THE BLOG
07/02/2013 04:39 pm ET Updated Sep 01, 2013

Odd Artifacts Find Homes in Campus Archives

What can you find in the archives of your local college? Hair, for one thing. There seems to be an abundance of hair in college archives.

The University of Denver has Benedict Arnold's hair. No kidding -- a nice big braid of it. The University of Rochester has a lock of Frederick Douglass' hair. UR also has the mane from Queen Victoria's favorite horse, Monarch.

There are oddities of some kind in the archives of most colleges and universities. Stop by Marlboro College in Vermont and look at an unflattering biography of publisher George H. Putnam written by Rudyard Kipling and printed on toilet paper. You don't see stuff like that every day.

Colleges and universities oftentimes have famous and (infamous) students, faculty or residents that contribute to the archives. Visiting Otterbein University's archives you find an original copy of the Christmas song "Up on the House Top." Benjamin Russell Hanby was a graduate of Otterbein in 1858. Saint Leo University has a piece of the Berlin Wall taken by Media Services Support Technician Norman Carey in January of 1990 when he was in the U.S. Army in Berlin.

Schools seem to like oddities from poets and writers. York College of Pennsylvania, for example, has a pair of poet James Merrill's sandals. He won the Pulitzer Prize back in 1977. Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., has two typewriters that novelist James Michener wrote his novel Recessional, while he was a member of the Academy of Senior Professionals at Eckerd.

Then there is the just plain bizarre. The motorcycle helmet and jacket worn by novelist and educator John Gardner when he died in a 1982 motorcycle accident are at the University of Rochester. Gardner is best known for his novel Grendel, a telling of the Beowulf saga from the monster's point of view.

Meredith College, a women's college in Raleigh, N.C., has a loyalty oath certificate signed by President Andrew Johnson. Participants in the 1861-65 rebellion against the U.S. could have their property restored (except slaves) if they signed the loyalty oath to the United States.

Colleges also use archives to commemorate events that happened on campus. For example, Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, Pa., has a signed contract by Jim Morrison of The Doors agreeing to come to campus for $5,000 in 1967. Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., has a T-shirt that commemorates "the games that had no fans." In 1989, several games, including the North Atlantic Conference Tournament, had to be quarantined due to a measles outbreak on campus. Siena ended up winning the tournament punching a ticket to its first NCAA Tournament. It ultimately would win its first round game against Stanford.

And, yet, other times folks find items they wish they hadn't. The bomb squad had to be called to Sewanee: The University of the South back in the 1980s because during a routine inventory of the museum collection someone stumbled on a live Japanese hand grenade donated right after WWII.

Visiting college archives never sounded so much fun. What interesting items does your college or university have in its archives?