Erica Donnis, Curator, Collector of Champlain Artifacts

This Saturday Shout Out goes to Erica Donnis, the Special Collections Director in Miller Information Commons. Donnis initially joined the College in 2010 to help manage the Llewellyn Collection of Vermont History and provide advice on how to incorporate it into the academic programs. She also oversees the Champlain College archives, which started in the 1970s and dates back to the College’s first years.

“They started collecting materials from people’s offices that were no longer used on a daily basis. The bulk of the materials that date from the 1970s or earlier came into the archives at that point, but every once in a while something comes up on eBay that I try to grab.”

Donnis with a stairwell mural of 1850s–1970s advertisements from businesses located within a 4-block radius of our new St. Paul Street residence hall. She curated all of the historical displays in the building.

So what can you find in the Champlain archives?

“I’ve tried to keep up with college publications and document the evolution of academic programs. There was a student newspaper for a long time, so we have those issues, and every semester I get copies of the Stall Street Journal. I’m always thinking of ways to document student activities and student perspectives on campus as well as the official college publications.”

“It is your opportunity and your privilege to prepare yourself for the activities of life.” An except from one of our 1928 brochures.

Every year, Donnis puts together exhibitions to display around the College. One recent project goes back to the beginnings of computer science technology and programs at Champlain.

“In the early to mid-1980s, the College offered a computer programming summer camp for middle and high school students. It was one of the few available programs nationwide for that age group, so Champlain was really innovative in offering it.”

Champlain has always been ahead of the times! A t-shirt from a 1980s-era Computer Camp.

In fact, you might have seen some of Donnis’s work if you’ve visited our newest residence hall. “I did the artwork for the main areas in 194 Saint Paul Street, which was a really fun project.”

A mural at the Saint Paul Street residence hall depicts our 1910 Men’s Basketball Champions (when Champlain was known as Burlington Business College—hence, the “B” on their shirts).

We wanted to know if there was anything in Champlain’s history that surprised Donnis, but she had a different idea in mind.

“Something that’s fun and that people often don’t know is that for a period of time in the 1960s, first-year students were made to wear beanies for their first six weeks on campus. We have some of them in the archives.”

Should we bring back the beanies look?

For those who might be interested in finding out more about the history of Champlain or Burlington, the archives are available to anyone.

“I would say generally speaking the users of the Special Collections are about half from the College and half from the general community. Most students come in here as part of a class visit. There are a few students who have done individual research projects, but I think the word is still trickling out that you can make an appointment with me to do that.”

Want to find out more about the Champlain College Special Collection? Schedule a visit to the Archives with Erica Donnis!

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