When the first issue of The Concordiensis appeared on Nov. 1, 1877, its editors had a simple mission: “to be a genuine representative of the culture and scholarship, the manliness and enterprise of Union,” in such a way “that no alumnus will be willing to forego it, both by a lively exhibit of the present doings, and by such copious and familiar information concerning graduates, that the memory of her gray old walls may be kept green in every heart loyal to his Alma Mater.”
The public can now judge whether that mission has been upheld for more than a century.
The paper’s inaugural issue and the thousands that followed through the year 2000 are available through the Schaffer Library web page.
Visitors can browse through the paper’s rich and colorful history, beginning as a monthly in 8 ½ by 11-inch magazine format to its shift to a weekly broadsheet of up to 24 pages.
In its early years, the paper was heavy on literary contributions, including poetry, fiction and songs. The first issue featured an article suggesting that the study of English literature in the College’s curriculum be treated with the same import as Latin and Greek. It also featured a page of random tidbits, including this gem:
“One of our sophomores wishes us to say that the young lady of Ingham University who threw a red tablecloth over his head from an upper window as an affectionate farewell, can have the same by proving property, and, we will add, rewarding “ye editors.”
The paper evolved into a publication featuring news about important campus issues, including tuition increases, exam schedules and Springfest headliners. Local and national news is also well represented, providing context for life beyond the Blue Gate.
Efforts to digitize the 13th oldest student newspaper in the country (and the oldest continually published newspaper in Schenectady) began a decade ago but awaited better options for digitization and discovery. The current project got underway last fall and took less than a year to complete.
The College contracted with the Northern New York Library Network, which created and administers the New York State Historic Newspaper Project, to convert existing microfilm reels to digital files.
“This is an incredible resource for research about Union, but also about events of interest to the general public,” said Annette LeClair, director of collection and technical services at Schaffer. She assisted with the project, which was overseen by Gail Golderman, digital scholarship and services librarian.
“We are thrilled to be on a platform where people can discover the richness of our history and how it fits into the United States,” LeClair said. “A good example is, you can trace the civil rights movement and how it affected life at Union.”
Scrolling through the decades, readers get a sense of how Union responded to a controversial national event to attitudes related to student conduct.
The archives will be a valuable tool for researchers interested in New York state and Schenectady history. Opening up the vault should also prove popular with alumni.
“I’m sure you will have people who will be excited to look back through the years when they were on campus,” LeClair said. “Now, you can revisit that page when Bruce Springsteen performed a concert in Memorial Chapel (in October 1974). You can see right on the same page that there were people who loved it and people who walked out.”
Requests for content from the paper are among the most popular in Special Collections. The entire run of print copies is housed in binders. The digital project, which cost $4,000, ends at the year 2000, when the paper was no longer preserved on microfilm.
The plan is to convert the remaining run of the paper to the digital platform and continue to maintain it.
In the meantime, readers of The Concordiensis (a Latin adjective meaning “of or pertaining to union”) have a place to get the scoop on the school’s history.
“This project certainly provides easier access on a stable platform, but more importantly, helps to preserve the permanent digital record of Union College, documenting campus life since 1877,” Golderman said.