Exhibit on Auburn's land grant history on display in RBD Library

Published: October 24, 2022

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Auburn University Libraries Special Collections and Archives department has just opened a new exhibit: “Hardy Sons of Toil: Auburn’s Land Grant Heritage.” The exhibit commemorates Auburn’s sesquicentennial as a land-grant university. Located on the first floor of the Ralph Brown Draughon Library, the exhibit is open during all regular library hours.

The exhibit’s documents and other artifacts showcase the initial government and administrative work involved in Auburn’s (then, The Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College) establishment, along with a glimpse into the student experience at that time.

In 1862, Abraham Lincoln signed the first Morrill Act into law. This act reserved large portions of federal lands in each state for the establishment of land grant colleges. As a requirement, these institutions placed special emphasis on the subjects of engineering, agriculture, and military science. The act was named after Vermont Senator Justin Smith Morrill, a leading advocate in making higher education available to everyone regardless of social class. The title of the exhibit borrows a phrase Morrill used at the time to frame the debate.

In 1872, the Board of Trustees of the East Alabama Male College transferred ownership of the school to the state of Alabama in order for it to be reestablished as a land-grant institution. That decision laid the groundwork for Auburn University to become the institute of higher learning it is today.

The exhibit was developed and assembled by Joanna Ashley, exhibit coordinator for Special Collections and Archives, with assistance from Tommy Brown, University Archivist at AU Libraries, and features an original student cadet uniform from the period, selected government documents from 1872, and engineering tools that belonged to a student attending the university during that period.

The “Hardy Sons of Toil: Auburn’s Land Grant Heritage” exhibit is scheduled to run through the spring semester of 2023.

Submitted by: Jayson Hill