It was nearly a century ago that the
University of Delaware first found itself in a rapid, dizzying period of
expansion, where growth could be measured in gifts, in land, in
architectural blueprints that would soon give way to bricks and mortar
structures along The Green.
Iconic structures. Buildings constructed at a time when men and women
studied in separate colleges on opposite ends of campus and mingled in
Memorial Hall. Then known as Memorial Library, its identical entrances
were built to provide both sexes equal access to the center (and
intellectual heart) of campus.
Completed in December 1924, Memorial was perhaps the
Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Laboratory (ISE Lab) of its
day — a significant capital project that was fundamental to the primary
scholarship of the University.
That might be why the late Delaware photographer Roydon Hammond took still shots of the building soon after its completion.
Noted mostly for his images of Delaware plants, agriculture and farm
life, Hammond is widely regarded as the state's foremost documentary
photographer. Of his collection of 2,000-plus glass plate negatives, now
housed in the Delaware Public Archives, about two dozen are of various
University buildings from the 1920s and '30s.
But why he took them and what purpose they served we may never fully know.
David Ames, professor of urban affairs and public policy and geography and director of the Center for Historic and Architecture and Design,
speculates that some images, like the Memorial Hall photograph, might
be construction shots. Others, like photos of Old College and wide shots
of The Green, may have been used for state tourism efforts.
"The pictures give us knowledge that we didn't have before; they
bring new information to interpret," says Ames, who has been working on a
larger three-year project to "rephotograph" hundreds of the images from
Hammond's 2,000-plus collection.