What’s the deal with… the Gelman memorabilia museum?

Tons of students rush in and out of Gelman Library’s doors each day but most fail to notice the little room stashed off by the left-hand side of the foyer.

The small, inconspicuous place, called the David S. Brown Memorabilia Room, is filled with artifacts from authentic documents to photographs to significant objects, quietly chronicling GW’s history.

Glass cases hold GW memorabilia, the more interesting being photos and portraits of famous alumni, including Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, important documents, such as old GW Hatchets and yearbooks, as well as athletic equipment and memorabilia, dating back to 1821. University librarian Jack A. Siggins said he is very fond of this space.

“It was created in 1998,” he said. “The idea for it came from President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. He told me he had this idea for creating a facility that would focus on the historical culture of the University. How about using that space in the entrance?”

Siggins said GW needs a place where its history can be recorded, despite a sometimes lackluster enthusiasm for the University’s timeline from those on campus.

“The room was created to show what a long history GW has had. It was founded in the 1830s, which makes it one of the oldest schools in the country, but people don’t know enough about it,” he said.

Siggins theorized this might be because GW is a fast-paced urban school where there is so much going on within the confines of campus that sometimes historical items and facts can be lost or forgotten among students and faculty.

The room, which used to be used as an office, was originally just named the GW Memorabilia Museum, Siggins said, but it was renamed after the late GW professor David S. Brown in 2003 and his widow, Anne Elizon Brown, made a large donation to the library for this museum.

“Dr. Brown was a very strong supporter of the library,” Siggins said, adding that Brown was a prominent faculty member for 31 years.

He said artifacts get chosen for the room by University archivists, who go through a plethora of items and only choose a select few to make it into the small space besides the library. What about the items not chosen? They still get some play, according to Siggins.

“A lot of it is scattered around campus, like all the photos on the tables in the Marvin Center come from the University archives,” he said.

G. David Anderson, the University archivist, said the most interesting thing about the museum is that it contains primary source artifacts that were actually used more than a hundred years ago.

“All the artifacts are real,” he said, pointing to various things around the room. “The papier m?ch? George head was used, all the uniforms were worn by students.”

However, one of the cases in the room is left unsealed so that if anything noteworthy happens the librarians have the space to add in more significant objects.

“In another hundred years, they might have a laptop in there, that students will be fascinated by,” assistant University archivist Lyle Slovick said.

The museum is open to the public, but Siggins said he encourages GW students more than any to go in, take a look around and soak in some of their surrounding culture.

He said, “When you look at the photos showing all the prominent alumni that graduated from George Washington University, you can see what a key role GW has played in the history of the country. Students can just take pride in what they are a part of.”

-Nour Hammour

“What’s the deal with…” is a weekly feature in the Life section. If you have a suggestion for the column, e-mail features@gwhatchet.com.

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