WWI Food Administration Exhibit Opens in Lamson

By Jessica Bowman On Wednesday, November 14, a new exhibit opened up by room 112

By Jessica Bowman

On Wednesday, November 14, a new exhibit opened up by room 112 in Lamson Library. This exhibit features a lot of donated information about the World War I Food Administration in New Hampshire. Kennedy Mathis is the student responsible for putting it all together. Mathis works in the archives for an unpaid internship that gives her college credits and lots of hands-on experience being a historian.

I sat down with Kennedy Mathis and Alice Staples to view the exhibit and talk about the history behind it. Originally, it was the Webster family that donated boxes upon boxes of documents, brochures, pamphlets, etc., spanning a time from 1899 to the 1940’s and 50’s. Mathis described it as “a lot of Christmas boxes to go through.”

This particular exhibit, however, is only a small portion of what the entire collection holds about WWI in New Hampshire. For this exhibit, Mathis focused on specifically, the WWI Food Administration in New Hampshire during 1917-1919.

According to Alice Staples, a librarian for the Spinelli Archives at Lamson, “We got the collection in 2011. So this is really seven years in the making…It’s nice seeing it finally completed.”

The exhibit features promotional posters about New Hampshire’s campaign for Food Administration. There is information on the 50-50% regulation which asked bakers and citizens to use substitutes for wheat, flour and cereal so the excess food can be sent over to Europe during a food crisis. There are plaques for The Public Safety Committee, one of the overseers of the various campaigns, and letters demonstrating the importance of conservation to make the campaign a success.

One of the local figures in the Holderness sector was Laurence J. Webster, of the Webster family, who donated the documents for the exhibit. Laurence was described as very dedicated, successful and organized. “A real type-A personality,” Mathis goes on. Laurence also donated money to campaigns all over about WWI and he was seen as a big advocate for the war effort.

As Alice Staples confirms, this collection was donated back in 2011; however, it was not put together in an exhibit until Kennedy Mathis came along. Mathis worked in the library archives over the summer and from April to September of this year she worked on just organizing all of the information in the collection.

Mathis commented on her process, she would separate by type: Red Cross, City Administration, and so on. Then, Mathis would have to separate by category: pamphlets, written letters, and so on. Knowing this, it becomes easy to see why it took so much work for Mathis to simply organize boxes upon boxes and envelopes upon envelopes of information spanning fifty-one years, most of which Mathis admitted, was not in chronological order.

The exhibit itself was displayed a few days before the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, which made it a fitting exhibit to put up. Mathis was also the first student to put together an exhibit under the supervision of the Libraries Archives. “I just got lucky,” Mathis says when asked about her achievement, “It’s less about the exhibit and more about organizing data and archiving…I like the archives. It feels really good to just organize stuff and make it accessible to everyone who’s interested.”

Of course, just because this exhibit is up and available to be viewed by anyone for years to come, does not mean the archiver’s job is over. In fact, Mathis is still typing information into a document to archive everything from The Public Safety Committee. Mathis also relayed just how much more information there is in the rest of the collection.

The Spinelli Archives now have information on the American Red Cross, United War Work Campaign, war saving stamps, Jewish Relief funds, YMCA, Boy Scouts, and more. The large amount of resources and knowledge that has now been put on display for anyone to see is impressive, to say the least. If you would like to view just a small portion of the Webster Family Collection, head over to Lamson Library’s main floor. In the back, you’ll find room 112 and the exhibit covering most of the wall beside it.