Category Archives: Archives

Who is this Phantom student?

Can you go to PA if you don’t exist?  Apparently you can, at least if you are J. Montague Fitzpatrick.  Roger Corman Kiley, a member of the Class of 1940, invented Fitzpatrick in 1936 and he became a phantom honorary member of the class.  Kiley gave the fictional student his name, and then set out to weave a life for him.  His fabrication was quite elaborate, and included the submission of papers for classes he was supposedly taking.  Kiley also diligently produced fake cut slips for classes missed and excused absences for missing athletics because of a conflict with band practice.  He even went so far as to fabricate letters which he mailed to the school that were supposedly from Fitzpatrick’s mother wondering why her beloved J. Montague was not writing home.  Fitzpatrick was the subject of many Phillipian articles and appeared in various other school publications.  Several versions of the fictitious student (with various attributed graduation years) appear on the Internet on  If you are interested in learning more about him or his creator, stop by the Archive and ask for him by name.


For Special Collections, Digitization is a Win/Win

Sometimes the goal of providing our users with access to materials conflicts with our responsibility for preserving those rare and delicate materials.  Many of the valuable materials in our Special Collections are old and fragile, and could be damaged by even the most careful use.  We would like to make these materials available digitally, but have neither the equipment nor the resources to undertake a major scanning project.  Fortunately, the Internet Archive,   a non-profit digital library containing almost two million books, already includes full-text electronic versions of many of our titles.

Consequently, we can provide access to the materials by linking from our catalog record for the print volume to the Internet Archive record for the electronic version. For example, go to the OWHL catalogue and look for Elizabeth Stuart Phelps’ The Gates Ajar (1869.) Notice that the record contains an Internet Archive icon.  This means that with one click you can go directly to the full text of the book.  You can read the book online, send it to your smart phone, or download it in a number of formats—including those for the Kindle and other ebook reading devices. All illustrations, marginalia, or other markings in the original book are reproduced exactly.

Unlike Google’s Book Search project, the Internet Archive is non-profit.  Internet Archive records never contain ads, and the materials are very stable.  Tim Sprattler, our Special Collections librarian, is systematically working his way through our collection to add these Internet Archive links to all of our Special Collection books that have already been scanned as a part of the project.

But what about our Special Collections materials that are not part of the Internet Archive?  That is where non sibi comes in! The project continues to grow as libraries send their unique, public domain materials to be scanned.  Fortunately for us, one of the scanning venues is at the Boston Public Library.  Tim will be headed there over the spring break, with a set of about 20 titles to add to the project.  To offset expenses, donating libraries pay 10 cents per page for the scanning services.  The first collection to be scanned will include  the novel My Three Years at Andover by James Lee Perrin, PA 1902, writing under the pseudonym Ewer Struly. In addition, we will contribute several small books that were part of a series of lectures written by Samuel Read Hall, the first Principal of the Teachers [English] Seminary at Andover. The first edition of Lectures on School-Keeping, published in 1829, has already been scanned.  We will be contributing the 3rd edition, published in 1831, which includes a chapter on how to locate a school and lay out a classroom.

Too fragile to use?

What happens when a student doing a research project needs to use fragile, rare, and valuable materials from our special collections?  Thanks to the magic of digitization, we can provide them with access to these materials without harm to the originals.   Sometimes we need to scan the item ourselves, but frequently Google Books or the Internet Archive has already digitized the book.  In this case, all we need to do is add a link from our online library catalog to the full-text version of the book.   For example, a senior recently requested the use of James Pike’s “The Prostrate State: South Carolina under Negro Government”. When the book was retrieved from the special collections, we noticed that the first twenty or so pages had broken off from the text block. The student looked through the book very carefully, but it became apparent that the book was too fragile for use.  Fortunately, Tim Sprattler, who is in charge of the special collections, was able to find a link at Internet Archive and has added it to the library catalog record.  The result was a happy student, and a book that did not sustain further damage. Here is what the record looks like:

Learning in the Archives

The Phillips Academy Archives contains countless treasures.  The OWHL’s summer student workers, Cassie and Ashley, have spent time exploring those treasures while helping Interim Archivist Tim Sprattler work on projects this summer.

DSC00654In response to an inquiry from an Andover alumnus who was part of the Academy’s Jazz Band “The Aces” during the 1950’s, the girls found and scanned pictures of the band.


They were surprised to learn that the Academy also had a marching band during the fifties.

marching band1

Arranging itself into the letter “A” was the band’s signature move.  Another request (for information on Andover’s “Secret Societies” led the students to discover that not too long ago, Andover had what ammounted to residential fraternity houses.  This is the house inhabited by the members of PBX.

pbx houseMany of these old houses still exist around campus.  It would be fun to do a scavenger hunt to see how many could be identified.  Cassie and Ashley enthusiastically agreed that it is great to have a summer job where you can learn interesting things while you are working.  The entire staff of the OWHL is in complete agreement.

Tim’s shirt says it all: