Have a blast with the past

Who doesn’t want to see pictures of their prof with a mullet?


Let’s start with a little context. I have (almost certainly) seen and read more issues of the Dal Gazette than any other person on this planet.

Think about that – I certainly have. I could make an argument that I am the foremost expert on the oldest university newspaper in North America.

So I’m kind of a big deal – or at least I’m someone who can explain why it is so incredible that the entire history of the Gazette is, hopefully by the time this issue goes to print, openly accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

I was fortunate enough to spend my summer working with the good people in the Killam library archives. Without getting too into the details of my work, I was basically responsible for ensuring that the data attached to every issue would be searchable on DalSpace.

This means that, once it is all online, anyone can go to DalSpace, search for any particular year or month and check out a downloadable PDF of the issue of their choice. All the way back to 1869. Yeah, the “top hats and monocles” 1869.

So why does this matter? Besides giving me a reason to say that I’ve done something no one else on this planet has yet done – did I mention that yet? – it also represents an amazing resource for those seeking insight into the concerns and issues that Dal students had at various points in history.

There are articles about Dal students going to Europe and elsewhere to fight in various wars, as well as ones about those who never came home.

There’s an article about an interview that a Dal professor held with Albert Einstein prior to the beginning of the Second World War.

There are annual issues outlining the antics of frosh (orientation) week, with some alarming parallels to those of the last few years.

Besides the sometimes amazing similarities shared over the years, there are also many signs of the prevailing beliefs of the times – I wish some of those contributors could come to my classes to see how “the delicate constitution of the weaker sex” is a hilariously and infuriatingly inaccurate way to describe the women of Dal.

Sometimes shocking is the insensitivity to issues now embraced by many (but still not enough) in society, but the Gazette also shows the role students and young people have played in pushing the social envelope.

Be it the boycott of a long, long since-closed dance hall for refusing to admit a Dal student on the basis of his race, to special LGBT editions (called “Gay Issues” because they were being printed years before the now-familiar acronym meant something) to issues involving the environment and women’s rights.

If these things aren’t enough to get you to take a look, I can promise you that there are plenty of pictures: current and past political figures, maybe your parents, and most importantly, many of your profs. (The best ones are from when they were still students – the 70s and 80s produced some fantastic fashion and hairstyle decisions.)

Do with this information what you will. But I suggest you at least take a look when you’re riding the bus to campus, or when you need something other than Reddit, your fantasy team, or drawing on your in-class Snapchats to kill time while that guy in the front row asks another ridiculous hypothetical question.


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Michael Bourgeois

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