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Summer Edition
Volume 97, Number 1

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Clara Hoffman, Messiah's first librarian
Clara Hoffman, Messiah College's first librarian, established the College archives with a modest collection of artifacts.

A history preserved and made accessible

A medical bag from a missionary in Zambia. A wooden cradle. A black silk bonnet. These are just a few of the items that are part of a collection started in the early 1940s by Clara Hoffman, Messiah College's first librarian, for the purpose of preserving the rich history of Messiah's founders, members of the Brethren in Christ denomination.

Though the College is no longer governed by the church, the two institutions remain closely affiliated, and the small collection of artifacts that Hoffman started has since evolved into the Brethren in Christ Historical Library and Archives / Archives of Messiah College, now located in Murray Library. The archives contain hymnals, photographs, newsletters, and many more pieces of preserved history.

Hoffman is remembered for her determination and purposeful pursuit of excellence in her personal life and career. She and her sister Mary, the namesakes for Hoffman Hall, "seemed as much a part of the campus as the buildings and trees themselves," recalls historian E. Morris Sider in his book Messiah College: A History.

Thanks to her initiative and hard work, the groundwork was laid for others who would continue to develop and expand the archives, including Carlton O. Wittlinger, former professor and academic dean; E. Morris Sider, professor emeritus of history and English literature and historian; Dorcas I. Steckbeck '97; and Gloria J. Stonge, who is the current director of the archives. As the result of their dedication, we now have access to many books, notes, artifacts, and antiques that provide us with a glimpse into the past that shaped Messiah into what it is today.

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