In the archive, we hold a collection of the university’s yearbooks stretching back to the first published annual in 1911. It was called The Moccasin, and for the next eight years, only two were issued (1914 and 1915) before the concept of an annual took hold. In 1919 the university started a thirteen year string of yearbooks until 1933, when our collection of yearbooks mysteriously drops off, only to pick back up again, briefly, in 1941, and disappear again through the World War II years, reappearing in 1947. It then ran through 1991.
We had always wondered about the voids. Sure, some of that time period without yearbooks could be explained by world events such as World Wars I and II, when the student body (particularly males) dropped significantly, but what about those other years? Finally, we set aside time to tackle the question. We pored over the student newspaper, The Echo, for information but it was only when we came upon an issue from 1947 that we discovered the reason for the missing years.
The answer was simple-yearbooks were nixed due to a lack of interest by the student body. This seemed odd to us since the yearbooks in the 1920s until 1932, though not as large as later years, were still ample. After 1947, publication of yearbooks picked back up with a vengeance, with some yearbooks averaging 300 pages. Sadly (for an archivist anyway), interest in yearbooks once again declined and 1991 was the last year that a yearbook was published.
What do you think? Are yearbooks still valuable? Should we keep publishing a yearbook? Would you buy one? We want to hear what you think!
—article by Steve Cox & Chapel Cowden