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Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Uncovering American History in the Moravian Church Archives
NEH funding helps the Moravian Archives preserve historically-significant documents, many of which are too delicate to handle. Image courtesy of the Moravian Archives.

NEH funding helps the Moravian Archives preserve historically-significant documents, many of which are too delicate to handle. Image courtesy of the Moravian Archives.

The Moravian Archives documents the history of the Moravian Church’s Northern Province as early as 1740. Its collection includes textiles, art works, maps, administrative records, printed volumes, pamphlets, and personal papers, many of them written in 18th-century German. In recent years, the NEH has helped the Moravian Archives preserve the history of its church. One significant grant provided for the purchase of storage furniture and materials, increasing the Archive’s capacity by 62%. More recently, the NEH funded planning for the digitization of the Eastern West Indies Records—archival records documenting two centuries of Moravian missionary work in the Caribbean. The records are of inestimable value, as they tell the story of the church’s early history as well as the history of the transatlantic slave trade—among the documents are ledgers itemizing the names and homes of many slaves who were brought into the Caribbean in the 18th-century, and whose lives are otherwise lost to history. But because they have been subject to the mold and deterioration caused by humid climates and salt water, the records were deemed too fragile to handle. Digitizing the records will ensure that they are preserved and that they are of use to researchers.

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