Public Monuments at Bowdoin College: An Archival Exploration CLAS 2238: The Politics of Memory: Commemoration in Ancient Greece and Rome | Spring 2021

Introduction to Special Collections & Archives

Special Collections & Archives is a department of the Bowdoin College Library that houses rare books, manuscripts, and the College Archives.

Want to learn more about SC&A? Watch this brief introduction with Marieke, Special Collections Education and Outreach Librarian:

The Memorial Flagpole

Before our class session together, read the description of the Memorial Flagpole from Patricia McGraw Anderson's Architecture of Bowdoin College (1988) below:

"The Memorial Flagpole" from Patricia McGraw Anderson's The Architecture of Bowdoin College. Brunswick, ME: Bowdoin College Museum of Art, 1988 (pages 56-57).

Also before class, look closely at the following photographs documenting the "Flagpole Incident:"

Photographs, "Flagpole Incident," 1930. Bowdoin College Archives. Explore more images of the Memorial Flagpole.

In-class activity

Together we will look closely at sources that document the various perspectives on the placement of the flagpole on Bowdoin’s campus. As you engage with your source, please consider the following questions:

  1. What do you learn from this source?
  2. What do you want to know more about to better understand it?
  3. How does this example from Bowdoin’s past connect to what you’ve been reading, discussing, and creating in this class?

Discuss as a group in your breakout room, then prepare to share what you’ve discussed when we reconvene!

GROUP 1: Bowdoin Orient, April 16, 1930

Look specifically at the following articles:

  • “Two Hundred Students Deposit Infamous Spar in Oft-Violated Chapel” (pages 1, 4)
  • “Dates of the Polish Uprising” (page 1)
  • “The War Memorial” (page 2)

Group 2: Bowdoin Orient, April 23 and 30, 1930

Look specifically at the following articles:

  • “Communication, April 17, 1930” and “Beale Letter” (April 23: pages 2, 3)
  • “President Sills Issues Statements” (April 23: page 2)
  • “Student Opinion Pole Sought in Orient Poll” (April 30: page 1)
  • “Communication, April 26, 1930” (April 30: page 2)

Group 3: Bowdoin Orient, May 7, 1930

Look specifically at the following articles:

  • “Poll on War Memorial Indicates Disapproval to Site and Form” and “Poll on Pole” (pages 1, 3)
  • “Vindication” (page 2)
  • “Communication (from the Lewiston Journal)” and “We wish to comment” (page 2)

Group 4: The Dean's Perspective

Flagpole Incident Verses written by College Dean Paul Nixon (Speeches and Writings: Paul Nixon Papers. M140.1, box 2, folder 17)

Archival Resources

The Bowdoin College Archives maintains historical College records - both physical and digital - documenting many aspects of Bowdoin's history. Here are some resources that best support researching College monuments, statues, and markers.

Bowdoin College Library Archives Image Gallery

Here you can find digitized photographs and illustrations of Bowdoin College campus, people, and events from the early nineteenth century to the present. Keyword searchable and option to download images.

Bowdoin Publications and College History Resources

Here you will find an online archive of the student newspaper, College catalogue, and other Bowdoin publications, fully accessible online.

When looking to the Orient or Alumnus magazine as a resource, it is helpful to have a date range in mind to scope your search: keyword searches are possible within specifically defined periods (ie. academic year) but not across entire publications.

Finding materials and visiting the Archives

Bowdoin's archival materials are organized by College department and inventoried in what are known as finding aids.

You can search by keyword on our homepage. Remember that archives and the way they are described can be somewhat tricky to navigate, so if you don't find what you're looking at contact a librarian or archivist!

Once you find something you would like to see in person you can request that particular item and make an appointment.

Learn how to register to access the College Archives in this video:

Learn how to request archival materials:

Questions? Contact Marieke at mvanders@bowdoin.edu or set up an appointment to chat online!

A Recognition

SC&A, like all archives and special collections libraries, is the creation of human beings who have collected, organized, and described things in ways that reflect personal, cultural, societal, and institutional biases. Although we strive to preserve and present collections in a manner that is respectful to the individuals and communities who create, use, and are represented in the collections, we acknowledge that our systems are neither neutral nor perfect. We encourage you to let us know if you encounter materials, descriptive language, or practices that are offensive or harmful, particularly those for which inadequate context or warning is offered. We are committed to modifying and updating our descriptive practices to use respectful and inclusive terminology and appreciate your help in this work. We look forward to supporting you in your research and learning together.