by Wily Nichter, Staff Writer
Throughout this past year, Drew University has been celebrating its sesquicentennial anniversary, marking 150 years since its founding as a Methodist Seminary. The methods of celebration have been many and varied, but as we draw closer to the ending of the year, University Archivist Matthew Beland has taken it upon himself to mark the occasion with an eight-case exhibit documenting Drew’s storied history in all of its glory.
“It seemed appropriate given all the materials,” said Beland when asked about what inspired him to develop the exhibit. His goal was, as he puts it, “to show off some of [Drew’s] founding documents,” and the exhibit is testament to his thorough research.
Beland has been planning this exhibit for at least a year, and has spent the past few months actually gathering the documents. However, the overall process has been expedited by various other exhibits that Beland has done.“In 2013 and the following year,” he said, “I did an exhibit on the Acorn with our previous head of Special Collections, and we co-curated an exhibit on student life, so we tried to do things to help us prepare.”
The exhibit consists of eight cases, two located in the Main Library and six in the United Methodist Archives. Each case contains a bevy of unique and interesting historical documents.
The cases are separated by subject, and they run the gamut from documents centered on the three schools, namely the Seminary, the College of Liberal Arts and Brothers College, to sports, to various other student life activities.
They even feature two entire cases devoted to the Acorn, featuring historical photos, negative strips, and several vintage issues of the Acorn. These include issues centering on the world after World War II, 9/11, and even two April Fool’s Day issues, one historical and one current, giving a good picture of the Acorn’s accomplishments over the years.
However, one of the crowning jewels of the collection is the actual letter written by the Baldwin brothers regarding the founding of Drew University. “I said to myself ‘Ah, this is something we’re going to want to showcase for the sesquicentennial exhibit,’” said Beland of the letter, “because to my knowledge it’s never been showcased before.”
Another interesting artifact Beland discovered is a 1991 laptop, a sign of Drew’s growing usage and acceptance of technology on campus. “We were fortunate that it fits the case,” he said. “It’s neat to compare it to what we have today, and it relates to what Drew was known for.”
Apart from those, the exhibit also features magazines, including one celebrating Drew’s first Rhodes Scholar, pictures, pamphlets, newspaper articles, and various other works of paraphernalia. “How do you give a flavor of 150 years?” said Beland about his process in collecting the documents, hence why there are so many varied objects in the exhibit.
By showing founding documents, pictures of students from various times and places around the world and elements specific to the three schools, this exhibit shows a great deal of thought and effort put into representing the school’s history properly.
When asked about his goal, Beland said, “My goal is to showcase elements of the institutional history of this place.”
The exhibit is viewable in the Main Library and United Methodist Archives and will remain so for the immediate future. There is no charge for viewing.