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The Ohio University Homecoming Archives displayed in Alden Library, Oct. 6, 2023., in Athens, Ohio.

Homecoming Archives display welcomes students, alums

The Ohio University Archives and Special Collections lives year-round on the fifth floor of Alden Library, but from Oct. 1 to Oct. 7, a handful of that memorabilia found a new home in the Homecoming Archives Display.

The display, arranged on the fourth floor of Alden, is open to the public during library hours. It consists of yearbooks, publications, photos and other relics, some dating back as far as the 1800s, said Bill Kimok, university archivist and records manager.

The display is designed as an interactive experience in which visitors can touch, hold and flip through each piece of memorabilia.

“In my profession, some people refer to it as a petting zoo,” Kimok said. “Some people are really intimidated by the word archives. They think, ‘Oh, don’t touch…’ I want people to feel comfortable; after they’re gone, I don’t want to see stuff in the same place that I put it.”

As a longstanding tradition beginning in the early 2000s, Kimok said his goal each year is to provide the display with archival pieces that spark interest among students and especially alums.

Jeff Miller, who graduated from OU in 1976, visited the fourth-floor display during his return to Athens for Homecoming. He said revisiting campus, and the display in particular, caused him to reminisce on the power of the Bobcat community.

“Ohio University is a magical place,” Miller said. “This is a small place and everybody is lumped together. I’ve not ever seen any place that has the long-term feeling … that this place does.”

Though alums are a target audience of the display, Kimok said in recent years professors have started bringing their students to visit the display during class time.

“The idea is to get students to know a little bit about the history of the university because they are becoming a part of the history,” Kimok said. “It gives them some sense of belonging.”

Jacob Suncire, a junior studying education as well as a learning community leader, brought his learning community to the display to get a taste of the archives.

“I think it’s cool to see the history of this campus so far and see how it’s changed,” Suncire said. “Even these yearbooks back from the 2010s are different.”

Suncire’s learning community is made up of transfer students, so he said it was a rare opportunity to give them a much-needed crash course in university history.

“It shows how much culture that OU has,” Suncire said. “They’re coming to a new place from somewhere else that they did not like, so they’re trying to find their home. Seeing all these archives can really help them see how deeply rooted the culture is.”

Kimok said students are often most taken aback by the array of photos in the display; specifically, pictures of floods prior to the moving of the Hocking River in 1969 and 1970.

“Students hear that that used to happen, but they’ve never seen the pictures,” Kimok said. “It really means something when they see ... Richland Avenue totally underwater or Peden Stadium with just a little bit of it sticking out above the water."

Another hot commodity is photos of protests that closed the university in 1970. The display includes a collection of pictures showing clouds of tear gas, protestors, police officers and the chaos in between, depicted well enough to bring back vivid memories for alums who were involved.

“Seeing all the riot pictures on the college green, I was involved in that; everyone was involved in that,” Miller said. “I got tear-gassed in the middle of the street … The guy next to me got hit between the eyes with one … I helped that guy down to the health center.”

Kimok said one of his favorite aspects of the display is the opportunity to hear more about the history of the university from alums.

“These things trigger memories for people,” he said. “That’s how I get to hear a lot of the really good stories.”

The Homecoming Archives Display serves many purposes, but one final goal of the arrangement is to inform students, community members and alums that the history of the university, featured in the display and beyond, is available year-round through the University Archives.

“I don’t want to direct people to what they should be looking at; I just try to help them get there by putting the stuff out,” Kimok said. “We are stories waiting to be told.”


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