Campus History by Moonlight: the First International Student Glow-in-the-Dark Tour

A few weeks ago, Davidson College’s new International Student Advisor, Bea Cornett, got in touch with the Archives & Special Collections – her recent new employee orientation campus history tour had sparked an idea: what about spicing up new international student pre-orientation week with a night-time glow-in-the-dark history tour?

We had a quick turnaround – roughly two weeks from the conception of the idea until it was carried out. Jan Blodgett (College Archivist & Records Management Coordinator) and I got to work, brainstorming stories from the archives that could be spooky, creepy, or weird enough for a glow-in-the-dark tour. We compiled a list of fifteen tales, pulled archival material related to each, and scanned the material to make a study guide.

Some of stories we selected:¬† Davidson’s first virtual student, Bill Edwards; the Ghost of Old Chambers; finding skulls and skeletons in the columns of Old Chambers and early x-rays on campus; several tales of freshmen hazing of days gone by; the Freshmen Riot of 1903; the December 21, 1854 student rebellion; and the history of some of the oldest buildings on campus – Eumenean and Philanthropic¬†Halls, the Carolina Inn, and Oak and Elm Rows.

Last Friday afternoon I met with the International Orientation Leaders, the group of students who would help acclimate our new freshmen to campus. Bea assigned each student a stop along the tour, and I told short versions of each story we’d selected. We all discussed the archival material and how each Orientation Leader would make their story their own. That following Sunday evening, fellow library staff Cara Evanson, Sarah Crissinger, and I led small groups of new international students around campus, stopping at each glow-stick-lit Orientation Leader to hear tales of Davidson’s past.

Orientation Leader Santiago Navia (Class of 2017) tells a group of new internationals students the tale of Bill Edwards in front of E.H. Little Library.
Orientation Leader Santiago Navia (Class of 2017) tells a group of new internationals students the tale of Bill Edwards in front of E.H. Little Library.
Hannah Heartfield (Class of 2016) tells the new internationals students about the long history of tree planting on campus.
Hannah Heartfield (Class of 2016) tells the new internationals students about the long history of tree planting on campus, while Maria Jose Arias (Class of 2017) helps guide the group around campus.
Joscar Matos (Class of 2016) regales the new students with tales of skulls found in the columns of Old Chambers and the stealing of a corpse finger for one of the earliest x-rays.
Joscar Matos (Class of 2016) regales the new students with tales of skulls found in the columns of Old Chambers and the stealing of a corpse finger for one of the earliest x-rays.
The Ghost of Old Chambers comes alive when our Orientation Leader got the classic spooky story treatment of a flashlight under the chin - or in this case, an iPhone flashlight.
The Ghost of Old Chambers comes alive when our Jason Oteng-Nyame (Class of 2017) got the classic spooky story treatment of a flashlight under the chin – or in this case, an iPhone flashlight (held by Maria Jose Arias, Class of 2017).

The first Glow-in-the-Dark Tour was a success – new freshmen were spooked and entertained, and tour-givers and tour-takers were united in wanting to hear even more tales from the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections. We can’t wait for next year’s iteration of the international student Glow-in-the-Dark tour!

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