What Does a Cap and Gown Say About a Graduate?

Hi everyone,

Each month, the New York Heritage website features a specific collection from each of the seven currently contributing regions. For the month of May, we selected the Commencement Ceremony Programs Collection from the Henrietta Lewis Library at Niagara County Community College as the featured collection from the Western New York region.

May is generally college graduation month, so we thought this would be a fitting collection to highlight. For those of you who have a graduate in the family or are working at an institution where graduations will be taking place, we discovered some information in this collection that may be of interest: https://cdm16694.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16694coll90/id/10/rec/1

The very first commencement program (1965) in this collection has a short story (on the final page) about the origins of academic dress for commencement ceremonies, dating back to medieval England! The color and design of the three basic elements: cap, gown and hood, can reveal the institution a person graduated from, what field of study they were graduating in and what level of degree (bachelor, master, doctorate). For the genealogist, this can possibly mean additional clues about a family member, if an image of the graduate in dress exists, even if the image is black and white (the cut of the gown sleeves, for example, have meaning)!

So, happy graduation month everyone and thanks to NCCC for their great collection!!

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