Special Collections and Archives blog

Spotlight on SCA’s seniors, NAU class of 2020

For the past four years, Special Collections & Archives has been honored to work with two outstanding members of Northern Arizona University’s undergraduate class of 2020: Britney Bibeault and Will McMullan. This week, we are thrilled to congratulate Britney and Will on their graduation!

(L-R) Britney Bibeault, Amelia Swann, Cindy Summers, Jonathan Pringle, Ryan, Zach, Peter Runge, and Kelly Phillips standing around the Julius
(L-R) Britney Bibeault, Amelia Swann, Cindy Summers, Jonathan Pringle, Ryan Hitt, Zach Mauck, Peter Runge, and Kelly Phillips standing around Brad Dimock’s replica of the Buzz Holmstrom’s historic Julius, part of the Splendor & Spectacle exhibit (2018-2019).

To celebrate Britney and Will’s accomplishments and their contributions to the department, student supervisor Cindy Summers asked each student to participate in an oral history interview regarding their experiences at SCA and NAU more broadly. As most SCA staff are now working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cindy invited Will and Britney to join her over Zoom to talk about their dearest SCA memories.

In the clip below, Britney discusses her favorite archival collection held by Special Collections & Archives, the Stanley Swarts photographs.

SCA Student Spotlight featuring NAU senior Britney Bibeault discussing the Stanley Swarts photographs. Video produced by Cindy Summers and edited by Sam Meier.

While Will was unable to participate in an oral history interview before commencement this coming Friday, May 8, 2020, we happen to know that for years, he’s been obsessed with a mystery he discovered in the Martin Litton collection.

Litton, a noted conservation activist, environmentalist, and river runner, donated his archives to Special Collections & Archives over the course of two decades, with a final posthumous donation in 2016. His collection includes textual material like business records, correspondence, pamphlets, and publications, photographs, and films. Will spent several years at SCA exhaustively inventorying the later donations to Litton’s collection.

The mystery centers around this photo, which Will uncovered while processing later accruals to Litton’s collection.

A crime scene, showing a number of people standing around a body, next to a car.
[Crime scene.] Photographer unknown. Circa 1940s-1950s. Found in “Litton Pilot, Personal, and Business Images,” Martin Litton Collection, accrual 2010.24 or 2016.16.

As Will speculates in his notes about “The Murder Case,” the image appears to show a crime scene, possibly in Los Angeles, California, based on the police officers’ uniforms. It seems to be a violent crime rather than a car accident, though it’s hard to tell what might be happening in the image. By examining details of the photograph, such as the clothing and uniforms, the make and model of the cars and their wheels, and even the film itself (ANSCO Safety Film), Will deduced that this event, whatever it was, likely took place in the 1940s or ’50s.

But even Will’s eagle eyes couldn’t solve the mystery of why Martin Litton had this photo, or why he kept it. For now, that remains unknown…

Will McMullan filming at Cline Library.

Special Collections & Archives thanks Will McMullan and Britney Bibeault for their years of hard work, dedication, and commitment as SCA Student Assistants, and congratulates them both on their upcoming commencement as members of the class of 2020! We wish them both continued success and encourage them to come back and visit.

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