Production books from decades of College Nights are kept in the archives. Photo by Maggie Sanderson
On the bottom floor of Carmichael Library is the room containing the Anna Crawford Milner Archives. Within this room, run by university archivist Carey Heatherly, are shelves and shelves of old documents, pictures and more that have been, and are being, archived by the University. Of the things found on the shelves none seem more important at this time of year than the numerous College Night production books, dating all the way back to 1935 and up to just last year.
College Night production books may be filled with glued on pictures and memorabilia of that year’s show but they are certainly no mere scrapbooks but instead are a detailed record of each side’s show.
“They keep all the scripts, they have all the music and everything. Anyone that participated gets documented in that book,” says archives student worker Mary-Haynes Furman, “It’s the only way to really and truly keep up with everything.”
Over the years the books have seen changes in terms of content and format. While some have become extremely elaborate in recent years, it did not start out that way.
“We have them dating back to ‘35. But they weren’t fancy like this,” Furman says in reference to a more extreme design “it was like an account book with all the receipts” but even though the designs of the books themselves may have started off in a more plain, business-like fashion, the contents have always been anything but.
The books do not just serve as a way of keeping track of everything going on with a show as they are also judged and contribute to the overall points on each side, most of which has to do with the content. The production books must include the script, the music and lyrics, as well as costume sketches and other parts that are vital to the show. Besides the inside of the book, the cover design is also judged as well as if the book is turned in on time.
“A top book will meet the legacy product durability, usability, historical documentation, the College Night legacy and presentation of the design,” Furman says.
Product durability is a more recent development when it comes to College Night production books. Many old books were created with materials that deteriorate quickly, or are hard to archive and preserve.
“It was in 2001 when they said, okay, we’re gonna make a change! Y’all gotta make these to last,” Furman said describing this change to the process.
Now it is a job of the Archives to make sure each side is provided with the proper archival safe glue, tape and paper so that the books last for a long time. Meeting this requirement, known as the legacy clause, will get you more points; making it very important to avoid materials that might deteriorate quickly, such as anything metal or wood.
Prior to 2001, many extravagant and difficult-to-store production books were turned in. For instance, in 1986, Purple Side had a large, wooden, Egyptian-themed triangle containing their book. Already, this wooden creation has fallen apart, banishing it, and others like it, to the top shelf of the archives.
In 1995, Gold Side also had an Egyptian-themed show and presented their production book in an ornate sarcophagus. Unfortunately, this too has started coming apart and is very hard to store.
“It’s funny how the most cumbersome ones were both Egyptian,” Furman observed.
The archives are working to preserve these books, among others, using special archival techniques to prevent deterioration for as long as they can. This way, both Montevallo Alum, and future generations can access the book easier.
“On the Saturday of College Night,” Furman says, “they’ll come back and request the year that they did it, or their mom did it, and that’s a big part, keeping that memory. The fact that we’re able to go back to ‘35 is pretty impressive.”
For those interested in learning more about college night and even getting to read and view production books from past years, you can visit Furman’s website at slob.coplacdigital.org/montevallo.