“One of the urgent needs of our course is instruction, to some extent at least, in the masterpieces of painting and sculpture.”

So read the editorial in the November 29, 1882 edition of the Orient, and so begins “Sight and Sound: Launching the Next Century of Fine Arts at Bowdoin.” The exhibit is on display for the fall semester in the second floor gallery of the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library.

In the exhibit, visitors can find vintage promotional pamphlets, photographs of some of the first arts professors at the College during classroom instruction, typewritten transcripts of their lectures, and old course catalogues.

Curated by Archivist Caroline Moseley of the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives, the exhibit examines the history of the fine arts community at the College. Courses in the visual arts and music were first added to the curriculum in 1912 and 1913. Moseley created the exhibit to mark the centennial anniversary of this landmark in the arts at Bowdoin.

The exhibit aims to show how artistic interests at the College have transitioned from casual, hobby-based activities to the more serious academic pursuits today.

In 1813, James Bowdoin III bequeathed his collection of paintings and drawings to the College. These works were scattered and displayed throughout campus until 1894, when the Walker Art Building, which now houses the art museum, was donated.

“The students were aware of the pieces the College had,” said Moseley, “so occasionally there would be this cry for ‘why aren’t we doing more with this?’”

When more formal course offerings in the arts were introduced to the College’s catalogue in 1912, they were still considered by many to be purely for “the enjoyment of leisure.”

As the school began to take arts more seriously, the administration put another burst of energy into developing programs.

“All of this really reflects what was going on nationwide in terms of scholarly endeavors and instruction,” said Moseley. “But it also reflects the energy and professionalism of the people the College brings in.”

Expansion continued in the 1950s, creating much of the music, theater and visual arts community of today. 

Before the 20th century, “there were a lot of student groups. Glee Club, banjo and guitar clubs,” says Moseley. “Really it was mostly student run and oriented.”

The 20th century saw the creation of some of the College’s early a cappella groups, such as the Meddiebempsters, the hiring of Professor of Music Fred E. T. Tillotson, and the construction of Gibson Hall of Music in 1952.

These developments contributed to the College’s reputation, evidenced by the slogan on a pamphlet from the ’60s: “Bowdoin is a singing school!”

One article of particular interest is a copy of the Orient from May 4, 1927. The issue’s layout is quite different from what one can find on the front of the Orient today, with long columns of text running the full length of the paper and very few pictures.

The front of the 1927 Orient also boasts the headline “Final Plans for Ivy Day Announced by the Committee.” Students at the College 86 years ago would be listening to Perley Breed, who was “recognized as leading one of the premier orchestras of Boston."

In the coming month, Moseley hopes to integrate iPads with interactive music and photo samples into the exhibit.