Recovering and Uncovering College Histories
For more than a decade, students, faculty, staff, and administrators have actively explored the College’s archives, seeking to recover lost histories, understand and address the legacy of our first Dean and second President M. Carey Thomas, and to expand the record of who worked, studied, taught, and helped to build Bryn Mawr.
Installed in March 2023, a new exhibit in Old Library (first floor below the main entrance) provides a timeline of these initiatives and research projects that continue to shed light on our past, acknowledge harms, remind us of stories that are missing—while sharing those that have been recovered—and contribute to a fuller understanding of the College.
BMC's 125th Anniversary: 2010-2011
College publishes "Offerings to Athena," a history of the College through student writings and images from the archives.
First course on BMC history taught by Elliot Shore, CIO, Director of Libraries, and Professor of History.
(Photo: Enid Cook '31)
LITS Obtains Major Grants to Create Greenfield Digital Center on the History of Women’s Education: 2011-2018
Center supports student-designed College history projects, including:
2014: Diversity at Bryn Mawr College. Created by Pensby Fellows Lauren Footman ’14 and Alexis de la Rosa ’15.
2014: Black at Bryn Mawr. Digital exhibit and tour created by Grace Pusey ’15 and Emma Kioko ’15. Advisors: Postdoctoral Fellow Monica Mercado and Professor of History Sharon Ullman.
2014–2016: We Are, We Have Always Been. Exhibit on LGBT student life at Bryn Mawr,
1970-2000 created by Brenna Levitan ’16. Advisor: Postdoctoral Fellow Monica Mercado.
(Photo: BMC students c. 1970s)
Selected Independent Student Archival Projects Exhibits Supported by the College’s Special Collections Staff: 2017-Present
2017: Re-Vision: Archiving Black Student Experiences at Bryn Mawr. Created by Alexis Wiltshire ’17.
2017: Profiles of Alumnae Donors to the African Art and Artifacts Collection. Curated by Maria Shellman ’17.
2019: Mid-Century Jewish Mawrtyrs. Oral history project and exhibition created by Pensby Fellow Caitlin Haskett ’20.
2019–Present: Perry House Oral History Project. Student project funded by a LITS Digital Scholarship Grant and supported by the Pensby Center and Alumnae/i Relations and Development. Created by Janina Calle ’21, Aaliyah Joseph ’22, Rihana Oumer ’21, Reece Carew-Lyons ’23, Lana Giha ’24, Patriciah Ogombe ’24, Vanessa Gitau ’22, and Megan Omolo ’25.
2020: ’24, ’31 Students Study Race. Student digital exhibit on 1924 and 1931 campus conferences on race. Advisors: Vanessa Davies, Provost’s Office, and Alice McGrath, Digital Scholarship Specialist. Created by Cindy Chea ’22, Hilana El-Mekkoussi ’21, Peyton Moriarty ’21, Tino Nguruve ’22, Andrea Samz-Pustol (GSAS), and Elizabeth Zhao ’22.
2020–2021: For Roses, Too. Digital exhibit funded by the President’s Office to honor the 100th anniversary of the Summer School for Women Workers in Industry (1921–1938) created by Beck Morawski ’21.
(Photo: Perry House)
College Addresses Naming of Thomas Library: 2017-2018
August 2017: President Cassidy issues moratorium on use of name, creates History Working Group to research and make recommendation.
May 2018: History Working Group recommends that the College discontinue use of the name Thomas while retaining the inscription over the building’s main entrance as part of a “layering history upon history” approach to articulating truer, fuller histories of BMC and elevating contributions of silenced people.
July 2018: Board accepts the Working Group recommendation and endorses use of the name Old Library. College installs new signage and revises campus map.
(Photo: Old Library sign)
President Cassidy Creates Working Groups to Implement HWG Recommendations: 2018-2019
Telling History Group installs signage in Old Library that provides a more complete history of M. Carey Thomas and an addition to National Historic Landmark plaque within Old Library. The group also recommends restorative justice actions (e.g. campus memorial/marker), ongoing support for student research, a future international conference, further gathering and amplification of untold stories, and an ongoing history advisory group.
History Infrastructure Group examines staffing, technology, and processes needed to support robust student engagement.
(Photo: Old Library displays)
College Implementation of Recommendations: 2017-Present
2019–ongoing: President Cassidy creates a History Advisory Group that includes students, faculty, and staff.
2020–ongoing: Professor of History Ignacio Gallup-Diaz creates Telling Bryn Mawr Histories Praxis course, taught spring semester 2020 and 2021, and expands to other instructors beginning 2022.
2021–ongoing: Launch of "Who Built Bryn Mawr?", first of planned series of exhibits featuring people and initiatives that helped to shape the College but have been forgotten or lost. Pilot created by staff from Special Collections and the President’s Office and Emma Burns ’21; subsequent exhibits created through funded student internship program advised by faculty and Special Collections.
2021–2025: Bryn Mawr partners with Monument Lab, a public art and history studio, to create an artwork or memorial informed by community engagement. Courses, student internships, and special events are included in the project design.
(Photo: "Who Built Bryn Mawr?" graphic)