April 24, 2014

EZRA’S ORACLE: April 25, 2014

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Ezra’s Oracle welcomes inquiries from members of the Cornell community about anything and everything related to the University. We seek out answers to campus mysteries, research rumors, and investigate issues of relevance to Cornellians. Questions can be submitted via email to [email protected].

Q: I recently read about the Cornell University Library having Shakespeare’s first folio. What other cool stuff do they have hidden in the archives?

— Inquiring Archivist ’14

A: The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections in Kroch Library (in the back of Olin Library and down two floors) is home to the University’s most priceless treasures and artifacts. From the Gettysburg Address in Lincoln’s own handwriting to ancient cuneiform clay tablets, the Kroch Library “vault” has 14,000 square feet of climate-controlled storage deep underground. Other items include Nobel Prizes, a Palm Beach County, Florida voting machine from the 2000 presidential election (with hanging chads!) and a page of a Gutenberg Bible. Cornell holds some of the best and most comprehensive collections of materials on subjects like hip hop, human sexuality, Icelandic history and culture, witchcraft, viticulture, the French Revolution and much more. A great time to visit the RMC is during Commencement or Reunion weekends, when the division usually hosts an open house with some of their most unique and interesting items on display.

Q: I keep hearing about Cornell’s Sesquicentennial next year. Are there going to be some big events?

— Party Animal ’16

A: You’re in luck, because Cornell is throwing parties around the world to celebrate its 150th birthday. The big Ithaca celebration is one year away, the weekend of April 25, 2015, celebrating Charter Day, the anniversary of the signing of Cornell’s charter. But leading up to that date will be sesquicentennial events for alumni around the world, beginning in New York City in September, followed by Washington, D.C., Hong Kong, Boston, Florida, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London and elsewhere. There will also be opportunities to get involved remotely through contests, social media, videos and more. Cornellians never miss a chance to throw a good party.

Q: What’s the history of TCAT?

— Free Bus Pass User ’17

A: TCAT (or Tompkins Consolidated Area Transit) was created by the merger of three separate local transit systems. The city started Ithaca Transit in 1962, Cornell started C.U. Transit in 1966 and the country started TOMTRAN in 1981. The three began sharing a facility in 1992, and the TCAT name was adopted in 1996 as efforts towards consolidation moved forward. A unified route system and fare structure began in 1999, and TCAT was officially incorporated as a non-profit corporation in 2005. Fun fact: TCAT claims to be the first New York transit system to install bike racks on its bus fleet (in 1996). You’ve probably noticed TCAT’s “trolley” bus, which honors Ithaca’s proud history of public transportation. Ithaca was the third city in New York State to use trolleys, following Brooklyn and Binghamton. The trolleys operated in Ithaca from 1887 to 1935, helping Cornell students make the steep trek from downtown to campus and back.

Q: I’m a senior, and Commencement is exactly one month from today. What should I do before I graduate?!

— Not Ready to Leave ’14

A: You should probably pass the swim test first. But once that’s out of the way, now’s your chance to do everything you’ve been putting off. Stargaze at Fuertes Observatory. Explore Ithaca. Eat a Pinesburger. Hike through Robert H. Treman Park. Visit Taughannock Falls. Say thank you to the people who helped you get here; a short note to faculty and staff can have an incredible impact. Go get brunch at Robert Purcell Community Center with your freshmen year friends. Visit the Lab of Ornithology or the Cornell Plantations. Tell your underclassmen friends not to make the same mistakes you did. Binge on Cornell Dairy ice cream to make up for the three years the facility was closed. Reflect on how far you’ve come since you first arrived here. Meet some new friends outside of your comfort zone. Climb the 161 steps to the top of the clocktower. Skim through the list of “161 Things to Do,” and pick out some of the more interesting ones. Come back two weeks after graduation for Reunion Zero, and do it all over again. And don’t forget to mark your calendar for Homecoming on October 18.

Curious about Cornelliana? Looking for Cornell lore behind a legend? Submit your questions to [email protected]. Ezra’s Oracle appears alternate Fridays this semester.