The Columns

Digitized Archives of the Ring-tum Phi Now Available Online

— by on June 22nd, 2015

W&L’s student paper, the Ring-tum Phi, made its first appearance in 1897 and has, with the exception of World War II, been in print ever since. Leafing through back issues in Special Collections, the curious can read about Fancy Dress, homecoming queens, Glee Club concerts, changes to The White Book, even extensive coverage of W&L’s long-ago Division I football team. The only catch is you had to be on campus to do so.

That has now changed. Over the past two and a half years, Alston Cobourn, digital scholarship librarian at W&L, has worked with an outside vendor, Backstage Library Works, to create a text-searchable digital archive of the Ring-tum Phi (http://myw.lu/studentorgsarchive). “It’s been a long process,” said Cobourn. “With over 100 years worth of material, there was a lot of prep work involved. It’s very exciting to now have the Phi archives online.”

The biggest users are classes from the journalism and history departments. So far, most searches are for stories on Lee Chapel and coeducation. Geographically, Texas, with its large alumni contingent, produces the highest number of hits nationally, while France leads the way for international readers.

“The digitized archives aren’t supposed to replace physical access of the Phi,” said Cobourn. “But it’s really useful in helping people discover new details about the University.”

Regarding its online presence, ringtumphiwlu.com, Coburn said, “We’re hoping to capture and preserve the digital version of the paper for the archives as well.”

As for the ongoing print version, the Phi’s coeditors for the 2015-16 academic year will be Krysta Huber ’16 and Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder ’16, with Hannah Howard ’16 as managing editor. Having worked as writers and editors of the Phi, they “believe we can lead the Phi to new levels of in-depth reporting, and will strive to give equal coverage to every group and issue on campus, no matter the size. We are also expanding our social media websites, and we will be introducing a new social media editor.”

You can subscribe to the Phi’s weekly paper for $45/year. Contact Ring-tum Phi, Elrod Commons #341, 204 W. Washington St., Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA 24450-2116