NSights Blog

'Building a Campus Community' explore student life in the latest Special Collections and University Archives exhibit

Sesquicentennial Archivist Rebecca Sparagowski dives into the history of student life on campus in a new exhibit from University Libraries

Universities would be pretty dull places without students.

At the University of Nevada, Reno, students have always enjoyed a vibrant campus culture. From the founding of the University in 1874, and certainly since the Reno campus opened in 1885, students have put their mark on the institution and shaped it into the dynamic place it is today.

The current installment of the Special Collections and University Archives’ (SCUA) “Celebrating Silver and Blue: 150 Years of the University of Nevada, Reno” exhibit is called “Building a Campus Community.” With this installment, we wanted to focus on what makes the University special: its students. From the student newspaper to student groups to student activism, there was a lot we wanted to highlight!

Two students carrying a protest sign.
Campus Images Collection, UNRA-P1196-2. University Archives.

For example: SCUA holds a complete run of the student newspaper, the Nevada Sagebrush, starting from its very first issue dated October 19, 1893. Earlier that year, the students had petitioned the Board of Regents for permission to start a campus newsletter but were denied. The students started the newspaper anyway, calling it The Student Record. Over time, it’s grown into the campus news source it is today. That’s such a great story of student resilience and determination that we had to share it!

We also wanted to show how students today participate in that tradition of engagement and activity. In addition to the historical materials, we partnered with the Nevada Sagebrush staff to showcase photographs from the on-campus protest of October 12, 2023. University of Nevada, Reno students have a long history of taking a stand on public issues – the first student demonstration was in January 1900, in defense of two well-respected professors.

A student lays down on the hood of a car.
Campus Images Collection, UNRA-P1015-02. University Archives.

One of the most exciting parts of this exhibit is the collection of photographs hanging on the walls in the exhibit room. These are photos that were given to the archives, but for which we have very little information. We’re inviting visitors to the exhibit to take a look at these photographs and tell us what they know! Visitors can use either the online form (accessible via a QR code in the exhibit room) or write their information in a guest book in the exhibit room.

Two students riding a moped on campus.
Campus Images Collection, UNRA-P1017-04. University Archives.

Student life is notoriously difficult to document in the archives. Students often don’t realize that they and their actions are an important part of the historical record. We hope that this exhibit changes that. As students see themselves represented in our exhibit, we hope they’ll see that SCUA is a place for them to be represented and their stories to be told.

“Building a Campus Community” will be on display on the 3rd floor of the MIKC until June 2024. The exhibit can be found on the north, east, and south walls of the 3rd floor, as well as the exhibit space in SCUA.

Black and white photo from 1904 of two ladies on campus wearing top hats, Nevada sweaters, belts, and long white skirts.
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