History goes digital

Before there were Gilman Hall and the quads, the Homewood campus (though not yet called that) featured a lone greenhouse. The building and its accompanying botanical gardens were constructed in 1908 for Duncan Starr Johnson, a botanist who had earned his PhD at Johns Hopkins and then been lured back as part of an effort to expand instruction and research in zoology and botany.

Stuart "Bill" Leslie counts Johnson as one of his many new acquaintances, most of them long ago deceased. Since summer 2013, Leslie, a professor in the Krieger School's Department of History of Science and Technology, has been on sabbatical and on the hunt for personalities, stories, and all manner of minutiae from Johns Hopkins' past. Leslie says he's up to his eyeballs in JHU lore.

President Ronald J. Daniels tasked Leslie with writing a new history of the university. The work, projected for completion in 2018, will cover all divisions, exploring the connections between them and the powerful personalities that shaped them.

In 2013, the Office of the President also launched Hopkins Retrospective, a project, with Leslie's book as its centerpiece, designed to explore Johns Hopkins history and find new ways to share it with the university and Greater Baltimore community.

To manage the project, the university this past summer hired Jenny Kinniff, an archivist who helped launch the Hopkins Retrospective website to serve as the virtual home of the project and to allow visitors to learn more about Leslie's book and explore the history of the university in greater depth. The site, already populated with facts and rarely seen images, will become a repository for stories, pictures, and perspectives from throughout the university's nearly 140 years of existence, and it will highlight various Hopkins Retrospective initiatives.

Learn more at retrospective.jhu.edu.