“The Great Ivy League Nude Posture Photo Scandal,” an article by Ron Rosenbaum in The New York Times Magazine reviewed the practice at several men’s and women’s colleges in the 1940s and 50s and into the 60s of “posture pictures,” the taking of nude photographs of entering students in order that weaknesses of physique could be discovered, analyzed and addressed by prescribed physical exercises.  The photography program was in many cases—certainly at Vassar—associated with the later discredited work of Columbia University anthropologist William H. Sheldon in somatotypology, the study of body typology as it was associated with temperament and intellectual development.  Rosenbaum further disclosed that Sheldon’s copies of thousands of the photographs were in the archives of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, part of the Smithsonian Institution, and that pictures and negatives from the Vassar Classes of ’42 and ’52 were among them.

As the materials were being deaccessioned, they reverted to the individual colleges, and shortly after Rosenbaum brought their existence to light Elizabeth Daniels ’41 and Nancy MacKechnie, Vassar’s curator of rare books and manuscripts, traveled to the Smithsonian and put the Vassar materials through a macerator, collected the shredded material in clear plastic bags and on their return to campus presented the bags to President Fergusson.