Rachel Ruisard, our Archival Collections Volunteer, recently sat down with our Museum Educator, Rebecca Lawrence and talked about her work with Allen Viehmeyer and our music manuscript collection. Rachel has been volunteering with us since the summer of 2012.
What excites you about working with the collection at the Schwenkfelder Library?
I was absolutely thrilled to work with Dr. Viehmeyer and the collection because I was able to immerse myself in the local history and get a feel for the Schwenkfelder and Pennsylvania German communities, past and present. Even more so, I had the chance to work hands-on with manuscripts from the 18th and 19th centuries, a task I was very pleased to be given. While learning about the tools and procedures used in archival studies, I also was able to work with some absolutely wonderful people.
For our readers, describe your cataloguing process:
Right off the bat I determine the condition of the manuscript and put it into the database; then, I try to summarize the contents. The sheer number of manuscripts that the collection owns means that I see many of the same things and repeat myself a good portion of the time when cataloguing. That being said, I try to look for something that makes each manuscript stand out from the others. Determining the author/owner of the object in question often proves difficult, so I try to catch other small details that mark the manuscript as unique. Embellished handwriting, bookplates, notes written in the margins or slipped between pages, I think of each difference as important and I try to take note of everything I find.
Embellished handwriting, bookplates, notes written in the margins or slipped between pages, I think of each difference as important and I try to take note of everything I find.
Do you have a favorite object/most interesting book you’ve come across?
There isn’t one in particular, but a few of the music manuscripts I catalogued contained figured bass, a basic method in music for realizing harmonies from a bass line. I was fascinated by this, and Dr. Viehmeyer and I tried to determine how it became a part of the Schwenkfelder culture, for there is currently no record of congregational singing, instruments in church or music education during the period from which the manuscripts originate. We haven’t yet settled upon a clear explanation, but every so often I come across it in my cataloguing and try to find new answers.
I was fascinated by this [figured bass] for there is currently no record of congregational singing, instruments in church or music education during the period from which the manuscripts originate in Schwenkfelder culture.
Describe your personal interests/personal research.
I am currently a junior majoring in Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance with a minor in Medieval Studies at Moravian College. I hope to attend graduate school for musicology, with the Medieval/Renaissance period as my focus. I also aim to study at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Oxford University during my senior year. While the Schwenkfelder Library is the first non-profit organization I have volunteered with, I recently started working with the Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, PA as well. I hope to continue working with both the Schwenkfelder and Moravian organizations and possibly incorporate one (or both) into a future research project.
Rachel’s entries in Past Perfect will be available in the coming weeks in our Past Perfect Online Catalog. We are thankful to have her as a volunteer. We continue to wish her well in her academic efforts at Moravian. If you are interested in working with our archival collections, please do not hesitate to contact us!