W.T.K. Nugent: Notre Dame’s IU professor

As the new intern in the IU Archives this semester, I was assigned to continue processing the collection of history professor Walter T.K. Nugent’s papers. This collection, comprised of a sizeable 79 boxes, is a somewhat atypical accession for the IU Archives. Who is W.T.K. Nugent, you ask? Nugent was a history professor at Indiana University from 1963 to 1984, at which point he accepted the Tackes Professor of History chair at the University of Notre Dame, where he spent the remainder of his active teaching profession. Though he retired in 2000, he remains busy writing articles and reviews, focusing on the American West, the Progressive Era, and social/demographic history. As I was a history major myself (at the small school across the street from Notre Dame, coincidentally), I am really enjoying going through this collection – though I do occasionally get confused as to where I am after spending the afternoon reading off of Notre Dame stationery. Why does IU have the papers of this professor who spent most of his distinguished career at Notre Dame? To put it simply, he liked Indiana University better. We’re not questioning this too much.

I started the semester where the last intern left off, right in the middle of Dr. Nugent’s monographs. The history professor clearly took up his profession with gusto. The proof is in the amount of books, articles, and reviews he published; the speeches he gave; and the advice he shared with colleagues and friends through letters and email. Nugent has been active for nearly 50 years, culminating in approximately 50 boxes containing something about his publications. There are subseries within each major work, as well, including correspondence, reviews, drafts, and research. I never know what I’ll find when I open a box; as a true historian, Nugent filed away all kinds of papers, from Mackinaw Island pamphlets dating from the 1990s to personal photos taken on a trip to Brazil, to this little sheet slipped in among 1970s book reviews:

Golf Scores from 1973
Golf Scores from 1973

As a history student, I love to find these things when I’m working in the archives. However, as an archives student, the variety in Nugent’s collection raises many questions about what material is historically significant and what material is perhaps too sensitive to keep open. There are a few seemingly random papers like his golf scores, but there are also items like references and personal letters that raise issues of confidentiality and potential privacy problems interspersed with regular material. While it might be entertaining to know that Nugent shot some decent games in 1973, this likely will not help researchers interested in knowing Nugent’s take on that William Jennings Bryan book published in the same year. Still, can keeping one little paper like this really hurt the research value of the collection? These are the kinds of decisions archivists have to make as they process a collection. Access restrictions to sensitive information is perhaps more well-known as a processing issue, but along with that, processors must make some accession decisions on seemingly irrelevant but nonetheless fascinating material. I would argue that this makes the job all the more interesting.

Prof. Nugent’s papers will take awhile to process, but I have been enjoying all the research I’ve seen so far and look forward to the things I will find as I continue on. I’m almost done with his publications, which I think have given me a decent grasp of the ex-IU professor’s interests and methods in his academic life. I feel prepared to tackle the rest of this collection with a good understanding of what is historically important in Nugent’s life, and by extension, his papers.

Golf scores written on the back of an IU Transmittal Slip
Golf stats written on the back of an IU Transmittal Slip

New finding aid: Vice President and Dean of the Faculties records

 Do you need to know anything about Indiana University from 1940-1959?  This just may be the collection for you!  The finding aid for the Indiana University Vice President and Dean of the Faculties records is now online and is a treasure trove of information on university activities before, during, and after World War II.

The Dean of the Faculties Office was created in May 1940 for the purpose of overseeing the administration of academic affairs. In creating this office, university president Herman B Wells hoped to distribute his duties, particularly during his absences, by giving the Dean of the Faculties responsibility for undertaking some of the public appearances, acting on academic problems and proposals, and serving as a member of all university faculty groups.

The first Dean of Faculties, Herman T. Briscoe, oversaw the office during World War II and during the post war rise in attendance.  Most prominent in this collection, which dates from Briscoe’s tenure, is correspondence relating how the university responded to World War II, including national defense, curriculum, and student affairs.  The patient researcher will find records addressing whether or not Japanese-Americans should be admitted to IU and how to assist students from China who had lost all communication with their families.

Since the Dean of Faculties was a member of all faculty groups, there are also records about the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Law, Graduate School, Music, Education, Arts and Sciences, and Business, as well as numerous committees and departments.

As always, let us know if you would like additional information or to schedule an appointment to access the records!

Travel Postcards

A few days from now I’ll be sitting on a sunny beach somewhere with my toes in the sand and it got me thinking about travel postcards. Did anyone else meticulously send everyone they knew postcards when they were a kid on family vacation?

Washington Monument, postmarked June 18, 1943
Washington Monument, postmarked June 18, 1943


The following are a few fun postcards we happened to have on hand, drawn from our Hennel Hendricks collection. This collection, still in process, holds the personal and family papers of Cecilia Hennel Hendricks, late Associate Professor of English, and her sister Cora B. Hennel, late Professor of Mathematics.

Postmarked Hayward, Wisconsin August 24th, 1943
Postmarked Hayward, Wisconsin August 24th, 1943

Postmarked Hanover, New Hampshire, March 17, 1943
Postmarked Hanover, New Hampshire, March 17, 1943

The Old “Pest House”: Early Medicine on the Indiana University Campus

With flu season upon us, we thought it would be a good time to revisit campus health care from yesteryear. Students on the present-day Indiana University campus may take for granted the wealth of medical services available through the Student Health Center. However, for more than eighty years—from the University’s founding in 1820 until the turn of the twentieth century—no formal, organized health services or health center existed to serve student needs. In response to worries over the smallpox epidemic sweeping the nation following the Spanish-American War c. 1898 and a growing student body coming to IU from areas with poorly enforced vaccination regulations, Indiana University administrators set plans in motion to construct or purchase a building to be used as a hospital for students with infectious diseases.

After reports of smallpox’s increasing virulence within the state of Indiana, University President William Lowe Bryan took precautionary measures and moved forward with plans to secure a site for a smallpox hospital. On December 15, 1902, the University purchased a two-story frame building—originally a farm house—on South Henderson Street, approximately one mile south of the University Campus; at the time, this spot was on the outskirts of Bloomington, though the site is near the present-day Templeton Elementary School just south of the Bryan Park neighborhood. The building’s distance from the University along with the five acres of land on which it sat ensured that potential spread of disease to healthy students or neighbors would be minimized. The building essentially became the University’s Isolation Hospital, though it was colloquially deemed the “Pest House.” Students suspected of having contracted a contagious disease were confined to this house until they fully regained their health.

Click to see a map of where the “Pest House” was located in relation to the Indiana University campus.

Harvey Pryor became the first Pest House caretaker and nurse for contagious patients. Pryor was chosen for this position because he exhibited resistance to smallpox after having it in his family, though he is not known to have had any formal training in medicine. As anticipated and detailed in Bryan’s President’s report in March, 1903, several students—five with smallpox and one with scarlet fever—were admitted to the Pest House during its first winter of operation. The facility was continually used to treat students with infectious diseases such as smallpox, scarlet fever, diphtheria, and influenza until 1939, when a larger Health Center building was constructed near the current I.U. Chemistry Building. Advances in modern medicine made the need for an isolation hospital nearly obsolete, and the new Health Center could better accommodate the wide range of health needs demanded by a burgeoning student population; this facility was replaced by the present-day Health Center in 1965. The old Pest House was eventually dismantled in 1957 after standing abandoned and in disrepair for a number of years.

The "Pest House" facing dismantling in 1957

The University Archives houses various records and reports related to the Pest House’s role on campus in terms of the presence of disease among the student body, specific patient stays, fees incurred for hospital care, and building maintenance and inspections. Please do stop by the Archives to learn more if this brief history piqued your curiosity!