New Archives Online Exhibit: Archival Gems

By - Systems Librarian December 9th, 2015


A new online exhibit is available on the Ohrstrom Library Digital Archives digital image website called Archival Gems: The Gem Tintype Albums of St. Paul’s School. This exhibit features fifteen images from the St. Paul’s School Archives collection taken from the two gem tintype photograph albums shown in the image above. Gem tintypes are tiny photographic images about the size of a postage stamp created using a specialized camera with multiple lenses. These albums date from the late 1860s and represent some of the earliest photographs of students in the archives collection.

Learn more about this interesting early photographic process through these detailed student portraits by clicking HERE.

Ohrstrom Library Digital Archives now on Facebook

By - Systems Librarian September 13th, 2012

Ohrstrom Library Digital Archives now has a page on Facebook.  You can keep up with what is new with the OLDA website, see photographs from the history of St. Paul’s School, get a regular dose of doggerel from Nugalia, among other interesting things.  Click through the link HERE and “like” the Ohrstrom Library Digital Archives Facebook page now, and invite all your SPS friends to do the same!

From the Archives: Letters from Valpey

By - Systems Librarian May 26th, 2011

As the end of the School year approaches it will soon be time to tally up the academic standings and award the Valpey prizes.   These prizes get their name from the Rev. Thomas G. Valpey, a faculty member at St. Paul’s School from 1860 to 1868, and again from 1875 until his death in 1890.   Among his many bequests he left St. Paul’s School funds to establish an award of academic prizes each year.

While a teacher of Greek at St. Paul’s School, Valpey gained a reputation for being a thorough taskmaster.  Arthur Stanwood Pier’s St. Paul’s School 1855 -1934 relates that Valpey would give his students only a few seconds to recite a Greek declension, timing them with his watch.  He also had a habit of mumbling into his beard – described as “undoubtedly the most extensive beard that has ever been seen within the precincts of the school.”

At the beginning of the 2010-11 School year, the archives acquired two letters written by Valpey dated from 1860.  They were both written to William H. Anderson, a classmate of Valpey’s from Yale – Valpey graduated in 1858 and Anderson in 1859. There are not very many items in the archives from this early time of the school, and fewer personal letters, making these important additions to the collection.

The letter shown above was written not long after Valpey came to SPS – in December of 1860.  He discusses the details of his daily life, his feelings of loneliness, and wanting to visit his friend.  But he also mentions being offered a permanent position at St. Paul’s, one that would provide the primary source of employment for him over the course of his life.

In addition to the fund for prizes at SPS, Pier lists a number of other donations that were part of Valpey’s will, including bequests to Concord Public Library, the Orphan’s Home,  and the Library at St. Paul’s School.   He characterizes Valpey’s intentions this way:

The terms of his will showed how genuine was his interest in promoting education, not only at St. Paul’s but elsewhere. . . It shows how earnest was the testator’s desire to contribute in every way he could to the intellectual and spiritual enlightenment of the communities with which he had been associated.

As with many traditions at St. Paul’s School, the Valpey prizes provide an opportunity for the students of today to connect with the people from the past who invested their ideals into the making of a great school. Congratulations to you all.

New Archives Exhibit: The Form Plaques of SPS

By - Systems Librarian March 31st, 2011

As promised on Ohrstrom Blog just prior to March break, a new Archives online exhibit is now available on the Ohrstrom Library Digital Archives: The Form Plaques of St. Paul’s School: John Gregory Wiggins.

Eighteen images have been selected as the focus of the exhibit. Each image includes a description of the symbols employed in the plaque design and is written by the carver of the plaques, John Gregory Wiggins.  In addition to the individual entries in the exhibit you can take a quick overview of the plaques by viewing a slideshow of the images. The exhibit offers a great introduction to this School tradition, and helps to decipher some of the interesting imagery used to depict aspects of St. Paul’s School history.

A more detailed description of the Form plaque tradition begun by Fourth Rector Samuel Smith Drury and Wiggins can be read HERE.

You can also view a complete list of Form plaque images available on OLDA by clicking HERE.

Take a few minutes to browse through this latest addition to the OLDA collection and learn more about the history of the plaques that adorn the dining halls in the Upper.

New on OLDA: Form Plaque Photos

By - Systems Librarian March 3rd, 2011

The Ohrstrom Library Digital Archive – OLDA for short – has some new images available from the SPS Archives for online viewing. A series of photographs have been digitized featuring forty-two of the Form plaques on display in the Coit Upper Dining Hall. The first nine plaques from the Forms of 1859 through 1867 have been added to the website this week and include descriptions of the symbols present in the designs as described by the carver, John Gregory Wiggins.

Click HERE to see the images.

Wiggins was a teacher at St. Paul’s School from 1912 -1916, until he left to pursue a full-time carving career. Counted among his many ecclesiastical commissions are the carvings he created for the New Chapel – including the allegorical animals that adorn the pews in the choir room. Wiggins began carving Form plaques in 1921 and over the years he designed and carved the plaques for the Forms of 1858 through 1953.  These include all the plaques on display in the Coit Upper Dining Hall and the colorful heraldic shield plaques in the Upper Cloister.

More images will become available on OLDA over the next few weeks, and a selection of the images will be collected into an online exhibit with more detail on the history and tradition of the plaques.  Over time, images will be added of plaques carved by other artists that continued the tradition after Wiggins.

In addition, you can follow the process of the creation of the Form plaque for the Form of 2011, as documented in the SPS Form Plaque Project blog and SPS Form Plaque Project Facebook page. This project is the result of the Form of 1973 Mentor Fellowship awarded to me last spring, and I will be carving the plaque over the summer that will be displayed in the Coit Middle Dining Hall when completed.  Over the next few years I will be carving additional Form plaques for the missing years going back to 1991 so that a cherished school tradition begun ninety years ago by John Gregory Wiggins can continue into the future.

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