Building a University

Buchanan Fellows at the Heard Libraries document Vanderbilt’s beginning

Campus map from 1885

In fall 2020, five Buchanan Fellows at the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries began a project to research Vanderbilt University’s earliest years and curate an online exhibit—Taking Root: Vanderbilt University’s First Decade, 1875–1885—about what they discovered.

In the process, the fellows learned how to find supporting materials in the library, interpret historical objects, examine historically significant manuscripts and documents from Special Collections, and place all of them in the context of the university’s—and the nation’s—history.

“The idea for Vanderbilt history topics came about when we were researching materials for the upcoming Sesquicentennial,” said Celia Walker, associate university librarian.

“We’re hoping we can use this content to bring a fuller presentation of the university’s history through the eyes of our students.”

The Buchanan Library Fellowship program—endowed in 2015 by Richard D. Buchanan, BA’57, MD’61, and Poppy Buchanan, BSN’61—provides immersive learning experiences that develop career-ready skills and support lifelong learning for undergraduates.

There are several Buchanan Fellowship projects underway in spring 2023. Among them are the K.C. Potter Center Records Digitization Project, which will improve accessibility to records that document LGBTQIA+ life on campus, and the Vanderbilt Self-Portrait, a photography project that aims to capture the image and essence of the university through the faces of its community members.

View images from the Taking Root online exhibit.