10/29/2013 Peter Durantine

Hackman Scholars Help Bring Historic Records to Public

In August 2012, when the Junior League of Lancaster approached Franklin & Marshall College about relocating and digitizing the league's historic records, it could only hope the project would be completed in time for the league's 90th anniversary this November.

F&M came through with alacrity. The project was completed within a year of the league's request. Two student scholars digitized a portion of the records to highlight the league's history for viewing on its website.

"We feel extremely privileged to be in a partnership with Franklin & Marshall College," said Noelle Fassnacht, the league president. "[It] guarantees that our past and future will be available to the Lancaster County Community for many years." 

  • Franklin & Marshall students Krissy Montville and Rick Thoben spent the summer digitizing 90 years of the Junior League of Lancaster's records, and then storing the old records permanently in the F&M archives. Here, Thoben displays a letter from Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Junior League. (Photo by Melissa Hess)

The Junior League is an international nonprofit women's charitable organization, founded in 1901 in New York City. Members at the league's 293 chapters perform volunteer service for their communities, organize civic projects, and build their leadership skills through training. The Lancaster chapter started on Nov. 13, 1923.

It was Professor of History and American Studies Louise Stevenson, former chair of the Women's Studies program, who acted on the league's request. Recognizing the records' potential benefit to the College curriculum, she applied for and received an F&M Hackman grant, which supports students in working with faculty for summer research-related projects. 

"I thought it would have a broad spectrum of interest over the curriculum," said Stevenson, who anticipates the records will be used in history, American studies, government and other academic courses. "The Junior League was involved in preservation projects around Lancaster."

Stevenson selected as student researchers Krissy Montville, a senior, and Rick Thoben, a junior, who over the summer completed the project with the assistance of Christopher Raab, Shadek-Fackenthal Library's archivist and special collections librarian.

They explored the Junior League's preservation work at such historic sites as Wheatland, former U.S. President James Buchanan's ancestral home, and Rock Ford Plantation, the 18th-century home of Revolutionary War Gen. Edward Hand.

Thoben, a history major, described the work as arduous, yet rewarding. Among the league's records are a 1945 newspaper story about President Franklin D. Roosevelt's death and a letter from FDR to the Junior League's Lancaster chapter.

"His wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, was very involved in the Junior League at the time, and that may reflect the reason for keeping that article," Thoben said.

Pam Lazos, grant committee chair for the more than 300-member league chapter, called the students' work "awesome." She said the league had kept its records stuffed on shelves in its offices behind Buchanan's home. "They were just sitting there, deteriorating."

The Hackman scholars carefully processed 17 cartons of materials that included documents, newspaper clippings and photographs of projects league volunteers organized between 1923 and 2004.

"I loved the 1920s photos of the women in their gowns," said Montville, an English major and history minor. "They also had really wonderful programs from events in the 1920s, '30s and '40s."

After digitizing and processing, the students stored the records on about 12 linear feet of shelving in F&M's climate-controlled archive, Raab said.

This summer, 75 Hackman scholars worked on research-related projects with 43 F&M professors under the program funded by a 1984 endowment from the late William M. and Lucille M. Hackman. Montville and Thoben are writing a paper on their project.

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