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Hidden Spaces: Unlocking the Archives

Faith Chapman
Student Writer

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Archives Room

There’s a hidden gem located in Murray Library that is often unknown to students. The Archives of Messiah College is located on the lower level of the Library, where it houses shelves of photographs in addition to decades of records including genealogies, periodicals, minutes, and more—not to mention a museum.

Archives Director, Glen Pierce, knows the details of many of the artifacts, noting that “each one of them tells a story.” The Archives record the history of the Brethren in Christ (BIC) Church as well as Messiah’s history. For example, BIC missionaries have donated unique artifacts to the Archives (such as an elephant’s foot) and pastors have submitted congregation records.IMG_20160209_130442981_HDR

According to Pierce, the Archives are older than the library itself. Clara and Mary Hoffman started collecting for the museum in 1942, and Murray Library was built in 1958. “Students are free to come in and see what we’ve got,” Pierce says.

Junior Libby Erisman hadn’t been inside the Archives until she applied for a work study position. “I never realized how much was in here,” Erisman remarks.

As part of her job, Erisman organizes congregation papers, digitizes cassette tapes, and scans pages of the newspaper version of The Swinging Bridge to preserve it online. She is fascinated by the changes Messiah has experienced over the years, such as the old visitation policy.

“Every other week you could go to a different dorm,” Erisman says. “What we have now you might think is a little strict, but it used to be way worse.”

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1536 German Bibles

Erisman’s favorite artifacts are two large Bibles from 1536 written in old German—the oldest artifacts in the Archives. She encourages students to drop by, noting that many students glance through the window, but never enter the room.

“At least once while you’re at Messiah you should check it out and see what came before us,” Erisman says. “20 years down the road there will be stuff from when we were here.”

Many of the books in the Archives are part of the Murray system, although students may not take them out of the room. The Archives are generally open between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Monday through Thursday. Pierce and any of his work studies will gladly conduct a tour for anyone interested in learning more about the Archives.

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