Nooks and Crannies: Archives and Special Collections

Located on the A Level of Robert Frost Library, Archives and Special Collections is home to the history of Amherst. In 1851, the faculty approved a plan to collect and preserve the most important documents of the college, and the shelves beneath Frost Library (and buried deep in Bare Mountain) have grown with artifacts, books, theses, manuscripts and more ever since.

Nooks and Crannies: The Post Office

Amherst College Postmaster Donnie Kells has seen the world change through the hundreds of glass mailbox windows in Keefe Campus Center. Bulky computer shipments have all but vanished, mail-order catalogs have been replaced with massive increases in online shopping and nobody seems to order frogs anymore. Between the deliveries of birthday cards, letters from abroad and occasional kayak, Kells gives a brief tour of the other side of mailbox.

Nooks and Crannies: Behind the Scenes

Built in 1938, Kirby Theater has been transformed into countless worlds. Behind its ever-changing face is Robert Colby, the technical director for the Department of Theater and Dance. A self-described engineer, plumber, carpenter and teacher, Colby has been charged with nothing less than creating magic since he arrived at Amherst 35 years ago. Midway through construction for an upcoming production, Colby gives a tour of the little-seen scene shop.

Stearns Steeple

Built in 1870 out of local stone and a college president's son's hope for "a proper church," Stearns Steeple and its nine bells are all that remain of of the College Church. Dismantled in 1949, the church left its most striking feature quietly embedded between James and Stearns Halls. The New York Times wrote, though, that "at intervals no one seems to be able to predict, chimes still resound from the steeple in memory of the college's Civil War dead." Samuel Masinter '04 joins Aaron Hayden for a climb into the belfry to find out why the steeple still stands.

Nooks and Crannies: Oddities of the Mead Art Museum

With less than one percent of its collection on display, the Mead Art Museum's storage rooms are filled wtih everything from the beautiful and intricate to the strange and macabre. A small sampling of little-seen works by Director and Chief Curator Elizabeth Barker shows the stranger side of the Mead Art Museum.

A small, wood-paneled room in the corner of the Mead Art Museum has welcomed both King James and Robert Frost. Commissioned in the early 1600s by English knight Sir Roger Bodenham, finished in 1611, dismantled in 1731 and shipped to a Fifth Avenue showroom in 1913, the Rotherwas Room found its way into the hands of Herbert Lee Pratt, Class of 1895. Pratt bequeathed the room to Amherst College in 1944, and the Mead Art Museum was designed and built to accommodate it.

The Steam/Cogeneration Plant

In 2007, Amherst College decided to fill an empty boiler bay in the campus steam plant with a cogeneration system. Fed by a 1250-kW jet engine, the cogeneration system significantly reduces the carbon footprint of the college while greatly increasing the efficiency of the system's energy conservation. Campus Utilities Engineer and Capital Project Manager Aaron Hayden explains the cogeneration process and offers a peek into the roaring heart of the college's conservation efforts.

Nooks and Crannies: The Bunker

In 1957, the Strategic Air Command built a secret alternate command bunker deep into the side of Bare Mountain. Active through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the base would have been the communications center of a nuclear counter-attack. Since 1994, though, the Bunker's doors are open to a new purpose.

The Museum of Natural History

The locked cabinets lining the wall of the Earth Science and Natural History Museum Building hold everything from bones to bullet holes. Some of the stranger pieces of the collection are examined here, narrated by Collections Manager Kate Wellspring. 

Wilder Observatory

Wilder Observatory, built in 1903, holds what was once one of the largest telescopes in the world. With an 18-inch front element, it remains one of the largest refracting telescopes in existence. Museum Education Coordinator and Director of the Bassett Planetarium Steve Sauter welcomes us to the little-known building on Snell Street.

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