The Special Collections Research Center participates in and supports time-based projects that leverage our local collections and related materials across other repositories.
For the 2019-2020 academic year, University Archivist Brigette Kamsler was an advisor to the Board of Trustees Task Force on Naming. The group was charged with recommending the principles and procedures for addressing name change requests relating to university buildings or other official names (e.g. the Colonials moniker). The University Archivist used the University’s archival records to perform research for the Naming Task Force, which included tracking the history of President Marvin, the Colonials moniker, what was previously known as Calhoun Hall, and more. The Renaming Framework was approved in June 2020 and includes principles, procedures and considerations for addressing the proposed renaming of on-campus buildings and memorials. The GW Community is invited to submit name change requests through a website maintained by the Office of the President. The Board of Trustees have the final say in any renaming decisions.
Additionally, the work of the Naming Task Force led to the creation of two special committees in 2020: Special Committee on the Marvin Center Name and Special Committee on the Colonials Moniker. On June 29, 2021, GW announced the name change of the Marvin Center to the University Student Center. On June 15, 2022, GW announced that it will discontinue the use of the moniker. The University Archives will be involved with any future renaming proposal brought to the Office of the President.
The Ruth Helm Osborn Research Fellowship, created and funded by the Washington Forum, in memory of Ruth Osborn, ran from 2019-2021. Funds were designated to support multiple research and/or creative fellowships in the Special Collections Research Center of the GW Libraries with the goal of fostering academic inquiry that draws (fully or in part) from the Ruth Helm Osborn papers. Information on the projects completed by three fellows can be found on the Fellowship website.
In 2017, National Education Association Project Archivist Vakil Smallen interviewed four retired NEA staff members as part of an oral history project. These four men--Dale Lestina, Ken Melley, John Dunlop, and Richard Nuanes--were part of an important era in the history of the nation's largest professional employee organization. They all began working at NEA in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a time when the Association was reimagining its role. Escaping its conservative past, defined by administrators, the Association began to embrace collective bargaining, strikes by educators, and a more active role in national politics. These men played key roles in that transition. The interviews have been added to the National Education Association Collection held in the Special Collections Research Center at the George Washington University. The NEA Collection Guide can be found here. All recordings and transcripts can also be found in the Internet Archive under NEA oral history.
In 2014, several important people who had worked on the Marion Barry 1978 mayoral campaign decided that capturing the memories of people who were part of the Barry campaign was essential to preserving history. They recruited a dedicated core group to conduct the interviews and partnered with the Special Collections Research Center at The George Washington University to serve as the collection repository. Use the Marion Barry Collection Guide to see a list of the interviewees and listen to the recordings and read the transcripts. All these files are also found in the Internet Archive under Marion Barry.
In 2016, President Knapp's office funded a one-year project to increase and share basic historical knowledge about controversial and timely events in GW’s history. Topics related to slavery, race, and diversity were the project's focus, because those were often the least-well-documented subjects in the existing secondary literature and official histories of the university. The project produced two types of resources: in-depth articles with full citations to archival and other resources, and summaries, which can be found on the GW Past website.
D.C. Africana Archives Project, 2014-2017
George Washington University's Special Collections Research Center and Africana Studies Program joined with five partner archives throughout the city to enhance access to previously unavailable research materials that document the history of the African diaspora in D.C., the civil rights movements, the struggle for Home Rule, the rise of Black-owned businesses, the development of Howard University, slavery in the nation’s capital, jazz music in D.C., and the literary arts. The project was made possible by a grant to the GW Libraries from the Council on Library and Information Resources. See archived versions of the project website for more details.
The Special Collections Research Center collects and preserves material related to the Washington Writers' Archive. The collection focuses on Washington, D.C., writers and possesses a particular strength in the D.C. poetry community. Collection efforts include personal papers, published and unpublished works, publishing house records, and papers belonging to other writer organizations.