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Roundtable to Look at College History Timeline

Roundtable to Look at College History Timeline


What did historians do before the Internet was invented? Recently, SUNY Cortland created a dynamic digital timeline of the College from its 1868 founding to the present, making its story much more accessible to the campus and community.

The public can learn about how this ambitious multimedia history project was developed during a community roundtable titled “Creating the College History” on Thursday, Nov. 1, at the College.

This presentation of the Victor G. and Ann Siegle College Community Roundtable Series will be held from 8 to 9 a.m. in the Park Center Hall of Fame Room. The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will precede the presentation at 7:45 a.m.

Panelists will include Randi Storch, professor and History Department chair; Kevin Sheets, associate professor of history; and two undergraduate students who worked with Storch on the two-year project — Kaycie Haller, a junior dual major in history and adolescence education in social studies from Wantagh, N.Y., and Deirdre Hallinan, a senior adolescence education in social studies major from Greenwood Lake, N.Y.

Last spring, History Department faculty teamed up with students and collaborators from many departments to create a lively chronological collection of key historical moments with photographic illustrations. The College’s stories, intriguing mysteries and events of cultural significance now are posted on the Web for everyone to see — from its beginning 150 years ago to this past summer, when the year-long SUNY Cortland Sesquicentennial was launched at Alumni Reunion 2018.

The timeline consists of approximately 150 historical points. The entries vary in focus between academics, arts, athletics and infrastructure.

Storch said she assigned a number of History Department interns and students in a history class to create the timeline. The students on the panel are among the classmates who worked on the project.

The students as a general overview started gathering information for the timeline by pulling from Cortland College: An Illustrated Historyby the late Professor Emeritus of History Leonard Ralston during the fall 2017 semester. As their research got more specific, the students turned to the archives in the Memorial Library as well as past student yearbooks and issues of the Cortland Standardnewspaper.

 “They did everything,” Storch said, noting the students worked closely with librarians and technology experts on campus to create the finished timeline.

“I mean, we had to figure out what the major themes were: what the points on the timeline would be,” Storch recalled. “They had to research, write and edit each of the entries. They had to figure out what would be the best-looking software to use for the timeline. They had to find good images. They had to learn how to use the content management system to upload all the information. It was very active, engaged and hands-on.”

The team worked with Loren Leonard, the web operations specialist of Systems Administration and Web Services (SAWS), to create an aesthetically pleasing and functional web page. The History Department also collaborated with Fran Elia, director of sports information, in order to compile a comprehensive history of campus athletics. The Communication Studies Department was also heavily involved.

There are tentative plans to install a permanent exhibition of the timeline with an interactive screen in Old Main.

Storch is convinced that digital media projects like this can help expand the reach of historians.

“If the timeline is any indication, it just helps us better communicate stories to the wider public,” Storch said. “I think that the use of still images and video and song are compelling. The students really have to hone their thoughts and arguments and narrative. It helps develop their writing. But the digital platform helps them disseminate their findings to a wider world.”

The timeline is supported by the College’s Sesquicentennial Committee. Sesquicentennial celebrations began in July with Alumni Reunion 2018 and will continue through Reunion 2019. For more information on the College’s Sesquicentennial celebrations, contact planning committee co-chairs Mary Kate Morris ’06, associate director of campus activities for leadership and community, or Erin Boylan, executive director of alumni engagement.

Hosted by the President’s Office, since 2014 the ongoing community roundtable series has been presented with the support of an endowment created by Cortland College Foundation board member emeritus Victor Siegle and his wife, Ann. For his service, the College Council of SUNY Cortland honored Siegle in 2013 with its College Community Appreciation Award.

For more information about the roundtables, contact Samantha Howell, special events coordinator for the President’s Office, at 607-753-5453, or visit the Community Roundtables webpage.