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Ole Miss Library seeks commencement memorabilia

By Edwin Smith

University of Mississippi

The University of Mississippi’s Department of Archives and Special Collections is looking for photos, programs, invitations and other materials from the university’s previous Commencement ceremonies.

Alumni, visitors, faculty, staff, students and any others who have archival materials related to Commencement ceremonies are invited to donate them to the department, where they will be preserved and made available to researchers and visitors.

“We are seeking to further augment the existing archival UM commencement collections with donations of programs, written memories about past speakers, invitations, news clippings, photographs, ephemera, audio and any other related archival memorabilia,” said Jennifer Ford, head of special collections. “In addition, interested patrons are invited to come view a selection of special collections’ unique archival holdings in the exhibit ‘A Selected History of Commencement at the University of Mississippi,’ featured in two cases outside the front doors of the department.”

These cases are on display during regular library hours on the third floor of the John D. Williams Library.

The university conducted its first Commencement in July 1849 but had no graduates, as this was only a year after the institution opened. In the words of university historian David Sansing, the four-day event surrounding the official program included “sumptuous banquets, a commencement ball and many speeches … and was a gala celebration.”

The 1849 address was given by Alexander M. Clayton and acting university President Albert Taylor Bledsoe. James Jones Quarles was a member of the first graduating class, which included only 15 students, in 1851, and he received the very first diploma issued by the university.

For more information about the initiative or to donate materials, contact Ford at 662-915-7408 or jwford@olemiss.edu.