Inside the Moravian Archives
Most students traverse across the street to Colonial Hall only if they need to visit Financial Aid, or Payroll, etc. However, what most don’t know is that just a few feet further directly across from the Seminary is another location that is equally as dedicated to Moravian history (if not more) as the college.
The Moravian Archives is located on the Moravian College campus, but is a separate entity from the college. The Bethlehem branch of the Moravian Archives is a close partner to the college and offers many students internships and shadowing opportunities for History majors or other students interested in studying the history of the Moravians.
Recently, thanks to the generous word from Moravian College history major and former suite mate Megan Deaven ‘19, I obtained a part-time job at the Archives after graduating. So far, my time here has been enlightening, fun, and each day presents something new to do!
But what, exactly is the Moravian Archives and what is its purpose? Let me take you on a brief introductory tour inside the Moravian Archives and perhaps you’ll just want to schedule a visit yourself!
“The Moravian Archives,” as it states on their website, “is the official repository for the records of the Moravian Church in America – Northern Province. The Northern Province covers the Moravian churches in the United States (except for North Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Virginia) and Canada.” The Moravian branch is affiliated with the Moravian Historical Society in Nazareth, Pa. Walk-in visitors are welcome, although a scheduled visit is recommended if you wish to conduct research at the Archives. There is no fee to use the reading room for research, however there are additional fees for other services such as translations, reproductions, etc.
Hours: Monday – Friday ∗ 8:00 am – 4:30 pm
Address: 41 West Locust Street, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 18018-2757
People to know:
- Paul M. Peucker- director and archivist
- Thomas J. McCullough- assistant archivist
- Kelly Givens- office manager
- Kaitlin Trainor- processing archivist
Upon entering the building, the gift shop and front office will be the first things you see. The Archives sells a multitude of Moravian merchandise, from historical books to wine glasses and kitchen towels. The most impressive items for sale, however, are arguably the paper or plastic Moravian stars that are handmade in Herrnhut, a town in Germany where the stars are imported. Herrnhut, what is now Saxony, Germany, was home to the first Moravian Church settlement and founded by Count Nicolas Ludwig von Zinzendorf.
The gallery space is through the door immediately to the right as you enter. The items on display change with each new exhibit. Currently, there is an exhibit about the music of the Moravians, "Sing, O Ye Heavens: Moravian Music & Instrument Making" which was arranged by Gwyn Michel, assistant director of the Moravian Music Foundation.
The next door that is directly in front of the entrance leads to the Reading Room, where researchers can study the documents and manuscripts the Archives houses. Food and drink is not permitted. It is courteous to the Archivists to schedule an appointment in advance to allow them to retrieve the requested documents from the vault so that the information is ready when the researcher arrives. As mentioned previously, fees apply for services other than conducting research (ie printing).
The Archives contains two vaults; the first is primarily used to house the documents and manuscripts. The second vault houses a special collections library of 20,000+ books, along with back-stock for the gift shop and other items for sale. The vault is temperature-monitored to preserve the condition of the items and is not open to visitors unless there are specific events where the Archivist gives vault tours.
So far, my job has consisted of assisting the Office Manager with organizational and processing tasks. However, I have already helped out with two events. Two organizations this month held conferences in Bethlehem and the Archives was a stop on their itineraries. For the first event, we served Moravian sugar cake and shared the history of the Lovefeast and the cake with the Early American Industries Association (EAIA), an organization that celebrates trades, crafts, and tools in American history and their impact on our lives. The second event was with the American Musical Instrument Society (AMIS) where they toured the Moravian Music exhibit in the Gallery. Fegley’s Brew Works sponsored the event and provided three different types of beer for a beer tasting. We provided other refreshments and offered vault tours as well.
Coming up next on the Archive’s agenda is their annual German Script Course which has been conducted for 48 years and is the longest-running course of its kind in the country. The course is a 2-week long seminar where participants will study and learn how to decipher German manuscripts dating from the 17th through early 20th centuries. The course is $785.00 and includes all color printouts of documents from the Archive’s collections, the textbook Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents, instructional material, quills, and refreshments during breaks. Housing is not included, however participants may register for Moravian College housing. Essentially, this course is kind of like a crash-course into German Script for those who are serious about studying this subject.
Although the course is not to teach the German language, it is recommended that participants have at last two years of college German or proficient reading ability of modern German. Conversational German ability is not required and prior knowledge of German script is not necessary. The course itself is conducted in English.
As we all know, Christmastime in Bethlehem is serious business. The Archives starts off the holiday season right with a German-English Advent Singstunde which is a traditional Moravian form of worship in which the congregation comes together to join in singing a series of hymns. The event takes place in the Old Chapel of Central Moravian Church in Downtown Bethlehem. The hymns are specifically chosen to reflect a typical devotional sermon, which is why it is often referred to as a “sermon in song.”
If the Archives sounds like a fun, exciting, and educational place to work, then give them a call or stop on by and inquire about volunteer work or internships! The entire staff is friendly, inviting, and welcoming. Working at the Archives has been so enjoyable so far, and I am looking forward to the other events to come!