Anyone who has spent time around OHIO’s campus knows that history and tradition have always played a significant role in all facets of OHIO life. It is, therefore, no surprise that when a college, department or program plans to recognize an anniversary or an historic accomplishment, the University Archives, located in the Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections, is often the first place people turn to when they seek to enhance their celebrations with visual evidence of OHIO’s rich past.
Barbara “Barb” Fiocchi, the new assistant director of Ohio University donor relations stewardship and events, had witnessed firsthand the nostalgic impact that archival materials could have on any university-related event. So when Fiocchi was assigned to decorate the president’s box for OHIO’s home football games, one of her first moves was to reach out to the University Archives for historic photographs of Bobcat football.
“Because I had worked in the Library, [as an assistant to the Libraries director of development], I was well aware that the Archives had an amazing treasure trove of materials,” explained Fiocchi. “In exhibit after exhibit I witnessed how much University Archives’ materials appealed to Library visitors.”
With this in mind, Fiocchi worked with the Libraries archives team and designer Kyle Lindner to find images of football events spanning the past four or five decades.
“My idea all along for the president’s box was to focus on the fans that have cheered on the Bobcats throughout the years,” she said.
The University Archives staff located dozens of proof sheets from the University Photographer Collection. Each proof sheet contains 25 to 30 separate images of crowds, players and coaches at OHIO football games from the 1960s to the 1990s.
Fiocchi and Lindner spent hours in the Mahn Center reviewing and selecting photographs that would appeal to President and First Lady Nellis and their special guests. That selection, and corresponding negatives, were later delivered to the Libraries Digital Initiatives team who scanned and uploaded the images so that Fiocchi and Lindner could retrieve and convert them into the sizes and shapes in which they wanted to showcase them.
“The images have transformed the space and always encourage conversations,” said Fiocchi. “It is always fun to walk through the box during a game and hear the snippets of conversation about the images.”
One of the images features Andy Griffith holding a football as though he is contemplating its meaning. Astute observers of popular culture will remember Griffith’s famous 1953 stand-up monologue, a hilarious story titled, “What It Was Was Football,” that recounted a visit to a college football game, and which sparked Griffith’s career as a talented actor and comedian. Some alumni may even remember that it was Griffith’s agent, the celebrated late OHIO alum Richard O. “Dick” Linke, who brought Griffith to Athens in 1963 and set up that wonderful shot.
But, perhaps the most spectacular use of archival photographs in the president’s box are the wall-sized murals adorning both sides of the seating area from which guests have a bird’s eye view of the playing field. Created from historic photographs of Bobcat-cheering fans in Peden Stadium, the images have a three-dimensional look, as though they are merely an extension of today’s crowd.
“The huge wall clings make it look as though the audience goes on forever,” said Fiocchi. As for what is in store next for Fiocchi, “One upcoming project is the grand re-opening of historic Ellis Hall in January,” she stated. “I will need to talk to the archives pretty soon about that!”
The newly re-designed president’s box is just one example of the ways in which archival materials can be used to enhance any University-related event or project on campus. The University Archives staff encourages anyone who may be interested in using archival materials for their event or project to visit the Mahn Center for more information.
Photos by Stephen Zenner/Ohio University Libraries