Being a Vandal 100 years ago — “Vandal Traditions” exhibition showcases the history of Vandals

The “Vandal Traditions” exhibition at the Third Street Gallery takes audiences into the life of being a Vandal, from as early as the 1910s.

The exhibition, a compilation of memorabilia and trophies throughout the history of University of Idaho, is the product of a collaboration between several departments within the university.

Erin Stoddart, head of Special Collections and Archives in the UI Library, said the exhibition was initially planned to focus on athletics, but has since evolved to also include other significant traditions in UI history.

“There are so many rich traditions and iconic things that have been in our archives that I think is worth bringing out to show people the past so that they can help us create the future,” said Rob Spear, UI director of athletics.

The exhibition is placed along the hallways of three floors on the Third Street Gallery. The first floor consists of athletics memorabilia and trophies, while the second houses a blend of items from the special collections archives and the third focuses on textiles.

The first floor showcases some old footballs from various times in history and trophies from athletic teams that have since disbanded. Among those teams were boxing, fencing, skiing, baseball and riflery. Some of the trophies date as early as 1911. The most recent trophy to be on display is the prized 2016 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl trophy.

The second floor encompasses fall traditions throughout Vandal history. Display cases and information boards demonstrate fall traditions such as Homecoming, spirit squads and the marching band. Also included are the origins of Joe Vandal.

“We have the original Vandal. He was not Joe Vandal, he was The Vandal,” Stoddart said.

In one of the several display cases stands a statue about 12 inches tall. Created in 1924 by old yearbook “Gem of the Mountains” editor, Peter Paul Drus, it is said to be the first iteration of Joe Vandal.

“We call him ‘Creepy Baby Joe’ in my department. He kind of looks very child-like, like a cherub face, but then he is also very muscular, looks also older at the same time,” Stoddart said. “I personally think everyone should see the statue, it is very weird. I think most people have no idea that that was the first kind of mascot that we’ve had.”

The third floor features old textiles from the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences’ Leila Old Historic Costume Collection. Among those on display is Vandal gear dating back to as early as the 1920s.

Other displays include old traditions like the freshmen green felt beanie and spirit beanie. At one point, the university required freshmen to wear green felt beanies at all times except at athletics events, when they were required to wear the spirit beanie.

“I think a highlight from the historic textile collections for me was seeing a banner that has student names written on it from a long time ago,” Stoddart said.

There will also be a speaker series scheduled for various times attached to the “Vandal Traditions” exhibition. Each will begin with a reception at 5 p.m. followed by the speaker session from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The first of the speaker series,  which is Sept. 28, is titled “Vandal Traditions,” and speakers will be Kathy Barnard, Executive Director of UI Alumni Relations, and Stoddart. Stoddart said there will be a presentation and discussion about ongoing Vandal traditions, traditions that have died out and future traditions.

Next in the series is “Vandal Football” Oct. 26. Spear said this will be a panel discussion consisting of former Vandal football players from different eras.

The former players will talk about their experiences as athletes and about football traditions during their respective times at the university. Spear said he is in the process of lining up the panel and said he would like to have representation from four to five decades.

Last in the series is “UI Marching Band History” Nov. 16. Music professor Dan Bukvich from the Lionel Hampton School of Music will talk about the history of the UI marching band.

“I think just being able to walk through and get a sense of our history here is a good experience for people whether this is their first semester on campus or they’ve lived here for 50 years of their life,” Stoddart said. “I think there’s something that will surprise you for everybody.”

The exhibition is open to the public and free of charge from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday until Nov. 24. The exhibition will also be open during all home football games and speaker series.

May Ng can be reached at arg-arts@uidaho.edu


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