Over the years we have received many wonderful gifts from individuals. Generally these have been correspondence, papers, mementos — cherished Moravian heirlooms that families wish to have a permanent home.
The correspondence and private diaries of R.P. Leinbach, a Moravian minister in the second half of the 19th century, came to the Archives through private donation. So did the personal diary that George Frederic Bahnson kept when he was minister at Bethania, 1834-38, as well as a handsome formal portrait of Br. Bahnson.
We are grateful too for the opportunity to photocopy typescripts of the correspondence of Nathaniel Shober Siewers, which includes his Civil War service and his years in medical school in Philadelphia and Europe. We only wish that the original letters would someday surface.
But what if the family items you want to give aren’t paper but are objects, “ephemera,” as we call them. Here we must be mindful that we are an archives, a repository of paper records, and do not have the display or storage capability of a museum. We do, though, occasionally accept items that have special importance or significance to our Moravian heritage.
Prominently displayed in our main floor gallery is a silver bowl, donated last year by Anna Snyder, who with her late husband had done volunteer work at the Archives. Inscribed on a plaque beneath the bowl is: “J. Burton Snyder, Jr., Band Director, Fairview Moravian Church, 50 years continuous service, 1995.”
We like showing off a desk. Not just any old desk, this one is a “lap-desk” for balancing on the lap to write letters. The felt surfaced, oak cased desk was made by one of the Crist family of Salem for his wife. In the pen compartment is the burned-down stub of a Christmas candle.
Our most recent “ephemera” gift was from Mary Louise Davis and her daughter Bonnie Bennett. Along with publications, correspondence (some of it Civil War), and such, were two dresses. Both were worn by Mary Louise Davis’s mother, Mary Louise Bahnson Haywood, granddaughter of Bishop George Frederic Bahnson. One was her christening dress, for her baptism on February 10, 1889, “before the morning sermon by Edward Rondthaler, pastor,” as Br. Rondthaler recorded in the Salem Register. The second dress — just as flowing and lacy as the first — Mary Louise Bahnson wore as a teenager or young lady. Aside from showing the fashion style among Salem’s elite around the turn of the 20th century, both dresses are accompanied by a photograph of Mary Louise Bahnson wearing them.
So primarily we are indeed an archives, dealing in and receiving paper materials and photographs. But we do have and have gratefully welcomed items of Moravian interest into our collections.