Exhibit Focuses on Students' Lives Outside the Classroom

A new exhibit in Wilson Library traces students’ extracurricular lives for two centuries. “From Di-Phis to Loreleis: A History of Student Organizations at UNC” features 157 records, photographs, publications and other items that document the evolution of student organizations from the University’s founding through the present.

In conjunction with the exhibit, Kevin Cherry ’88 will give a lecture, “And They Talked — Always They Talked: 215 Years of the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies,” in the library at 5:45 p.m. on April 7. Cherry, who also earned two master’s degrees and a doctoral degree at Carolina, works at the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. A reception and exhibit viewing at 5 p.m. will precede the free public talk on April 7. The Loreleis, a UNC women’s a cappella group supported by the UNC General Alumni Association, will perform during the reception.

The events highlight Wilson Library’s effort to encourage students and alumni to preserve documents and memorabilia of their student days and donate them to the library so they can be preserved and made available for study.

“The lives of students are incredibly telling, not just about UNC but about what was going on in the broader culture and world they inhabited,” said Jay Gaidmore, University archivist and an exhibit organizer. “These items reveal so much, but many of them have come to the library only by luck or chance.”

Cherry will discuss UNC’s debating and literary societies, founded in 1795 and still active today. The University’s oldest student organizations, they have counted some of its most illustrious alumni among their members. Cherry, a longtime Di-Phi member, will discuss the organizations’ history and lore.

The exhibit takes note of such curiosities as The Ugly Club, an unauthorized organization formed in the 1830s to help — and haze — homesick students; The Temperance Society, which passed with an era; and political, social and service organizations that made their mark on UNC.

Among the items on display are a 1797 minute book from meetings of the Philanthropic Society, the original 1893 charter of Kappa Sigma fraternity, photographs of an early Jewish fraternity (Zeta Beta Tau, 1927) and the first historically African-American sorority (Delta Sigma Theta, 1973) and fraternity (Omega Psi Phi, 1983), a photograph of a 1950s Order of Gimghoul banquet, and a 1948 photograph of Andy Griffith ’49 as a UNC student, performing in a Carolina Playmakers production of The Mikado.

Gaidmore said library officials are interested in receiving both official records and informal keepsakes such as photographs, publications and objects used in activities of UNC student organizations. Anyone who has or knows of such materials may contact Gaidmore at (919) 962-6402 or

Hours for the exhibit are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays; and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays, free to the public through May 31.

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