'Princetoniana' website celebrates the Princeton spirit

July 18, 2013 noon
Princetoniana Going Back

The Princetoniana website is intended to celebrate the traditions and qualities that make the University distinctive. The website, which is an evolving project, emerged out of a collaboration between alumni volunteers and four University departments. The site presents content covering a host of Princeton treasures and lore. It includes signature songs such as "Going Back to Nassau Hall," which was written in 1910 and is one of the most popular songs of Princeton.

Image courtesy of Princeton University Archives

Senior jackets. Songs and cheers. Campus landmarks. The bonfire. Princeton and the movies. Famous alumni. These are just some of the topics covered in the new Princetoniana website, which launched this month. The site will continue to evolve, focusing through text and images on many of the traditions and qualities that make the University distinctive. 

"I'm excited by the launch of the new Princetoniana website," said Sev Onyshkevych, a member of the Class of 1983 who worked on the project. "It elevates the importance of Princeton's rich and unique traditions and integrates this information with Princeton's main site, accessible to a broad community." 

Princetoniana cannon

Campus landmarks are vivid reminders of Princeton's history and traditions. The "Big Cannon," which was brought to campus during the Revolutionary War and is buried behind Nassau Hall, has inspired songs and served as the center of championship football bonfires. (Image courtesy of Princeton University Archives)

On July 1, Onyshkevych started a two-year term as chair of the alumni-led Princetoniana Committee, which works to preserve and disseminate information about the University's history and traditions. He said the website will serve as a tool in this endeavor by "providing a platform for regularly adding content and turning the Princetoniana site into a living tapestry of Princeton's traditions and lore." 

The project emerged out of a collaboration of four University departments — the Office of the Alumni Association, Office of Communications, Office of Development and Princeton University Archives — working with alumni volunteers from the Princetoniana Committee. 

Princeton's Alumni Council established the Princetoniana Committee in 1981 after the death of Frederic Fox of the Class of 1939, who had served as a "keeper of Princetoniana." Fox wrote that this role had "particular responsibilities for the legends, songs and symbols of the University" and that "as long as there is a Princeton, there will be proud keepers of it."

The website honors Fox and is dedicated to Bob Rodgers of the Class of 1956, who in 2009 as chair of the Princetoniana Committee took the first steps in exploring the possibility of creating a website for "things Princeton." Previously, the committee had collected information on its own website, which proved a challenge to update and present in a dynamic way, and which did not have broad reach. 

Princetoniana cleveland tower

The 173-foot Cleveland Tower, which flanks the main entrance to the Graduate College, is one of the subjects of the rotating watercolors on the website. (Watercolor by Marina Ahun)

Kathy Taylor, a member of the Class of 1974 and director of alumni affairs and communications in the Alumni Council, recalled early discussions with Rodgers, who died in 2011: "Through several conversations, we landed on the proposal that such a project could be a collaboration of the volunteer committee with several University offices that would have a vested interest in a site that recorded Princeton's past, present and future for public consumption." 

Taylor said that a core of 15 members of the 50-member Princetoniana Committee actively participated in the project, with participants spanning several alumni classes. Alumni and campus partners worked together to research and write articles and gather material. Taylor noted that key sources deserved acknowledgment: University Archives at Mudd Library; "A Princeton Companion" by Alexander Leitch published in 1978 by Princeton University Press; "Princeton University: The First 250 Years" by Don Oberdorfer published in 1955 by The Trustees of Princeton University; and "Princeton Campus Plan" published in 2008 by The Trustees of Princeton University.

Princetoniana jackets

The tradition of senior jackets, formerly known as beer jackets, was started in 1912 by a group of seniors. Today, the senior jacket is worn by the graduating class and is sported on Class Day. (Photo by Denise Applewhite)

Dan Linke, University archivist and curator of public policy papers at Mudd Library, said working on the project proved mutually beneficial. "Working on the website was an example of how the committee's energy could be used to promote the archives' holdings, as the site uses photographs and information from the archives," he said. 

The website will continue to be updated with the help of alumni volunteers and University staff, Taylor said. This will include adding rotating visual features to the site's homepage — the first feature is of campus scenes in watercolors by artist Marina Ahun.

"The Princetoniana website is intended to convey the spirit of Princeton not only to those who know and love the University but also to those who come to the site simply to learn about this 'best old place of all, situated and celebrated in New Jersey,'" said Taylor, echoing the words from the song "Going Back to Nassau Hall."

Princetoniana website

FitzRandolph Gate and Nassau Hall are shown in a screenshot of the Princetoniana website.(Watercolor by Marina Ahun)