Campus to the Corps

A collection of photos taken by George Pepperdine College alumnus Hanson A. Williams (’50) depicts life as a student and a soldier.

Hanson A. Williams, Jr., graduated from George Pepperdine College in 1950 and was immediately drafted into the Korean War. During his years at Pepperdine, from 1946 to 1950, Williams was a photography major who spent much of his time on campus chronicling student life, his work appearing regularly in yearbooks and other campus publications. Williams’ beautifully rendered vision of post-WWII college life in the United States, however, contrasted greatly with the images he witnessed during wartime on a distant shore.

In Korea, Williams’ talent got him assigned to the Signal Corps as a military photographer, enabling him to carry his camera with him everywhere. Six decades later, Williams’ widow, Talma Williams, donated thousands of prints and negatives from this period to the Special Collections and University Archives department of Pepperdine University Libraries. These images document Williams’ basic training in California, the cramped journey by ship to Japan and Korea, and the full spectrum of the soldier’s experience during the protracted stalemate of 1952. Williams also took his camera into the villages of South Korea, documenting Korean culture and the resilience of a people devastated by war.

Once these prints and negatives arrived at Pepperdine University Libraries, the collection required processing, organization, and rehousing, and many materials required specialized preservation treatment. The library staff, including Melissa Nykanen, head of special collections and University archives, and Kevin Miller, librarian for digital curation and publication, embarked on an ambitious digitization project with the goal of making the Hanson Williams Collection fully discoverable and accessible online. An exhibition held in Payson Library in the spring displayed the breadth and detail of Williams’ Korean War photography. The digital collection was published earlier this fall, a selection of which we have printed here.

 

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