Recognizing this milestone, the UMass Amherst Libraries are currently hosting an exhibit on the lower level of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library titled, “Saturday’s Rivals: Football Memories from the ‘Aggie Eleven of 1879’ to the MAC of 2012.”
The exhibit, which opened last Thursday, encapsulates much of the history of the football program. It takes viewers through the team’s roots in the late 1800s, when the University was known as the Massachusetts Agricultural College, through modern-day history, when the team became known as the Minutemen.
“It’s just kind of interesting to think about the history of the school back then,” said Anne Moore, the special collections librarian. “I think learning that sort of stuff also tells you kind of the institutional history – that we started out as Massachusetts Agricultural College, and when we were known as the Aggies, and then became Massachusetts State College, and the name change to the Redmen, which eventually became the Minutemen.”
The exhibit features several cases that highlight different perspectives of the UMass football program.
Old media guides, ticket stubs, cartoon sketches of past players, histories of UMass football legends – including Lou Bush, Bob Pickett, and Greg Landry – and even old, seemingly game-worn helmets and boots as well as other artifacts decorate the exhibit and present an introspective look into the history of the program.
Sponsored by the Libraries Arts and Exhibits Committee, the football exhibit is one of three exhibits that run all year that feature an aspect of its collections as well as highlight important events around campus.
For the football team, the exhibit comes amidst its final season as part of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), formerly known as Division I-AA. Next season, the Minutemen will become a member of the Mid-American Conference (MAC), a conference within the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly known as Division I-A, which is the top tier of college football.
And, as Moore explained, the committee decided it would be an appropriate time for a football-related exhibit for that very reason.
“The committee looks for ideas that are relevant to things that are going on on-campus,” said Moore. “And so we thought since the football team is changing conferences, that this was a good time to kind of highlight the history of the program.”
Aside from football, Moore also believes an important aspect of the exhibit is the representation of UMass as a New England land-grant institution when it was first founded as the Massachusetts Agricultural College in 1863 under the Federal Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act.
These provisions later helped UMass form the Yankee Conference in 1947 with five other area land-grant institutions – the University of Connecticut, University of Maine, University of New Hampshire, Rhode Island State College and University of Vermont – to play football in.
“Letting the students know about our history as a land-grant, I think there’s a lot of pride there,” said Moore. “I wish we had more space in the exhibit to teach that piece and maybe there will be more exhibits in the future now that we’re coming up on the 150th anniversary of the school in 2013.”
As with every time an exhibit is created, Moore explained, there is even more content that needs to be displayed but didn’t make the final cut. Because of space limitations, the committee was confined to using a small area of the library basement to showcase the exhibit, forcing them to omit various content and artifacts.
However, according to Moore, an online version of the exhibit will allow more of the history to be showcased, which should be available this week at www.library.umass.edu/football-memories.
The exhibit will continue to run through Jan. 15, 2012 in the library, and on Oct. 6, a reception is planned to be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. to celebrate the exhibit and the history of the program as it makes its big move next season.
Stephen Hewitt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.