Honoring the Past
Like any daughter would, Mary Belin Robertson wanted to honor her mother in the most appropriate way possible.
Margaretta Belin created the Waverly Community House as a memorial to her husband, John, who died in 1917. Upon her death in 1928, her daughter, Mary, and her other children corresponded about what to do to honor their mother's memory at the institution she helped create. It was decided that they would add two wings on to the building but Mary had one stipulation.
She did not want the room above the kindergarten (now known as the Constance Reynolds Belin room) finished until a suitable use could be found for it.
"That unfinished room is the room where the Waverly Community House Archives Project will be stored," said Maria Wilson, the executive director of the Waverly Community House and the project director for the archives project. "We found that letter after Nathaniel Robertson III made a leadership gift for that space, which is what helped us to make it into a suitable space for the archives. Mary Belin Robertson was his grandmother."
The Waverly Community House Archives Project and the Comm Classroom is an initiative of the Waverly Community House to collect and preserve the history of Waverly as well as the Comm. Wilson explained that the project was born through a desire to organize the Comm's extensive collection of documents in such a way that the public could learn from them.
"I started working here in April of 2005 and one of the first things that I saw was that there were drawers filled with notebooks that were filled with pictures and reports and all kinds of information about the Comm that had been collected over the years," she said. "There were a lot of original documents that were stored in such a way that they were not accessible to the public. I felt we needed to organize them so that they could be made available to the public. This was completely consistent with our mission and it allowed us to introduce the Comm to student groups."
Last weekend, the archives project made its debut during the final Antiques Show and Sale, which had taken place at the Comm for almost 70 years.
"This was the debut exhibit, and it gave the community the chance to see what they can expect with this project," Wilson explained. "The theme is "The Gift of Community" and it begins with Henry Belin, who was one of the founders of the Scranton Lace Co., and his commitment to the community. As you go around, you will see records pertaining to the history of the Comm, such as the trowel that we think was used during the groundbreaking. We tied it in to the antiques show because we had the first ticket and first program."
The project, which is in partnership with the Lackawanna Historical Society and Marywood University, will hopefully be funded by grants and will include revolving exhibits, featuring newsletters from World War II and newspaper clippings and articles.
This past summer, Hayley Lenahan, who has participated in many events at the Comm and who has also interned there, served as project coordinator, helping to begin the process of preparing the archives for their formal debut next fall.
Lenahan explained that the archives project helped her gain a greater appreciation for the Waverly Community House.
"When the Comm was founded, it was a radical, unusual idea," she said. "Some people thought it was crazy and was bound to fail. The fact that it has been a tremendously successful project for almost one hundred years is extraordinary. By studying the archives, I have learned that this success is the direct result of forward-thinking leadership, dedicated volunteers and supportive community members."
"We never end anything here without doing something better," Wilson added. "This is just the next step forward for the Waverly Community House and it shows how proud we are of what it stands for and the mission behind it."
To get a sneak peek at the archives, visit www.commclassroomproject.tumblr.com. For more information on the archives, email firstname.lastname@example.org.