Yesterday, I had the honor of being inducted into the Gamma Chapter of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa. I took a pledge, signed the chapter book, and learned the history and significance of this illustrious national honor society. Today, upon coming to work in Special Collections, I encountered the Chapter Book again.
What I had not realized, upon signing this volume yesterday, and thereby becoming a member, is that in fact that I was signing the same chapter book that the original Phi Beta Kappa members of Lafayette College began signing in 1890. The volume contains not only the signatures of those initiated, but also the meeting notes and treasurer’s reports on the society throughout the years.
I was surprised to see the volume at the ceremony itself because few things leave the safe confines of the Special Collections once they are here–purely for the safety and security of the special things kept within its safekeeping. The faculty leaders of Lafayette’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter undergo a very intense process for taking the chapter book outside of the library to the initiation ceremony, and the volume is well protected within at least three plastic bags, bubble wrap, and careful carrying of the volume.
Being able to look at the Phi Beta Kappa book definitely provided me with an opportunity to see how the archives is important to things I do today at Lafayette, and proves that archives aren’t just a place where old things get put into storage–it’s a living, breathing collection with a lot of things to learn from it!
Sara Walter is the Advanced Archival Assistant. She is a senior double majoring in History, Government and Law, and Spanish.