On August 20, more than 100 people gathered at the Moravian Archives to celebrate completion of the first phase of renovations to the Archives building.
The Archives’ “Summer Soiree,” which brought together donors, volunteers and friends of the Archives, featured celebratory food and music, including a welcoming trombone choir and chamber trio. Among the attendees were US Congressman Charlie Dent and Bethlehem Mayor John B. Callahan, who each shared their thoughts on the value of the Moravian Archives and congratulating the Archives’ staff on completing this first phase of the project.
During the first half of 2013, new movable shelving was installed in the main vault of the Moravian Archives, doubling its storage capacity. The expansion, at current rates of utilization, allows for the care of records and valuable artifacts for the next 35 years, without the construction of external vault space.
In addition to the new shelving, the vault now has a wall rack system that will allow Archives staff to make even better use of the space. The new racks make it possible to mount and display more of the Archives’ flat art holdings, like maps, portraits, paintings and more—all in a secure, climate controlled vault.
This spring, all of the materials in the vault were removed and stored in the main reading room of the archives. Old shelving was removed (and repurposed by the shelving contractor), the floor was repainted, new shelving installed and material moved back in by early June. Volunteers, interns and archive staff worked together to move the materials to their new homes, allowing the reading room to reopen for researchers earlier this summer.
In addition to the renovation of the vault, a kitchen was installed at the Archives. With the increased use of the Archives over the past few years and with the many programs and classes, a functioning kitchen had become necessary. Previously, the only source of running water aside from the restrooms was the janitor’s closet.
Funding for this project came from a matching grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of a program called Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections. In a statement from NEH that was read at the event it said: “The experts who evaluated the application recognized the national and even international significance of the archives’ holdings. One reviewer was surprised by the richness and depth of the materials and by the Moravians’ attention to recording their activities. Evaluators characterized the Moravian Archives as a ‘very professionally run operation’ with a powerful commitment to research and publication. They agreed that the collection was endangered by inadequate storage space and that the proposed improvements would help ensure the preservation of these items for years to come.”
Thanks to the many donors to the “Moving History” campaign it was possible to raise sufficient matching funds for the project.
“More work needs to be done,” said Michael Long, president of the Board of Directors of the Archives. The reading room needs to be renovated in order to better accommodate visitors, researchers and school classes. “We also need to expand the offices, so that volunteers and staff have room to process collections without compromising the security of the invaluable material.” The goal is to continue with the second phase of renovations in 2014.
More information can be found at www.moravianchurcharchives.org
Paul Peucker is Archivist of the Moravian Church in America, Northern Province. Photos by Devon Mosher and Mike Riess.
From the October 2013 Moravian Magazine