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“Perstare et Praestare: Commencement at NYU”

A small exhibit case highlighting the commencement ceremonies at New York University entitled “Perstare et Praestare: Commencement at NYU” opened at the University Archives this past week.
In the months leading up to commencement, the senior class at NYU celebrated its existence and prepared for graduation through numerous activities. Part of this exhibit showcases those events leading up to commencement, including facsimile photographs and objects from traditional Class Day activities, Grad Alley, and the Senior Ball.
While the University’s first Commencement ceremony celebrated the graduation of only three students in 1833, the Class of 2005 numbered over 11,000 students. The first public graduation ceremony took place on July 17, 1834, just two years after the University opened. This exhibit also features graduation ceremony-related items, including a nineteenth-century commencement ceremony ticket, a program featuring honorary degree recipients, and regalia.
Finally, the exhibit traces the remembrance of a student’s time at NYU through senior yearbooks and alumni memorabilia. The first NYU yearbook was the Lyre of 1887, published by members of the secret fraternities of the University. This first attempt at a yearbook was basically a roster of fraternities and their members, not a complete listing of undergraduates. The first annual yearbook was the 1891 Violet, published in 1890 by the junior class. This particular exhibit has a 1925 Violet yearbook and a much more colorful 1988 Violet yearbook on display.
As the curator of this small exhibit and a (fairly) recent graduate, I am well aware of the various emotions that accompany graduation ceremonies: the excitement of preparing for the “real world” through senior year activities, the formal capstone ceremony that celebrates achievement and success, and the apprehension at paying off student loans that contributes to the nostalgic remembrance of your time spent as an undergraduate student. I searched for objects and documents that reflect the attitudes and activities of most undergraduate students, while also hoping to represent the unique opportunities offered to students attending school in New York City.

LaGuardiaThe New York University Archives contains a wealth of commencement-related material, from tickets and programs to photographs and regalia spanning many years. Consequently, “Perstare et Praestare: Commencement at NYU” features facsimile photographs, documents, and objects found throughout the University Archives ranging from a printing plate for an 1845 commencement ticket to a baseball cap from the 2009 commencement ceremony at Yankee Stadium. I tried to use a mixture of documents and object memorabilia while also adhering to preservation standards for exhibits through the use of facsimile copies and duplicate material.
This exhibit will close in December 2010.
Commencement Ceremony, June 9, 1970
Chancellor Chase with Honorary Degree Recipient Mayor LaGuardia, 1938
Nicole Milano, Archives Assistant

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