Out of the Vault showcases that the Archives has more than just Bibles

Laura Archer, Staff Writer

The most recent Out of the Vault exhibit at the Methodist Archives showcased exactly what it promised: Oddities. The presentation given by the Department of Special Collections and University Archives of the Drew University Library discussed some of the most surprising and strange things that can be found inside the building.

Inspiration for this exhibit came from two of the staff, Matthew Beland, University Archivist and Acquisitions Assistant, and Brian Shetler, Head of Special Collections, University Archives, and Methodist Librarian, who wanted to show off all things odd that had not been put on display much prior to this event. The oddities ranged from old manuscripts, a Byron pornography film, comics on sexuality, a bible interpreted by Salvador Dali, locks of hair and mostly everything in between.

By far, the weirdest object on display was the thumb. It was said that it was most likely a piece from the palm of a hand. It was acquired by a staff member in the 1980s with no real explanation. It was from a man named George Whitefield, who died in 1770. Many people raided the tomb of Whitefield and kept literal pieces of him as good luck charms. The staff kept the thumb in his desk drawer, next to a candy dish. Brian humorously said that the container the thumb is now sitting in is an old candy dish.

Brian said his favorite item from the showcase was also the most valuable item on display. The Plantin Polyglot Bible is a multilingual bible printed by Christopher Plantin. “Its six volumes contain a total of nine languages: Hebrew, Samaritan, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Ethiopic, Syriac, Arabic, and Persian” (Britannica). Plantin originally printed around 1000 copies, most of which were destroyed in a shipwreck. The Archives holds an original copy of all eight volumes. Brian said he likes it because, “It’s really cool how much effort was put into printing these bibles. They were all done by a group of people that had to work together by hand to make it.”

Be sure to check out the Archive’s ongoing exhibit 150 Years in the Forest and look out in Drew Today for more upcoming exhibits!

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