An Intern’s Discovery- When A Bench is not Just an Ordinary Bench.

It tells a story.

There are some collection objects I find difficult to catalog. Simple objects, such as a simple wooden bench can be difficult to catalog. On the cataloging forms I complete to describe the object, I found myself with a lack of words to describe the bench. I got my paper, and tape measure ready. My description would have to be greater than simply “Wooden Bench”, as there are many benches in the collection. My job as a cataloger is to assess its condition. Describe its history. Are there unique marks or renderings that distinguish it from other benches in the collection?

Underside Bench

Here I turn the bench over to look at additional markings.

First, I assessed its condition. I looked at the top of the bench for stains, cracks, mold, and other markings. I found these marks.

Markings on the meetinghouse bench

Markings of two parallel lines and an x mark the bench. Other marking include a W and two lines that form a cross.

As I found the markings I imagined a child sitting on the bench carving the marks as they listened to a mundane lecture by their schoolmaster.

I continued to make notes about the markings on the bench and continued the condition assessment by looking on the underside of the bench. I was surprised to find a few sentences in German. These sentences described the bench’s history! The description said it was used in a schoolhouse from 1828-1869.

Writing on the underside of the bench

The German script tells us in short sentences of the object's history. The image we provide here makes it understandably difficult to read.

The bench served the function of supporting coffins during funerals at the old Schwenkfelder meetinghouse at Salford. After that the bench went to Central Schwenkfelder Church. The church may have decided not to wish to use the bench in its old capacity and the board of trustees of the Schwenkfelder Church gave it to the Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center.

Collection Tag for bench

The tag belonging to the bench supplies additional information about the object's history.

This was much more than an old, elongated, ordinary wooden seat; this bench had a story.

The plate from the GR that shows the bench in use.

This image from the Genealogical Record of the Schwenkfelders, plate 118, shows the bench in use.

-Rick Kriebel, Collections Intern 2011

About schwenkfelder

We are a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history of the Schwenkfelders and the history of southeastern Pennsylvania and the Perkiomen Region. The Heritage Center offers educational programming and tours, exhibits, workshops, and events throughout the year. Our blog is maintained by museum educator, Rebecca Lawrence, SLHC staff and guest bloggers.
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