Visiting the archives was the first time I had access to so many primary sources in one place. Although somewhat overwhelming, I knew that I was somewhere special that connected me to the history of the university itself. Going through the archives, I was able to begin to imagine what Cortland must have looked like in the past. What was Cortland like for my aunt who attended the school in the 1980s? What would a Faculty Wives Club have looked like? How different was the campus in the past than how things are on campus today? These kinds of questions are the mystery of Cortland which we are tasked in solving.
Our group’s goal is to create a public history exhibit about the Faculty Wives Club. My first impression of the Faculty Wives Club was that it was just a social club for the wives of faculty. But, after looking through the archives, I was able to see just how involved and important the club was on campus. The club organized many events and are an important part of the history of Cortland itself. This initial discovery only led to more questions. What did they do? And Why? And what was their impact? The questions began to pile up and becoming seemingly endless and overwhelming. When looking through the archives, we found an old newspaper discussing a Faculty Wives Club meeting called Cuisine Scene. When researching the event, we were able to find recipes for food that was brought to this event. We plan on trying to recreate these recipes to experience what the Faculty Wives Club would’ve been like. Looking through the archives was difficult, because finding the information, and contextualizing it for the project, was often hard to organize and interpret. When reading a piece of information, it was difficult to see how it would fit in with with the big picture of the entire project.
Reading that the Faculty Wives Club had a holiday party didn’t really tell us a lot about the club and what it contributed to the school. This problem seemed to be the reason for all the questions. We had to break down every bit of information that could be found asking ourselves even more questions. What date was this published? What date was the meeting? Why was the meeting held? What else took place during this time? Who attended this meeting? Another difficulty the group encountered was a lack of information itself. When researching many topics throughout history, it is usually as simple as looking it up on google, and we even have the power to do this from our phones. Visiting the archives was unique because the sources were limited to what we were able to find there. Despite this, there is an advantage to this because we were able to interpret the primary sources without any bias. The archives allowed us to decide for ourselves what the Faculty Wives Club meant to cortland. We decided that we wanted to focus on food and the recipes they used for their events. We plan on organizing a cookbook based on the actual recipes used by the Faculty Wives Club.
The cookbook would provide insight on traditions, cultures, and values of the club. These values can be compared to values of people on campus today. Difficulties encountered include finding a time for us all to meet together in the archives. But, despite this I will be able to overcome these difficulties, with the help of my group we will be able to produce the faculty wives club recipe book through the use of the resources in the archives we can interpret the information for a public audience.
By: Emily Ryan, fall 2018