Friday, November 13, 2015

CNU Archive Donation

   This past summer was pretty busy for me. Along with The 35/15 Photo Project, I moved twice, held a full-time job, and performed in a community theater show. On top of all of that, I did yet another project! (I wondered why I never had any time) (The fall has kept me busy, which is why this is posting now instead of a few months ago)

   Since 7th grade, when I got my first digital camera, I have been taking pictures of everything. For a good bit of that, I've been surrounded by construction/renovation projects. It's fun to come by every week/day and see what has changed.

   During my time at Christopher Newport University (CNU), the college built and tore down several buildings. The campus of 2015 looks very different from when I started in 2010.

CNU campus via Google Earth. Areas in red roughly mark
what has been altered on campus from Summer 2010 to Summer 2015

   Since I lived on campus, I saw and photographed all of the changes for fun. When I was getting close to moving out of the area, I started thinking on what could I do with these images. I am a chief believer in giving back to your community, so I decided to donate a portion of those to the CNU Archives, the record keepers of the college's history. As well as holding important documents and memorabilia, they have loads of pictures from 50+ years of college history. I interned for them in early 2012, scanning and filing things for their digital online archive SAIL. They have also helped me out from time to time in any research project I was looking into.

   In late May, I put all of my CNU construction photos together. I had taken 7,347 pictures. I knew this was not an acceptable number to donate, so long story short, I whittled it down. On August 12th, I had brought that number down to 2,049. Still a big number, but to be fair, there are almost 50 different categories I cover, giving an average of 41 pictures per category. The pictures cover every building constructed, every building demolished, any change that happened in established buildings, and a few sections covering random events during my time on campus (topping out ceremony, time capsule opening, etc). Some cutting decisions were easy (blurry, no actual importance, another pile of dirt), many were hard. I had to really push myself to keep cutting it down. I am proud to say the pictures that remain are essential to tell the CNU expansion story.

   In late August, I finally donated the pictures to the Archives. They are still developing a plan of action (it's not every day someone donates over two thousand photos), so none of the images are available to the public yet.

   All of these pictures were taken outside of construction fences, so these were shots anyone could have taken. To my knowledge, no student or staff member did anything like this.

   We live in a time where there is ample amount of documentation happening, but there is no organized method for what people should do with it all. So it's spewed out onto social media, to be forgotten about. It's very wasteful. No one's really thinking about the future, they are more about living in the now. There is nothing wrong with that, but the fact remains the present will be history tomorrow. Your documented memories could be worth something. That is why I try to preserve the past and present. Sometimes, you don't know what will have importance.

Back to the images, here are a four samplings I randomly picked:

Santoro Hall, Summer 2011

   Summer 2011, Santoro Hall (my freshman dorm). They installed new air conditioning vents on the roof that summer. During the same time, they took down the front corner roof structure (pictured in the bottom right, down to its metal beams). They never replaced it. Santoro looks incomplete without it there. Pictures of Santoro with its topper still cover CNU's website and promotional material.

CNU Front Entryway, Summer 2013

   Summer of 2013, they tore out the whole road in front of the Trible Library to create a shared pedestrian/vehicle road. Pictured above is when they had finished clearing the old concrete and asphalt away, getting ready for the new layout.

CNU, Fall 2010

   This view seems to be nondescript, but its value comes from hindsight. This view barely exists today. The road, parking lot, sidewalk, and trees are gone. The Wise Woods, to the right, were cut down for Luter Hall. The building at the end of the road is the Freeman Center, pictured in the midst of its expansion. The covered path was for students to safely enter/exit the building while construction happened around them.

Christopher Newport Hall, Summer 2014

   Here we see Christopher Newport Hall under construction. It's a massive building. CNU's scale for story height is huge compared to usual building standards. This shot is one of my series-shots, where I took an image from the same vantage point over and over. This is from the corner of the center brick partition of the access ramp for the Trible Library.

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There are plenty of more stories to tell, but that will have to wait until CNU opens the pictures up to the public.

I will leave you with this: When you donate your memories, you gain immortality. It is you who is narrating your life to the future. Someone will look at your name, and wonder "... Jalenec? Gilinic? Jell-O Neck? Glad I didn't have that last name."

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