The Secret Book
By: Amy Maistros
Laurel Massey holds her own submission to The Secret Book. Photo by Meredith McTigue.
Many seniors left their last semester of college in 2020 without the time-honored traditions that those before them hold dear. At Clemson, one of those time-honored traditions is The Secret Book, an unofficial time capsule. Traditionally, this book is in the library and seniors write personal messages, draw doodles or do whatever else they can think of in its pages. When campus closed, many seniors did not get the chance to leave their mark in The Secret Book. The Implementation of Public Art for the Clemson University Campus Creative Inquiry project, led by David Detrich, Denise Woodward-Detrich and Joey Manson from the Department of Art, has given that opportunity back to students by making The Secret Book digital.
This Creative Inquiry project, also known as Atelier InSite, is responsible for several art installations on campus. In 2014, they installed their first—The Clemson Genus Project. The Clemson Genus Project consists of 600 individual paintings, each embedded in petri dishes that line the walls of the Life Science Facility. They also installed works in Lee Hall III, outside CORE campus and outside the indoor football complex. In the fall of 2019, the team turned its attention to the artistic work within The Secret Book. Since students could not go into the library and contribute to The Secret Book, the Creative Inquiry created an easy way to access and add to a new, digital platform. To start, they setup an Instagram account and a Google Form link. Anyone can contribute something to the Pandemic Edition of The Secret Book.
With the mystery surrounding The Secret Book gone, since it is no longer a secret, students are discussing what defines the book. Ross Mackenzie, a senior architecture major, thinks that The Secret Book is much more than the sum of its parts. “It has something to say about the Clemson experience overall, it’s something unique to the University,” Mackenzie said. Many members of the team felt that secrecy was not the point of the book either, but rather an element that keeps the time capsule alluring to students over the years. “I think for me, regardless of whether or not the book is secret, the book is kind of meant to be seen,” Susan He, a junior architecture major, said.
The creativity of this Creative Inquiry team is a reminder that Clemson students can make something beautiful together, even when they are far apart. Thanks to their hard work, Clemson students can preserve and build upon their collective creativity and spirit regardless of time or place. All a student needs to do is discover Clemson’s open-source secret.
David Tillinghast’s original book with student signatures and mementos.
Barbara J. Speziale