historic photos courtesy of Archives & Special Collections
Gustav Nelson’s phonograph records were spread out on purple fabric covering a table in the Sullivan Museum and History Center at Norwich University.
Stamped with the seal of Edison Records, these were heavy relics from the gramophone era; some cracked and warped. Norwich has Nelson’s hand-cranked record player too, as well as sheet music for people who weren’t as lucky to own this technology. With song titles like I Ain't Got Weary Yet; Don’t Cry, Frenchie, Don’t Cry; and So Long, Mother, the sentiments of the era were clear.
“They’re all about war and the pain of being away from home,” said Kate Donley, a Norwich faculty member attempting to bring alive an experience that is a world away from that of most modern students—World War I.
Dozens of students in her English composition and literature class stood around the display tables. They wore latex gloves and were encouraged to pick up items for examination. In addition to the records, there was a World War I Brodie helmet, wool greatcoat and medals of all makes and colors. These were mementos of an event that touched the lives of everyone, from soldiers to people living thousands of miles from the front lines; many from the private collections of Norwich alumni.continue