From the Archives: The Return of Thomas Riley Marshall

by Beth Swift

November 26, 2008

Though he solved several mysteries and brought to light several other pieces that had been "missing in action," as he inventoried the Wabash College art collection this summer, Mitch Brown’s best find took place over a meal.

Mitch, a Wabash junior, worked here in the Archives as a Know Indiana intern through the Quality of Life in Indiana program funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. He spent several weeks on the Historic Art and Furnishings Collection inventory, rummaging through attics and looking through all of the buildings on campus, taking digital pictures of pieces in our collection, and noting their current locations.

It was hot and dirty work that kept him extremely busy. Yet through it all he had a good-humored approach coupled with a level of enthusiasm that is all too rare.

So his mealtime "discovery" of the return of the bust of Thomas Riley Marshall—Wabash Class of 1873 and Vice President under Woodrow Wilson —seems a fitting reward.

The bust had been in the Rogge Lounge in Baxter Hall but had "walked off" some years ago, likely the victim of a student prank. But I did not know that it had been returned.

So while Mitch was dining with Professor of Political Science Melissa Butler, he said, "It’s too bad that bust of Thomas Riley Marshall disappeared. Dr. Butler responded that it had "miraculously" returned, complete with this typed note:

"To whom it may concern—I’ve been on an extended vacation, like the gnome. I belong in the lounge of Baxter Hall. Please return me to my proper place. Thank you."

The wayward Vice President now rests on a new—and secured—pedestal, and thanks to Mitch, our inventory now reflects that it has been returned.

The student interns that we are lucky enough to secure for the summer really do some amazing things for the College. But for gumption, sheer good nature, and 100% enthusiasm, I don’t think I have seen the likes of Mitch Brown. Mitch says that he would like to be an archaeologist and, from what I have seen, his urge to "dig" for the truth will serve him well.

Following his fall semester abroad, Mitch will return to the Archives to continue to hone our knowledge of the hundreds of pieces of art and historic furnishings that grace our campus.

Beth Swift is the archivist for the The Robert T. Ramsay, Jr. Archival Center at Wabash. Contact her at swiftb@wabash.edu

 


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