Comparing the solar eclipse of 1970 with the next week’s eclipse

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between earth and the sun and thereby totally or partly blocks the sun for a viewer on earth. A total solar eclipse occurs in a narrow path across earth’s surface, with a partial solar eclipse visible in the surrounding region.

The total solar eclipse of March 7, 1970 was visible across southern Mexico and the southeast coast of the United States and Canada. The lengthiest eclipse occurred over Mexico, with totality lasting 3 minutes and 28 seconds. The longest duration in the United States was 3 minutes and 10 seconds. This eclipse, also known as the “eclipse of the century,” passed directly over NASA’s Wallops Station, where researchers launched 32 sounding rockets to conduct meteorological and physics experiments.

A group called the Aquarians organized a celebration of the 1970 eclipse near the Washington Monument and Sylvan Theater on the National Mall. Patrick Frazier photographed the concert and the participants.


Participants singing and dancing at Aquarians’ Sun-In Event on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.


On Aug. 21, 2017, the path of the total eclipse will stretch from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina and will be about 70 miles wide. The longest duration of total eclipse will be near Carbondale, Illinois, where the moon will completely cover the sun for 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

The last time the contiguous U.S. saw a total eclipse was in 1979. You can watch NASA’s live video stream.

Out of the Vault – Painting of AU Chancellor John William Hamilton


Edward Wilbur Dean Hamilton’s portrait of John William Hamilton cira 1916


This life size portrait by his brother, Edward Wilbur Dean Hamilton, shows Chancellor John William Hamilton in his academic regalia seated in a red velvet chair. Art critic William Howe Downs praised the painting in an article in the Boston Evening Transcript as follows: “this work…will take rank among Mr. Hamilton’s most important and perfect portraits of men.”

Retired Methodist Bishop John W. Hamilton (1845-1934) succeeded his brother, Franklin E. Hamilton (1866-1918), as Chancellor of American University in 1916. He served until 1922. Hamilton earned an A.B. from Mount Union College and a S.T.B. from the Boston University School of Theology. He was elected Corresponding Secretary of the Freedmen’s Aid and Southern Education Society in 1892. Hamilton was an advocate of temperance and the rights of African Americans and women.

Edward Wilbur Dean Hamilton (1864-1943), painted landscapes, portraits, and scenes of everyday life. He studied painting at the Massachusetts Normal Art School (1883), the Rhode Island College of Design, and Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris (1889). Wilbur Hamilton exhibited paintings at the Paris Salon (1890-1892). After his return to America in 1892, he exhibited his landscapes and portraits in Atlanta, Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Critics admired Wilbur Hamilton’s work for its refinement and attention to detail. The World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 featured two of his landscapes. Wilbur Hamilton won a gold medal at the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. He taught at Massachusetts Normal Art School, Boston University, and the Rhode Island School of Design before starting the Jones River Art School. The Rhode Island School of Design and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston have some of Wilbur Hamilton’s paintings.

Archives and Special Collections Status Update

One of the most critical aspects of preserving historical materials is the environment. Collections storage areas should be cool and dry. Depending on what you are storing, 60-65° F and 35-40% relative humidity are optimal ranges. Unfortunately, it is taking much longer than planned to achieve the desired temperature and relative humidity in our new space. Once the system can meet our set points, we will be ready to move. The added complication is that our current home, Bender Library, is undergoing renovations this summer. We ended up relocating several collections to WRLC’s Shared Collections Facility temporarily to facilitate the Bender Library project. Though our move date is uncertain, we would like to reopen in time for the start of the fall semester. We will post another update once we finalize the timeline and can provide details.


Plastic tent set up in Bender Library to protect collections while waiting for new space to become available.

Photographic Material and Other Art Work of Herbert E. Striner is now completely cataloged

AU Archives reached a milestone earlier this year when we finished cataloging the images in the Herbert E. Striner Collection. The over 9,000 negatives, prints, and slides display his interest in people and architecture. Striner’s passion for photography began at the end of World War II, when he received his first camera while waiting to return home from the China-Burma-India Theater. Striner regularly photographed his family and friends and his favorite places in the Washington, DC area including the National Cathedral and Glen Echo Park. Striner took his camera with him on his personal and professional travels depicting the people he met and the places he visited in Asia, the Caribbean and Europe. His camera captured buildings, flora and fauna, and people. He was fascinated by light and took multiple pictures of everything from mushrooms to Navajo elders  Featured subjects include Islamic and Jewish sites in Washington, DC including the Embassy of Israel and the Islamic Center. Of note are images of the Chinese table-tennis delegation visit to the United States in April 1972. Striner traveled with the delegation in New York City and in and around Washington, DC. He captured both matches as well as the delegations visits to public schools and performances.


Photograph of Pueblo Bonito taken from an airplane by Herbert E. Striner

Photograph of the Matterhorn taken by Herbert E. Striner

AU Academy for the Performing Arts

The Wolf Trap/AU Academy for the Performing Arts was a summer program jointly sponsored by the National Park Service and AU. The program drew high school and college students from across the country to study dance and orchestra and featured intensive workshops led by distinguished professional performing artists including Merce Cunningham, Erik Hawkins, Jose Limon, Paul Sanasardo and Twyla Tharp. In addition to three to four weeks of concentrated study, the students got free passes to Filene Center shows and got to see a variety of professional productions.

The Academy received grants from the Rockefeller and Myer Foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts to support the program. The National Federation of Music Clubs held nationwide auditions for the orchestra. A theatre program launched in the summer of 1974. American University took over full management of the Academy in 1974 and officially changed the name to the AU Academy of Performing Arts.

The Academy Orchestra held most of its concerts at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap. The first orchestra performance occurred on July 4, 1971 at the Filene Center. Other performance venues included Lisner Auditorium and the Washington National Cathedral. The dance students gave public performances in a variety of locations such as AU’s quadrangle and on the National Mall.

The Academy’s offerings varied over the years. For example, AU collaborated with the International Festival of Mime to offer mime courses. One workshop assisted budding playwrights in preparing their works for the stage. The Academy also offered courses for teachers such as the Orff Schulwerk workshop. Gertrude Orff and her colleagues taught their approach to music education for children for several years.


Students and faculty from the AU Academy for the Performing Arts in AU’s amphitheater

Archives Move Postponed

We postponed the move to our new space until the end of June due to HVAC issues. We will resume limited reference service in the interim. Unfortunately, this will further delay our reopening. Please stay tuned for additional updates.


Carts packed and ready for transit to new location

AU Archives on the Move (May 22 – June 2)

AU Archives will begin its move to its new home on the second floor of AU’s Spring Valley Building (4801 Massachusetts Avenue NW) next week.


The collections are packed.            The empty shelves await.

The rare book collection is packed and ready to go.

New Compact Shelving in Spring Valley Building.


We expect the move of collections, equipment and furniture will take about two weeks. We will be offline for the duration of the move. Once we finish unpacking the rare book collection, we will reopen for research. We appreciate everyone’s patience during this long process and will try to get back up and running as quickly as possible. We look forward to seeing you in our new home.

Earth Day in AU History – Interior Secretary Watt protests

In February 1983, the AU chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) invited Interior Secretary James Watt to campus. Watt’s appointment was controversial. As Interior Secretary, Watt was responsible for over 350 million acres of federal lands. He repeatedly called for the development of federal parks and wilderness preserves in order to maintain U.S. national security.

YAF distributed the bulk of the tickets (300 out of 400) for this event on an invitation only basis. Watt had a large security detail including special Interior Department and Washington, D.C. police. According to The Eagle, the Secretary’s speech was “briefly interrupted on about five occasions mostly by loud coughs and some isolated jeers calling Watt a fraud.”

An hour before Watt’s speech began, approximately 150 demonstrators gathered both outside and in the lobby of Ward to protest his environmental policies. The protesters chanted, “Watt must go” and sang Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.” A few shouted into classrooms while classes were in session. The two most common signs were “Watt’s wrong,” and “Squat on Watt.” AU College Democrats, AU Americans for Democratic Action and the Environmental Law Group organized the protest.


Jessica Cohen, a member of AU’s chapter of Americans for Democratic Action.


WANTED: Signs from the Women’s March on Washington

AU Archives in partnership with the Student Historical Society is documenting AU students’ participation in the historic Women’s March on January 21, 2017. We are building a collection of protest signs. At our first collecting event, we received five signs that reflect the diversity of messages at the march. We are still accepting donations as we want our collection to include signs for all of the issues of interest to AU students.



Sierra Apaliski’s poster from the Women’s March



Did you keep your sign from the march? Do you know someone with a sign? If so, please consider donating your sign to AU Archives before you leave at the end of the semester. For further information, send an email to

Renovation Update #2

The first phase of construction of Archives and Special Collections new home will be complete in the next couple of weeks.

The first compact shelving unit is in place.


High Density Mobile Shelving Unit


Our processing/digitization area, offices and the new reading room are almost complete. Our new reading room will have digital projection equipment so it can also serve as our classroom.


Archives Reading Room

Archival Processing and Digitization Area














Our space should be ready for occupancy in early May once the contractor has installed and tested all of the systems. We will meet with prospective moving companies this week and next and will make our final selection by mid-April. As soon as we have a mover lined up, we will begin packing the rare book collection. We estimate this should take about a month so we should be ready to move into our new home in mid -May. We will post a final renovation update in May.