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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

These news items about residential colleges, collegiate houses, and the renewal of university life are posted for readers of the Collegiate Way website. For more about residential colleges and collegiate universities please visit the main Collegiate Way page.

Ribbons, Signature Pages, and Institutional Memory

— One of the easiest ways to develop a sense of tradition and history in a residential college is to create framed “signature pages” for special events in the college: take a copy of the poster or flyer announcing a given event, have all the attendees sign their names to it, and put it up on the wall. Better still, why not establish a tradition of signature pages for a few special events that take place each year. For each such event, find a member of your college who likes to draw, get a pad of acid-free art paper and archival pens, pencils, or water colors, and invite your college artist to enrich a sheet of the paper with a design of your choice. The design should feature the name, date, and place of the event, and should prominently include the college’s coat of arms or other insignia. The most effective strategy (since you’re going to be making these for years to come and you want them to look like a coordinated group) is to have a simple design template which the artist can personalize with ornamental borders, colors, and type styles, but which retains the same core elements from year to year. Be sure to use a different artist for each page you prepare, so that over time, many people will be able to contribute their talents to the college.

[Image: Dining hall of Cromwell College in Australia.]

The new dining hall of Cromwell College at the University of Queensland. Photo courtesy of Jane Thomas.

The motivation for creating this page was an inquiry from my colleague Jane Thomas at the University of Queensland’s Cromwell College. Cromwell was about to open a new dining hall, and was looking for ways to commemorate the occasion. Signature pages like those described above are an excellent choice for events of this kind, because they involve all the participants (everyone signs), and because they are permanent additions to the ornamentation of the college. You will be surprised to see how eagerly your students, even a few months later, will look over the page and proudly point to where they had signed.

For opening ceremonies in general, another standard practice is a ribbon cutting, and this should certainly be done for an occasion like the opening of a new dining hall. And how can we make a simple ribbon cutting even more meaningful? After the ribbon has been cut and the crowd filters in, section up the remaining ribbon and give all the people in attendance their own personal slice. On the new webpage linked above you’ll see an example of just this practice in the last illustration, in which a signature page was framed with a section of the ribbon that opened the new Middle Common Room in Grey College at the University of Durham last December.

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2021