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Purdue history exhibit helps celebrate university's 150th birthday

The “Building Purdue” exhibit opened this week and it is located in the Stewart Center. It provides a chance to take visitors back in time to see how much the campus has changed in not just the past 150 years, but even in last five years.

Posted: Aug 29, 2018 7:16 PM
Updated: Aug 29, 2018 7:16 PM

Lafayette, IND. (WLFI) - As Purdue is celebrating its 150th year of existence, a group from the Purdue Libraries put together bits of the university's history for everyone to enjoy.

The “Building Purdue” exhibit opened this week and it is located in the Stewart Center.

It provides a chance to take visitors back in time to see how much the campus has changed in not just the past 150 years, but even in last five years.

It highlights the physical growth and evolution of the university from its establishment in 1869.

Head Curator Neal Harmeyer says the decision to put together this exhibit was an easy one.

“This came about pretty naturally as we start to look back at the history of the university and thought a lot about what about Purdue made it become Purdue,” he said. “When you think about the university, you think about people, the great alums that have gone here but you also think about the physical campus.”

"When this came up, it was, like oh yeah that's something I'd really like to see," said Brian York, a visitor of the exhibit.

York, class of 1992, is an alumnus and a current employee of the university. He came to see “Building Purdue” to reminisce.

"Being a student, seeing how it has grown since I was a student and then coming back on campus as an employee, and seeing the changes that have occured, and just seeing the history of how it has evolved, it's just intriguing," he said.

Something Harmeyer, who is also a Purdue alumnus, also understands.

"Being in a building on campus or walking through the campus, even if you are an alum and graduated fifteen years ago, that you can walk past a space that you still know," he said.

The exhibit includes the original land deed signed by John Purdue. You can see the edition of the Purdue Exponent from February 7th, 1922 when the headline said “Union Building Plan Approved.” They paid homage to the impact Purdue played in both World Wars with pictures of soldiers training on campus.

Old road maps, original architectural drawings of the Elliott Hall of Music, and old objects found in the walls of the original Pappy's Sweet Shop are all on display.

On the eve of the 94th football season at Ross-Ade Stadium, you can see old photos from its construction. And learn about life before Ross-Ade.

"Stuart Field was the football stadium, the baseball stadium, they did exercises they had convocations,” said Harmeyer as he pointed to a panoramic picture of the old stadium. “It was the hub of student aggregate activity from 1900 when it was opened to 1924 when Ross-Ade stadium was completed."

For York, he feels it is sometimes difficult to see places where memories were once made not longer exist anymore.

"Change is a good thing, it's inevitable but it's kind of sad to see some of the old things go,” he said.

Harmeyer says for every new generation of Boilermakers on campus, the exhibit shows they are a part of something much bigger.

"There have been freshman coming to this campus for nearly 150 years and that you are just one person in a very long but very well established line of people who have accomplished a lot, but who also walked the same halls and sat in the same classrooms,” he said.

Exhibit is specifically located in the Purdue Archives and Special Collections in the Humanities, Social Science, and Education (HSSE) Library in the Stewart Center. Hours are 10 AM to 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday.

Click here to learn more about the exhibit.

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