WWII Letter Readings with Muhlenberg College Theatre Students, November 12, 2017, 2:00 pm, Sigal Museum

We are delighted to host a special performance by Muhlenberg College theatre students in honor of Veterans Day. Students will perform dramatic readings of letters written to and from Muhlenberg College alumni who fought in the war, many of whom were residents of the Lehigh Valley. Part of Trexler Library’s Rare Book Room collection, these letters provide a poignant glimpse of the conflict and life during wartime. Readings will be accompanied by period images from the Muhlenberg Memories Project. See below for more information.

Please join us at the Sigal Museum at 2:00 pm for this one-time performance.

Program is free with museum admission or $5 for the program only.

Special thanks to Susan Falciani, Special Collections & Archives Librarian, Kate Ranieri, Assistant Professor, Media and Communication, Charlie Richter, Theatre Program Director, and participating Muhlenberg Theatre students:

Krystal Hall
Olivia Tyndall
Owen Yingling
David Raccio
Matt Giunco
Michael Poyntz
Jacob Wahba
Patrick Daly
Brielle Raddi
Julia Way
Itai Rembaum
Rebecca Grabarchuk
Rae Bell
About the Muhlenberg Memories Project
The Muhlenberg Memories Project began as a conversation between an archivist and a professor. Susan Falciani, six months into her position as Muhlenberg College’s archivist, had the privilege of receiving a previously hidden collection of letters to and from Muhlenberg students and alumni serving in the armed forces worldwide during World War II.
In the spring of 2014, after decades resting in filing cabinets in a rear office of Development and Alumni Relations, over one thousand letters – written by Muhlenberg students serving in combat and at military bases around the world during World War II – arrived at Trexler Library’s Special Collections & Archives.
This collection of letters illustrates the service member’s hopes and dreams as well as their challenges and daring feats. The Alumni Office letters, in response, show personalized notes of encouragement and news of campus happenings. Together, the letters reveal a coming-of-age in young men serving across the four corners of the world.
During World War II, Muhlenberg College staff members Gordon Fister, Director of Public Relations, and John Wagner, Alumni Secretary, corresponded with Muhlenberg students and alumni who were serving in the armed forces. Fister and Wagner attempted to keep current with the addresses of those serving, in order to facilitate communication among the Muhlenberg community. They published a biweekly newsletter which was sent to the troops and sent gifts of stationery with the image of “General Pete” Muhlenberg on the letterhead. Wagner himself was on active duty from 1944-46, leaving the bulk of the correspondent responsibilities to Gordon Fister.
The complete collection comprises correspondence to and from 262 Muhlenberg students and alumni. Carbon copies of Gordon Fister’s and John Wagner’s replies are included in the folders along with the original letters from the servicemen. Correspondence takes the form of letters, postcards, and V-mail. Folder contents vary from a few change-of-address postcards to detailed letters describing battle and experiences in the European and Pacific theaters, as well as many from men in U.S. training camps and medical schools. A few folders contain photographs or newspaper clippings.
Processing that collection led to the incorporation of documents and photographs pertaining to the College’s Navy V-12 and V-5 Training Units (1943-1946), and culminated in the 2014-15 academic year in a library exhibit and programming that reintroduced the Muhlenberg community to this period in its history.
Susan sought out Dr. Kate Ranieri, professor of Media and Communication, to ask if her Documentary Research students might be interested in creating a documentary about the V-12 program. That conversation led Susan and Dr. Kate to launch a research project that connected archival holdings about life on campus with interviews of Muhlenberg men enrolled in the V-12 program. Inspired by the interviews, Susan and Dr. Kate co-developed a robust Documentary Research course focused on Muhlenberg in the World War II era.
We invite you to learn more about the Project and see photographs, letters, veterans’ interviews, and student documentaries at muhlenbergmemoriesproject.com.