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University of Minnesota

Brickhouse redux

July 14, 2009

The Gopher football team hoists the Little Brown Jug.

The smiles, some toothy and some not as toothy, convey the story as Murray Warmath's Gopher football team hoists the Little Brown Jug after a victory over Michigan.

Photo: courtesy University Archives

New Web site offers multimedia retrospective of Memorial Stadium

By Rick Moore

Now that football is returning to campus at TCF Bank Stadium, it seems appropriate to reminisce about the new stadium's predecessor on campus, Memorial Stadium. The "Brickhouse," as fans affectionately called it, was built in 1924 and stood for nearly seven decades until its demolition in 1992.

As TCF Bank Stadium has taken shape over the past three years, the staff at University Libraries wondered how their archival resources and digital technology expertise could be used to capture and share the rich history of the Brickhouse.

They wrapped their resources into a new multimedia and interactive Web site that launched July 15, titled Memorial Stadium: 1924-1992. The site contains videos of games, as well as reproductions of photographs, programs, reports, correspondence, and blueprints scanned from the University Archives' collections. (See video below.)

At last count, there are almost 600 items in the site's database that were culled from the 18,000 cubic feet of material filed under a broad range of topics at University Archives. The Web site is about a year and a half in the making, says Beth Kaplan, head of University Archives.

"We're really excited about it," Kaplan says. "It's been a really fun project to work on, in large part because people have been so excited about it." The project has brought together a host of departments and people with a range of expertise, from digitization and Web experts to U Libraries staff and student interns.

Exhibit at Andersen

Selected materials from the new Memorial Stadium Web site will be installed in the Andersen Atrium Gallery (on the second and third floors of Elmer L. Andersen Library on the West Bank of the Twin Cities campus) from July 20 through September 26.

The material is organized into five main sections: The Brickhouse, The Gridiron, The Pageantry, The Life Inside, and Your Stories. "The Brickhouse" provides an overview of the stadium from its inspiration and construction to its waning days as a desolate landmark. "The Gridiron" focuses on the nine head coaches and hundreds of players that roamed the stadium's field, including legendary names such as Bronko Nagurski, Bruce Smith, Paul Giel, Bob McNamara, Bobby Bell, Sandy Stephens, Tony Dungy, Bernie Bierman, and Murray Warmath. "The Pageantry" section highlights Homecoming photos and programs, the University of Minnesota Marching Band, and cheerleading.

While Memorial Stadium was synonymous with Golden Gopher gridiron glory—especially the six national championships between 1934 and 1960—its history includes much more. Much like the new stadium will, Memorial Stadium served the marching band, cheerleaders, other students, faculty, and the greater community. Says the site:

Beyond the battles of game day, Memorial Stadium bustled with activity throughout the decades. Groundbreaking research was conducted by renowned faculty members Dr. Ancel Keys (in the Laboratory of Physiological Hygiene) and Dr. Jean Piccard (on stratospheric balloon flight). People from Minnesota and beyond filled the stands for signature events: new graduates donned their caps and gowns for commencement ceremonies, the state's 100th birthday was honored, elephants and singers transformed the field for a production of "Aida," and Shriners from far and wide came together for the 1934 Shrine Imperial Council Session, all within the Brickhouse's storied walls.

You can check out photos of Piccard's stratosphere balloon experiment in June of 1936, which occurred about five months prior to the Gophers claiming their unprecedented third straight national championship.

The videos are a treat, offering a look at decades-old game footage that has rarely been viewed. Kaplan says that U Archives has an amazing and extensive film collection, but it's mostly inaccessible because it's 16 mm., delicate, and often has not been labeled correctly. To be viewed it needs to be cleaned and reformatted at the same time. "This project was a way to kind of chip away at that a little bit," Kaplan says.

The site uses Omeka, a free, open-source and interactive web-based publishing platform that allows visitors to share their own recollections of Memorial Stadium, which are captured in the fifth section, "Your Stories." Here visitors are encouraged to add their voices, videos, and photographs to create a more dynamic online shrine to the Brickhouse.

One fan recalls how his dad introduced him to Gopher football as a child, taking him to a game each year near his birthday in September. And another fan remembers the first game he attended at Memorial Stadium—a contest against Southern Cal in late October of 1955 that was played in snow, sleet, and a 20-mph westerly wind. His most vivid memory is of Minnesota quarterback Don Swanson's 65-yard touchdown run, "pretty much obscured by the snowflakes by the time he reached the far end zone, well after dusk. For the USC defenders it must have been like one of those bad dreams where the faster you try to run, the slower you go."


Related link
Memorial Stadium Web site



Related Links

Visit the Memorial Stadium site