Project catalogs Cornhusker Marching Band history

· 3 min read

Project catalogs Cornhusker Marching Band history

The Cornhusker Marching Band performs at the Nebraska-Notre Dame football game on Nov. 15, 1924.
University Archives
The Cornhusker Marching Band performs at the Nebraska-Notre Dame football game on Nov. 15, 1924.

The Cornhusker Marching Band and the Archives and Special Collections of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Libraries celebrated 140 years of tradition with the unveiling of a new website that highlights the evolution of the band program.

The website was revealed during an Aug. 30 open house. The site is organized into three sections, featuring the sights and sounds of the band, with images, documents, video and audio; the timeline, which outlines the band’s chronological history and noteworthy events; and in-depth interviews and articles in the stories section. The digitization of close to 60 videos hosted on the website was made possible by band alumnus Gary Steffens, the Band Alumni Association and University Libraries.

The project is a collaboration between the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, Glenn Korff School of Music, and University Archives and Special Collections in University Libraries.

A studio portrait of the ROTC Cadet Band, taken from the 1895 Sombrero student annual.

Jessica Dussault, band alumna and programmer in the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, developed the website. The project began in 2009, when Dussault was a Husker student in a digital history class. She was required to build a digital project based on an aspect of the university’s history. As a recent member of the marching band, she chose to explore its history and found considerable resources in the University Archives. Her focus then was the early history, when the band was part of the military department.

Years later, Dussault found herself working for the University Libraries, which brought her into contact with the University Archives on a daily basis. A chat with a colleague inspired them to explore boxes of band materials in the archives. Curious about the reels of footage that could not be watched due to their poor condition, Dussault and her colleague tackled the project of digitizing them before they were lost. Through the generosity of the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities and fellow band history enthusiast Steffens, Dussault and her colleague were able to watch the reels about a year after they started the project.

Drum majors, with band directors Jack Snider and Don Lentz, stand in front of the large drum “Big Bertha” near the Sheldon Art Museum on Sept. 16, 1966.

Encouraged by colleagues and Cornhusker Marching Band Director Tony Falcone, Dussault started to construct the band history website where the digital videos of the reel footage would be hosted. The content and scope of the website grew quickly.

“The University Archives has so many great resources on the band's history, spread across many collections — the ROTC records, collections of past band directors, University Communication — that it seemed important for the website to try to pull documents and images from them together in one place,” Dussault said.

The website includes more than 200 images, audio from a concert and an early album (both provided by the band program), transcriptions of an interview with a former band director and video of an interview with a current band staff member.

Falcone said people in the band program are excited about the website unveiling and eager for the public’s response.

“Our faculty, staff, students and alumni care a great deal about the long and interesting history of our organization and take great pride in our tradition,” he said.

The plan is to continue to add content over time. The materials to be added next include correspondence and drill charts.