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The Power of Photos: A Look into the Archives of Scarritt College

By Emily Johnson

Have you ever found an old photobook tucked on a shelf somewhere, gathering dust, and seemingly insignificant? Curious, you turn the cover and automatically are drawn into the memories gathered on that page. Or perhaps in a good-faith Spring cleaning effort, you try to organize your cluttered desk, only to find a letter from a past friend or family member hidden in a drawer that brings you back to the first time that you read it?

Pictures, letters, and archives have an innate quality of capturing our attention and pulling it into the past. We use these devices to take a snapshot of time and make it timeless. We trigger thoughts, feelings, and perhaps even smells hidden in our past and, like brief time travel, we transition back to that moment or time period, experiencing for a short moment the memory itself. If the picture is unrelated to you, perhaps for a second you imagine the feelings and emotions of the people in the photo and try to discern what you would have felt in that situation or event.

Couples of Scarritt Bennett, 1950

The picture above shows the couples at Scarritt College, 1950 

For the past few weeks, I have been working in Scarritt Bennett Center’s Marketing and Communications department and the Laskey Library and scanning pictures of the SBC’s past to ensure that they are secured digitally for the future. Particularly, I have been sorting through pictures from the period of when Scarritt College was operating as an undergraduate and graduate school for young women and men preparing for ministry and social justice.

And although in my 23 years of age I did not attend Scarritt or have the memories captured in those photographs, I am constantly enticed into the power, excitement, joy, and experience that these pictures hold. Snapshots of the college’s plays or intercultural events or graduation centers convey the values that Scarritt Bennett Center has held in the past and continues to do so. You can feel the community present in those pictures, the relationships frozen in moments of time, and for a second, you have an insight into what life would have been like as a Scarritt College undergraduate student.

Volleyball on the Lawn, date unknown

The picture above shows Scarritt students playing lawn volleyball, date unknown

Some of my favorites are the large gatherings of students, whether playing volleyball in the grass or posing for a picture, that clearly highlight the diversity found within the student body and the connection of Scarritt College, and now Scarritt Bennett Center, to the larger world around it. As a recent graduate, these pictures tug on some of my own memories of college, instantly drawing a connection between myself and Scarritt’s past.

Perhaps you attended Scarritt and are in the photos I’ve scanned thus far. Or maybe your parent or relative graduated or worked at Scarritt, and these photos are another way to remember them as the influential and beautiful people that they were. Or perhaps you have only experienced the Scarritt Bennett Center of today. No matter your interest, I invite you to join me in viewing these powerful pictures of Scarritt College’s past on the Alumni Page of the Scarritt Bennett Center website and remembering the amazing individuals that shaped the world through their thoughts and actions. Click here to see the Alumni Gallery.

Pictures will continuously be added to the alumni gallery as this project progresses, so please be sure to return to see more. And please note that many photographs do not have years, dates or labels so they will be added as details emerge.

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Emily Johnson is a 2014-2015 Belle H. Bennett House Fellow at Scarritt Bennett Center. A recent graduate from Hastings College in Nebraska, Emily is passionate about the intersection of politics and legislative policy, women’s empowerment, eradication of racism, food justice, intentional community, and grassroots solutions to systemic injustices. Emily plans to attend graduate school for food policy and law in the future.