By Mary K Zajac
So you think you know Johns Hopkins. You’ve walked across the Homewood campus countless times, perhaps enrolled in a class at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, attended a concert at the Peabody Conservatory, taken your kids to the Spring Fair. But how much do you really know about the institution?
Johns Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels decided that he wanted to know more. In the spring of 2013, he initiated Hopkins Retrospective, a multiyear, institutional history project that pulls together divisions, departments, faculty, and students to examine and uncover the rich history of Johns Hopkins.
“In our founding, we defined the model of the American research university, now emulated around the globe,” says Daniels. “Yet, there is still more to uncover about how the elements of our one university coalesced and evolved, shaped by and influencing the events and discoveries of the past 138 years. I am excited to embark on the Hopkins Retrospective, an initiative to expand our understanding of the history of Hopkins and weave that history into the university experience.” The project will be guided by program manager Jenny Kinniff, a staff member of the Sheridan Libraries and University Museums. The Hopkins Retrospective website was launched in October.
Faculty, staff, and students from the Krieger School play a central part in Hopkins Retrospective. The centerpiece of the project is a new history of the institution being written by history of science Professor (and 33-year veteran of JHU) Stuart “Bill” Leslie (see p. 15). Leslie also teaches Building Hopkins, a class where students investigate aspects of the Homewood campus, from the unexpected (the Morton Blaustein rocks outside Olin Hall, Ira Remsen’s ashes entombed in his eponymous hall) to the classic (Gilman Hall, Homewood Field, the Greenhouse), creating digital archives to house their findings. A similar project was undertaken by students in Interpreting Collections, a class taught by Beth Maloney, a lecturer in the Program in Museums and Society. Maloney’s students planned and created signage commemorating historical sites at Homewood, some of which, like the Botanic Gardens (now the President’s garden) or Wyman Park Villa (now the site of Garland Hall), no longer exist. Students researched and wrote the text for the signs and collaborated on their design with students from the Maryland Institute College of Art. In Archiving Student Life, another Hopkins Retrospective project, undergraduates worked with archivists at the Sheridan Libraries to evaluate and build the project’s student life collection.
The Hopkins Retrospective project has begun to collect memories and memorabilia from alumni, faculty, staff, and the Baltimore community. Have a Hopkins-related story you would like to share? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org and lend your voice to our storied history.
To see more blasts from the past and to learn details about the Hopkins Retrospective project, visit web.jhu.edu/administration/president/history/.
The News-Letter office, then and now. During spring of 2014, students in the Museum and Society Program’s Interpreting Collections class designed 10 signs commemorating historical sites on the Homewood campus
Ira Remsen (1846–1927) was the first chemistry professor at Johns Hopkins (1876–1913) and the university’s second president (1901–1913). He is the only faculty member to have his ashes interred on campus. They are now in the new chemistry building. Legend has it that students who touch the plaque before chemistry exams will receive good grades
A seminar in the vast personal library of humanities Professor Richard Macksey. Macksey has made a bequest intention of his more than 70,000 volumes to the Sheridan Libraries. Today, the Catherine and Richard Macksey Seminar Room in the Brody Learning Commons commemorates the beloved teacher and scholar.
Alert undergraduates filing into biology lectures in Mudd Hall might notice this modern-day cabinet of curiosities, assembled by Evangelos Moudrianakis, a longtime professor in the department. This image illustrates one of the department’s milestones, revealing the fundamental underskeleton of the gene. Other exhibits highlight research on bioluminescence, the cell membrane, and ATP synthesis—discoveries that rewrote the biology textbooks those undergraduates are now reading.
One of the earliest (1892) Blue Jays lacrosse teams posing in wool turtlenecks and neatly trimmed mustaches. Today, Hopkins boasts 20 NCAA Division III intercollegiate sports, as well as Division I men’s and women’s lacrosse.
Although Spring Fair has scaled back since its inception in 1972, its spirit (as well as its traditions of tasty food, games, live music, and the likelihood of rain) lives on.