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Gallery to exhibit archival materials from Moravian's storied 260-year history
America's sixth-oldest College opens its vaults of buried historical treasure
(Bethlehem, Pennsylvania)-Payne Gallery at Moravian College will exhibit "Buried Treasure: Discovering the Moravian College Archives," from October 23 through November 30. The exhibit comprises almost 90 objects, mostly documents, but also banners, posters, a painting, a photo album, and an ornate armchair. The archival exhibit of materials from the 260-year-old vaults of Moravian College is the first to be held in Payne Gallery.
The oldest piece in the exhibit is a letter from Count Zinzendorf written when he himself was a student, in 1716; the youngest, an aerial photograph of the College taken in 2002. The exhibit includes the earliest known Moravian Theological Seminary class schedule (1808) and the first faculty minutes book (1858). It showcases the photograph album of William Gerdsen '30, in which he captured campus life of his time, and a color film about the college, made in 1948. This has been transferred to videotape and will play in a continuous loop during exhibit hours.
John Weeren, Moravian's archivist, has assembled an impressive array of objects and artifacts that demonstrate Moravian's unique place in American history, some of which have been recently discovered. One such find included a collection of mid-19th-century instructional charts in the attic of the Brethren's House, two of which will be featured in the exhibit. Bound copies of the College’s student newspaper, The Comenian, dating back to 1891, and The Belfry (its counterpart at Moravian College for Women) were rescued from the open stacks at Reeves Library.
Though the archive offices at Moravian are two small rooms tucked into the basement of Reeves Library, next to the Groenfeldt Moravian Collection, they contain extensive holdings with great potential to contribute to the college and scholarly communities.
Some of the more unusual items in "Buried Treasure":
- A certificate of discharge from the Continental Army signed by George Washington. The discharged soldier was not an alumnus, but the letter itself comes from a collection of Presidential autographs donated by a Moravian layman, Gustav Kraemer. (My fault; John corrected his name, but I changed it only in the magazine article.)
- The armchair, with a 1924 photograph that shows it in place in Main Hall.
- The check issued to Alice Kent Stoddart in 1936 for the portrait of President Hamilton that now hangs in Comenius Hall.
- A blueprint for Harvey Memorial Library, which was added to Comenius Hall in 1907.
- A Spanish-American War broadside (1898) calling for a rally in support of the war.
The exhibit is divided into 12 sections spotlighting teaching, the campus, student life, administration, and athletics, among other areas. The spine of the exhibit is a Moravian College timeline illustrated with documents.
"It's exciting to delve into the past and create as complete a road map as we can of what has come before," Weeren says. "That's what I love about archives. They contain the raw material of history. They prepare the ground that allows historians and scholars to do their work in reconstructing a world that no longer exists, thereby helping us to understand our own."
Payne Gallery is part of Moravian College's Priscilla Payne Hurd Campus on Church Street in downtown Bethlehem. Hours are 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. It is closed Mondays, major holidays, and during the College's fall break (October 11-14). Information and directions: (610) 861-1680, weekend (610) 861-1667, or www.moravian.edu.