorial Hall, Sinclair Studio, 1931

In 1925 Memorial Hall Indiana University’s first owned and operated women’s dormitory opened, followed shortly thereafter by Forest Hall in 1937 (later renamed Goodbody Hall), Beech Hall in 1940 (renamed Morrison Hall in 1942 in honor of IU’s first female graduate Sarah Parke Morrison) and Sycamore Hall in 1940.

May Day Festival participants, “The Towers”, 1937

Each of these residence halls making up what we now know as the Agnes E. Wells Quadrangle had a long-standing tradition of making a scrapbook to document prominent activities and events that occurred either in the dorm or with its residents during that year.

The Indiana University women’s residence hall scrapbooks collection consists of 81 scrapbooks produced by the residents with volumes dating from 1925 to 1959. These scrapbooks typically contain individual and group photographs of dormitory residents and residential counselors, usually with accompanying textual information. They also often contain interior or exterior photographs of the buildings of Wells Quadrangle, as well as other sites on campus, such as the Indiana Memorial Union

Two residents of Memorial Hall East, “The Towers,” 1936 or 1937

and the Student Building. Besides formal photographs, there are images of everyday dormitory life, such as students studying, dining, or participating in athletics and other activities.

Many scrapbooks also contain memorabilia and ephemera such as dance cards, invitations, correspondence, event programs, sports schedules, newspaper clippings and similar items related to campus events and activities that were either sponsored or hosted by the dormitories or attended by their residents. Events frequently represented in these volumes include Homecoming, the Little 500, seasonal formals, and celebrations of holidays such as May Day and Christmas.

Most of the scrapbooks followed some sort of visual theme which allowed the dorm’s more artistic members to have a little fun:

Selected illustrations from the Sycamore 1951-1952 Log

Here’s one with involving a theme based on Dante’s Inferno:

Inferno-Theme
Selected illustrations from the 1928-1929 Castle Chronicle

These scrapbooks often also include little tidbits that give modern readers insight into the relationships that these women had with each other and how the outside world impacted their daily life. For example in a previous post from last year Mail Call: Correspondence at IU during WWII, our readers learned about how ladies at IU were affected by WWII.

Seniors Crop
Illustration from the 1930 Castle Chronicle

Many a scrapbook regale the reader with descriptions of pajama parties, teas, dances, and social coffee hours. Others may include more personal notes such as a congratulatory message from the dorm to one of the ladies on her engagement, a retelling of a special moment during the year, or perhaps an inside joke known only to that particular community. Each scrapbook will also often include sections on the academic triumphs of the residents and a section dedicated to seniors which recount many fond memories of their lives at IU as well as advice for underclassmen moving forward.

If you’re interested in these or other scrapbooks contact the IU Archives to schedule an appointment.

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