About The Mason Experience: Past and Present
George Mason University is Virginia’s largest state university with an enrollment of nearly 40,000 on four campuses. Mason began as a branch college of the University of Virginia in 1957, in a former elementary school in Bailey’s Crossroads with 17 students.
The university's history has been marked by rapid growth in terms of enrollment, programs, and providing accessible higher education opportunities to citizens of the commonwealth and beyond. Since its inception, Mason's development, particularly in the early years, has been marked by a knack for making do with available resources, yet growing and thriving, nonetheless. It occupied buildings after their original owners abandoned them. Modular classrooms and offices were a significant part of the campus landscape for decades. Mason athletic teams competed in the gyms and on the fields of local high schools for years before attaining the proper facilities. George Mason University has become what it is because students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and benefactors believed in its unique mission to be an inclusive and innovative academic community.
We hope that you will take the time to explore George Mason people, events, groups, movements, and traditions through the lens of its physical landscape, beginning with the year 1957.
Images, Documents, and Media in This Site
The Mason Experience: Past and Present uses archival materials found primarily in SCRC's holdings to illustrate the stories found in the project. Most of the items in the site come from the following collections found within University Archives:
- Broadside and Gunston Ledger collection, #R0128
- Broadside photograph collection, #R0135
- George Mason University Yearbooks, #R0132
- George Mason University photograph collection, #R0120
- George Mason University Library records, #R0095
- George Mason University Facilities records, #R0017
- George Mason University Science and Technology Campus records, #R0126
- Office of the President records, #R0019
- Doug Nelms photographs, #R0152
Other SCRC collections used include: The Richard M. Sparks photograph collection; The Charles Baptie photograph collection, #C0032; and the Oliver F. Atkins photograph collection, #C0036.
Materials which document more recent buildings, programs, or events were drawn from George Mason University Creative Services and other other university sources. Still other photographs were captured by SCRC staff.
The Places Described in This Site
The Mason Experience: Past and Present details the history of buildings, places, and landmarks that are or have been part of the university over the course of its history, beginning in 1957. The spaces are significant not only because of how they serve the university, but also for events that occurred at them and the individuals associated with those events. While the university currently maintains over 150 buildings on four campuses, it would be difficult to include all of them in this project. Rather, we chose to detail places that:
- are widely-recognized and revered spaces
- have been involved in events shaping the history of the campus on which they reside
- had available documentation in our holdings.
Some of the spaces in this site were built twenty, thirty, sixty or more years ago and are still standing. Some no longer exist. Others have been renovated and renamed. Still others have been built a relatively short time ago, but are already contributing to Mason's unique history and culture.
The Past and Present Team
Charlotte Corneliusen, Graduate Research Assistant, is earning her MA in Art History at George Mason University. She previously earned a BA in Art with a concentration in Art History from Arizona State University. Before attending graduate school, she spent 12 years working as a nonprofit administrator at the Center for American Progress and U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. She volunteers at museums, archives, art galleries, and community theatres in her spare time.
Robert Vay holds a BA in American Studies and an MA in American History from George Mason University. He is the University Archivist in George Mason University Libraries and has been employed by the university since 1993. He previously was employed by the National Archives and Records Administration in the Presidential Libraries Division. In his current position, he collects, preserves, and maintains the permanent historical records of George Mason University.