Yearbook: Cornell

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I found a year book that can truly be described as old-school: Cornell University's Class Books. This digital collection of yearbooks depict life at Cornell in the salad days of its football program.

One of the things I appreciate about these old yearbooks is how, beyond recording the scores of the games, they can record the sentiment of a student or the student body as a whole. From yearbooks you often get a biased view of a football team's season and from there can imply fan sentiment far beyond what is told in the scoreline.

Another thing I appreciate is the rare occasion when a yearbook disputes a score or even better an actual play on the field. Cornell's Class Book from 1900 lists the Yale score as a 0-72 loss to the Bulldogs. Other sources had the game as a 70-0.  

The complete game report as found in the Yale Daily Register's online archive listed the score as 70-0 along with Soren Sorensen's listing and several other historical databases have the score at 70; leaving Cornell's 72 point account as the clear error. I can forgive the student editor in charge of the Cornell Year Book because he was, after all, a student.

It is harder for me to comprehend why library professionals would want to produce a digital archive of historical university materials and leave out the lions' share of volumes. Cornell's online yearbooks are only complete from 1897 to 1904 and while the Cornell e-commons catalog has a small collection of .pdf format Track and Field items pulled from the track newsletter aptly named the Wastebasket.

Regarding the yearbook's own properties, the scans are great and the original Class Book had style, the digital representation is good, and my main problem with the design is that they open to 100% zoom. The yearbooks are probably best browsed at 50% size. Also, the index leaves a lot to be desired as the books kind of leave you to a blind keyword search rather than listed by clearly defined sections. The lack of an index is really a shame for such a small project.

Cornell's digital yearbook collection looks even more flawed when set next to a proper yearbook project like the one done at Iowa's Cornell College. The Cornell College (IA) Royal Purple yearbook sets a fine example of what can be done by an ambitious collegiate archive. Which is not to take anything away from Cornell University's Digital Library, but when it comes to yearbooks a completed archive is superior to the best of unfinished yearbook sets.

So for their efforts both Cornell University and Cornell College (IA) made it into the yearbook list. You can find a link to the Yale Daily News and Cornell Univ's student publication The Cornell Era noted for posterity under the above Library tab.

It is the mission of The Unbalanced Line Online Library to present important and interesting historical texts to college football fans. Items will be added regularly as blog postings and can be easily indexed in the Yearbooks button on the site bar.
Copyrighted material is used expressly under the fair use guidelines of U.S. Code 17 #107 through #118 stating that the criticism, comment, news reporting, educational use or research of copyrighted material is not held in violation of copyright laws.
_______________ © 2012 The Unbalanced Line _______________



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