Archives and Special Collections, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

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Shippensburg University, located in Shippensburg, PA, was founded in 1871 as the Cumberland Valley State Normal School. In 1926 Shippensburg became the first normal school in Pennsylvania to receive a charter enabling it to be classified as a state teachers college. In 1960, Governor David L. Lawrence singed Act No. 788 into law, which changed the names of the fourteen state teachers colleges, and Shippensburg became known as Shippensburg State College. The institution acquired university status in 1983. Shippensburg University still maintains an elementary school on campus, which is part of the local public school district. The former model school opened in 1873, and the current Grace B. Luhrs Elementary School continues to provide university students with opportunities to observe and participate in elementary school activities. Shippensburg University Archives contains a wealth of information on the evolution of the campus model school, which parallels the development of teacher education in Pennsylvania.

The Shippensburg University Archives & Special Collections came into being in the 1950s when the business office sent a collection of ledgers to the library. These materials were officially designated as the College Historical Collection. When the library moved into its current building in 1968, the Historical Collection was put into the Pennsylvania Room and called the Archives. From 1969-1971, an administrative records survey was undertaken to locate and identify records throughout the university that should be transferred to the Archives. Record groups were created and container lists were started in the late 1970s. In 2003, following the recommendations of an outside consultant, one of the librarians received the training necessary to step into her new role as the university's first Archives & Special Collections Librarian.

The Shippensburg University Archives collects, organizes, makes accessible, and preserves non-current records documenting Shippensburg University's origins and development, including the activities and achievements of its offices, faculty, students, and alumni. Special Collections preserves rare, fragile, or valuable published materials acquired by Lehman Library. Special Collections also includes the SU Authors Collection, the purpose of which is to collect and preserve the published works of members of the Shippensburg University community.

Two prominent members of the university community whose accomplishments are documented in Archives and Special Collections include best-selling author Dean Koontz (Class of 1967) and poet John Taggart (retired Professor of English). The O. Richard Forsythe Collection contains special editions and signed copies of Koontz' books, and essays and letters written by Richard Forsythe, Koontz's faculty mentor at Shippensburg. The John Taggart Poetry Collection contains books of, and literary magazines featuring, Taggart's poetry as well as Taggart's essays and reviews of other poets' works.

One of the Archives' most interesting collections for those studying the development of school curriculum materials is the Museum Extension Project Collection. During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration initiated the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The Museum Extension Project (MEP) was a sub-agency of the WPA's Professional and Service Division. It provided funds for artists to produce three-dimensional objects and printed materials that were used as visual aids in tax-supported schools, libraries and museums. The materials taught children about housing, food, clothing, art, transportation, industries, and natural resources. Pennsylvania's MEP was the most active of all the states. In February 1937, Shippensburg State Teachers College started receiving materials from the MEP. The Pennsylvania Museum Extension Project ended in 1943, when the government directed the artists and craftspeople to produce propaganda and training materials for the military in preparation for World War II. The MEP three-dimensional models are currently on display on the main level of Ezra Lehman Memorial Library; they were photographed by an Archives and Special Collections intern in 2006 and can be viewed online:

The Archives' primary patrons are university administration and staff, students, alumni, and relatives of alumni. Common research questions include requests for information about relatives who attended or worked at the university, student life, and the history of higher education and teacher training in Pennsylvania.

To learn more about the Shippensburg University Archives & Special Collections, please visit Research hours are by appointment. To contact the Archives, email: or call 717-477-1516.