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Swem’s Gems

"Sexy" secrets of the university’s archives

  • Taking Lord Botetourt for a ride
    Taking Lord Botetourt for a ride  Workers move Lord Botetourt's statue to Swem Library in this 1966 photo.  Courtesy Swem Special Collections
  • Supreme
    Supreme  A replica of Chief Justice Warren Burger's office, including several items the chief justice actually used, such as the briefcase to the left of the desk.  Courtesy Swem Special Collections
  • Layout of a city
    Layout of a city  Dated 1782, the map is believed to have been drafted by a soldier in Rochambeau's army. It has been called the Bible of the Restoration of Williamsburg.  Courtesy Swem Special Collections
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Letters written by George Washington, 19th-century travel guides, Sir Isaac Newtown’s Principia and Civil War letters are just a few of the treasures tucked away in William & Mary’s Earl Gregg Swem Library. While some may view university records—at any school—as boring, our university archivist thinks they’re pretty “sexy.”

Library archivists carry a passion for university records that rivals that of Earl Gregg Swem himself. But what exactly are these secret gems, you ask? Here are a few of our favorites:

Lord Bot

You may recognize our first gem from his presence on Facebook and Twitter, or maybe you’ve seen him standing tall and proud in the middle of the Wren Yard. Originally placed on the piazza of the capitol in 1773, the Lord Botetourt statue was mutilated some time after the Revolution, and was later purchased by the university’s president and professors and placed where it stands today. That very statue kept watch over the Wren Yard for 157 years, but to protect it from vandalism and weathering it found its permanent home on display in Swem’s Botetourt Gallery. The statue that stands on the Wren Yard today—cast in bronze and commissioned as part of the university’s tercentenary celebration—is a replica of the one in Swem.

Frenchman’s Map

Dubbed the “Bible of the Restoration of Williamsburg,” Swem is home to the Frenchman’s Map, a map of Williamsburg dated May 11, 1782. Given to the university in 1909, the map was found by a man that did underground excavation in New York City. While trying to decide where and where not to dig to build railroad tracks under Manhattan, the man found the map tucked into the bound volume of a group of maps of NYC.

Bryan Costumes

Former W&M president and chancellor John Stewart Bryan had a deep love for pageantry. In addition to creating the Yule Log and Charter Day traditions on campus, Bryan held a series of elaborate Christmas parties in Phi Beta Kappa Hall. Bryan and his fellow faculty members would come to these parties adorned in Colonial garb, and several pieces of Bryan’s costumes can be found in Swem.

Warren Burger’s Office

While not an exact replica of former chief justice Warren Burger’s office at the Supreme Court, you can find the next best thing in Swem. The exhibit features several original artifacts from his office including the actual U.S. flag he had on display, a replica of his desk and a red appointment book with the following entry for Saturday, Feb 5, 1994: Charter Day [College of William & Mary] 10 a.m.; Robing 9 a.m.”

The Book of Mormon

Also a Swem gem is a first edition of The Book of Mormon, a volume of Holy Scripture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. When the book was donated to the university in 1937, it was already 107 years old.

Books of Dogs

Lastly, who doesn’t love a good book about dogs? Swem is home to more than 10,000 items in the Chapin-Horowitz Collection of Cynogetica—the second largest collection of books about dogs in the United States—which contains scholarly works in several languages dating back to 1537.