The Westminster College Artifact Collection and Exhibits
Humans have a penchant to fixate on the past. They spend many hours investigating their family tree and visiting museums. The former reveals who they are and where they came from. Artifacts housed in the latter reveal how they traveled down history's timeline to the present. Artifacts constitute mankind's unwritten cultural history and as such are the legacy of the past.
A museum is more than a repository of artifacts. Its purpose is to foster learning, arouse curiosity, stimulate intellectual activity and provide opportunities for research. Westminster College's Committee on Cultural Artifacts pursues this mission in several fashions. The curator prepares exhibits, which are free and accessible to the College and larger community. It provides opportunities to schedule guided tours of the exhibit areas. Information about the institution's human mummy and its CT scans is posted on the home page for educational purposes. Items from the collection have been loaned for exhibit and research purposes to organizations like the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts (Harrisburg), the College of Wooster, the Lawrence County Historical Society, the Berkshire Museum (Pittsfield, MA) and the Washington State Museum (Tacoma). About 150 museum grade ancient Egyptian artifacts are currently on loan to the last of these institutions. The College also facilitates research through its charter membership in the Akhmim Mummy Studies Consortium (AMSC). AMSC is an organization that seeks to foster cooperation between museums and scholars in the study of mummies and other artifacts to learn more about the culture of ancient Akhmim and other areas of Egypt.
Origin, Development and Stewardship of the Collection
Shortly after the founding of the College in 1852, friends and alumni of the College, especially missionaries, began donating artifacts of cultural and educational significance. Some of the earliest were Roman coins and Egyptian antiquities. During the 1860s these items were housed in a newly created "Lyceum" along with a shell collection from the Smithsonian.
The fire of 1927 and many years of neglect eventually resulted in the abandoning of the modern museum in the 1960s. The collection might have been forgotten for many more years if not for the energy of a student, Susan Grandy Graff '85. Grandy discovered the existence of the collection and sought the support of President Allen Splete in taking restoration measures. With his encouragement she spearheaded an effort to identify and catalog the pieces and obtained professional help in their conservation. Her special achievement was the securing of a matching grant from the Hunt Foundation for the restoration of the Egyptian mummy and the purchase of its handsome display case which is housed in the Hoyt Science Resources Center.
In 1991 President Oscar Remick appointed a curator of cultural artifacts with an advisory committee of retired scholars, and assigned them the task of updating the artifacts catalog and managing the collection. The curator was commissioned to arrange for major segments of the collection to be on display across the campus.
From these modest beginnings the collection has dynamically expanded, both in terms of sheer numbers and in the significance of the artifacts. The collection includes some 1,000 coins and currency and approximately 1,800 other artifacts from around the world. They range from stone tools (6000 B.C.) through cuneiform tablets (2000 B.C.), an Egyptian human mummy (300 B.C.), Coptic items (5th century A.D.), Japanese samurai armor (18th century A.D.) to currency bearing the portrait of Saddam Hussein (2003 A.D.).
Guide to Exhibits
The traditional pattern of exhibit design has focused on artifacts of historical significance with only a modicum of ethnographic or contemporary items. The current array of exhibits totally reverses the pattern. Most of the ethnographic items now on exhibit are donations from former missionaries Willis McGill, Ted Pollock and Mary Anna Bode. While many of the items were crafted for the tourist trade they are still indicative of the skills of indigenous artisans and the raw materials available to the culture.
The displays in the Old Main Tower Room, McGill Library stairwell, the samurai and the mummy related exhibits in the Hoyt Science Resources Center should be considered permanent. Other exhibits are changed on a periodic basis.
Old Main Memorial
Exhibit 1 - Old Main Chimes Timing Mechanism
The Seth Thomas carillon clock that was the controlling mechanism for the Old Main chimes is featured at this venue. It functioned from 1935 until replaced by electronic controls in 1978. Also, the silver plated trowel from Old Main cornerstone laying and various plaques are on exhibit.
First Floor Lobby
Straight ahead from entrance:
Exhibit 2 - Bronze Sculpture
Horse and rider sculpted by Evgeniey Aleksandrovich Lansere (1848-1886). Cast by N. Shtange.
North Stairwell, Second Floor, Hung High on the West Wall
Exhibit 3 - Sudanese Spears and Shields
Featured are two spears and two large tribal shields, one of hippopotamus hide, the other of rhinoceros hide.
Second Floor Lobby
Exhibit 4 - Another Gift of the Nile
On exhibit are figurines crafted from the Nile River mud that illustrate various aspects of life in 20th century Egypt.
Exhibit 5 - Matchlock Rifles
A pair of early Yemeni matchlock rifles are the focus of this display.
Exhibit 6 - Head Coverings
Cases 6 & 7:
Hats and other types of head coverings from Europe, Asia, Africa and North America are featured.
Exhibit 7 - Head Modification
A wig, hairdo and plates to distend the chin, lips and ears are the thrust of this exhibit.
Exhibit 8 - King "Tut"
Replicas of furniture found in King "Tut's" tomb are on display. Read the accompanying descriptor to learn of the Westminster connection to the opening of the tomb.
Exhibit 9 - Things Encountered by a Missionary
Cases 10 & 11:
These cases are instructive in terms of the items a missionary might have used or observed in late 20th century East Africa.
Go Through the Double Doors, Turn Right
Exhibit 10 - Samurai
The "knights" of feudal Japan were its samurai. This 18th century ceremonial suit of armor is much lighter then that worn by their European counterparts.
Exhibit 11 - Japanese Woodblock Printing
Cases 13 & 14:
Featured are two classical Japanese art forms, calligraphy and woodblock printing.
Be sure to note the Chinese calligraphy to the right of case 14.
McKelvey Campus Center
Enter via the doors facing the south, go up the stairs and take the hallway to the right. Exhibits are at the end of the hallway.
Exhibit 12 - Releasing the Image
Examples of ivory and African hardwood carving are emphasized.
Exhibit 13 - Islamic Artistry
The typical geometric and floral patterns of the Islamic world are illustrated on wood, metal, fabric and other surfaces.
Hoyt Science Resources Center
Enter through the main door, make an immediate left turn and follow the hallway.
Exhibit 14 - The Mummy and Mummy Forensics
Featured is a bust of the Mummy Pesed crafted from CT - scans by a forensic sculptor.
The piece de resistance of the collection is this Ptolemaic era human female mummy whose name is Pesed.
An opportunity to view the skeleton and infirmities of the mummy is provided by this display.
Wiley Alumni House
Exhibit 15 - Westminster College Artifacts
Cases 20 & 21:
Artifacts, documents and photographs illuminate various eras and facets of Westminster's history.
The College has been the recipient of gift artifacts from about 80 donors who are alumni and friends. The vast majority of the museum quality artifacts are from former missionaries. The College owes a debt of gratitude to these individuals and encourages others to emulate them. Parenthetically, it should be noted that the value of a donated item is tax deductible.
Committee on Cultural Artifacts
Dr. H. Dewey DeWitt, Professor of Chemistry Emeritus
Mrs. Jill O. Haines, Executive Secretary
Dr. Delber L. McKee, Professor of History Emeritus
Dr. Samuel A. Farmerie, Professor of Education Emeritus