Ursinus Magazine

Carolyn Weigel

Caretaker of the college archives—aka the Ursinusiana (pronounced er-SIGH-nus-ee-anna) Collection—for nearly 20 years, Weigel welcomes serious researchers and casual history buffs alike to her second-floor time capsule of sorts. Just please be sure to sign the guest book as you enter.  Get to know Carolyn.

As the archives and special collections librarian, Carolyn Weigel is the go-to resource for questions regarding the college’s storied 153-year history.

After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Southern Illinois University, she taught first grade and adult education classes before a series of moves led her to Pennsylvania.

It took us 16 years of my husband’s job changes to get us to Pennsylvania by way of Texas and the Florida Space Coast. For three years, he worked at Bell Labs in Allentown before we moved from Macungie to Collegeville, where I looked for a career at a college to fit my love of education.

Her favorite part of working with the archives is when she gets to share them with others.

I feel most energized when classes and researchers come into the archives or when a research question needs to be answered. I learn something new about Ursinus with each visit and each question I receive. I also love when someone discovers the answer to a question from our collection and then, as frequently happens, excitedly reads the answer to me. Often one finds the thrill of a new discovery while searching for an entirely different topic. What is most often found is a new appreciation for the history of Ursinus. Students are surprised by the amount of history that the room holds, and some say they see the campus differently after visiting the Ursinusiana room.

“Bears Make History,” a class co-taught by English and history faculty, is largely dependent on the archives—and her assistance.

I display items from the collection when the “Bears Make History” class arrives, and I explain that the Ursinusiana collection contains Ursinus memorabilia. The tables are covered with examples of Ursinus history for the students to not only see, but also to touch—yearbooks, catalogues, campus newspapers, the Lantern, photographs, football programs, letter sweaters, dinks, scrapbooks, and more. Usually there are a few “oohs” and “ahs” when the students first see the items. Earlier this year I placed an open 1921-22 RUBY on the table. I pointed out that it was over 100 years old and indicated that we have other yearbooks and newspapers that are even older. The students were delighted that they could touch these vintage items. Typically, as they explore the room, questions are asked as new discoveries are made. Their professors ask them to think about topics from the collection for projects to research. When they return in small groups, I work with them to find more in-depth information about their chosen topics.

Her work with students, faculty, and staff spans multiple departments.

I have supported Patricia Lott’s “Race and the University “class; Deborah Barkun and Meghan Tierney’s “Museum Studies” classes; Kara McShane’s “What Is a Book?” class; and, more recently, students working with the Elder John Thomas papers as part of the Welcome Home Project, which is a collaboration with the Delaware Tribe of Indians and the Perkiomen Valley School District to honor the history, culture, and legacy of the Lenape people.

Lesson learned: Don’t ask an archivist to limit her favorite Ursinus facts to only two or three. Here are some of Carolyn’s favorite bits of trivia.

  • Professor Samuel Vernon Ruby passed away from a heart attack in Bomberger Chapel in 1896. A year later, the junior class created the college’s first annual yearbook and named it the RUBY in his honor.
  • There has never been a bell in Bomberger’s tower (due to a shortfall of funds during the building’s construction).
  • There was a “book walk” in 1970 to move 85,000 books from the Alumni Memorial Library to Myrin Library. They were carried by students, faculty, staff, and the college president.
  • The clock above the Berman Museum is a reproduction of an iconic gravity encasement clock located at the Palace of Westminster in London. It was donated by the Class of 1921 and constructed by D. Brooke Johnson, who attended Ursinus in the 1880s.
  • In 1832, a one-room school named after Andrew Todd, owner of the land, stood in front of where the Berman Museum now stands. His great, great, grand niece was First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln.

She wants you to stop by.

The Ursinusiana room is open to everyone—and it really is a welcoming place. I like to have guests sign in because it makes their visit a special experience. In a way, they become part of the history of the college. My earliest guest book entry is from January 21, 1997. An appointment is appreciated, but not always necessary. Anyone can come in for a visit when I’m in the room. Plan on spending time in the room. There never seems to be enough time to see everything that you might want to see. New discoveries are to be found all around.

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