Exploring UC in Photographs

By:  Iman Said, Archives & Rare Books Library Intern, 2014-2015

Hello, and welcome to my first blog! My name is Iman and I’m a student in the College of Business, studying Operations Management. This year, I am working as a research intern in the Archives & Rare Books Library, a cozy nook on the 8th floor of Blegen Library. The ARB Library is a home to the University’s rare books collection, UC archives, hundreds of archival collections, and texts from all over the world. Just an hour of working in this corner of campus is enough to get a glimpse into the history and traditions that have influenced the way our laws are made, the way we interact with others, even the way our society functions.

UC Football Team 1895
UC Football Team 1895

My work is a little closer to home. I’m focusing on UC history, on the customs and practices that led to the transition from a small municipal university to the great establishment it is today. A lot of that transition is documented through photographs and my job involves taking hundreds of digitized photos and preparing the metadata on them for research use. As cliché as it may sound, a picture really is worth a thousand words. I’m working with photos from as far back as the late 1800s. Did you know our 1895 football team only had about 23 men? The football program, dating to 1888 and one of the earliest established in the state of Ohio, is now bigger than ever. That’s just a small part of the story I get to experience through all these wonderful images. I’ll be documenting my learning, along with some of the great pictures I have, through this weekly blog. I encourage you to check back regularly because you’ll always learn something new!

This week, I’m focusing on the image mentioned above, a team photo of the 1895 football squad. It’s amusing to think that there was a time in which football players didn’t wear heavy defensive equipment, not even a helmet! The size of the team suggests a club of friends who enjoyed the occasional game of pickup football. Today, of course, football is one of the largest sources of revenue for the University and football coaches are the highest paid public official in just about every state in America. It is also interesting to look at the demographics of the team.  Today, about 60% of college football players are African American, but not one person in this photo is African American. Of course, the Civil Rights movement and affirmative action all occurred during the period between this photo and today, but it still stands to show the importance of change and the impact that new developments, new ideas, and new actions can have on a community like our university. Without those movements and those ideas, who knows what our team would be like now?

I also like this photo because it’s one of the earliest images showing a UC logo. Studies demonstrate that one of the most significant indicators of college pride is the number of students wearing some sort of spirit wear. This photo shows students taking a break from their typical suit and tie dress and displaying their UC pride for all to see.