Bethany Children’s Home Dedicates New Education Center and Archives
On Jan. 28, 2023, Bethany Children’s Home in Womelsdorf, Pa., celebrated the opening of its new archive facility. The opening of the Boehringer Education Center and Archives on the Bethany campus fulfilled the dream of Carl Bloss, a Bethany alumnus and its volunteer archivist from 2013 to 2020.
Named for Bethany founder Emmanuel Boehringer, the new center is housed in Bethany’s former Bricker House/Gate House, appropriately the oldest building on campus.
“With the addition of the Boehringer Education Center and Archives, we have been given an opportunity to honor and preserve our past for future generations while giving our community, alumni, staff and residents a direct tie to their history,” said Jennifer Koch, Bethany’s current archivist and alumni relations coordinator. “We hope that this addition will create a space where everyone will have the ability to research and learn from our collection.”
The Jan. 28 festivities included a ribbon cutting and dedication featuring Bloss, now Bethany’s archivist emeritus, and Koch; Dr. Joseph Birli, Bethany’s CEO, and Board Chair Betsy Adams; State Rep. Judith L. Schwank (D-Berks County) and Berks County Commissioner Michael S. Rivera; Barbara McConnell, Boehringer’s great-granddaughter; and several members of former superintendent families, alumni, and donors. Schwank and Rivera delivered a Proclamation and Certificate of Recognition during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Bloss’ interest in Bethany’s archives began when he came back to the campus to learn about his own history. He found records, books, and ephemera in the basements and attics of various buildings around the Bethany campus. He saved what he could, along with the help of several Bethany alumni and supporters, and set up the first archives in the closet of the campus’ administrative building. It later moved to the basement family room of Bethany’s Smith Lodge.
Koch says that the main exhibit at the center will change every six months. The current exhibit centers around the creation of the archives; Bethany’s founders and the contributions of the Rev. Benjamin Bausman, Bethany’s first Board Manager; and services that have been held at Bausman Memorial Church on the Bethany campus. The exhibit includes two christening gowns and three wedding dresses from between 1960 and 2000.
“The center will serve to educate our youth, new and existing employees, and the community on the legacy of Bethany — and our humble beginnings as one of two surviving Soldiers Orphans Schools in Pennsylvania,” Koch added.
The Boehringer Education Center and Archives is open Tuesdays and Thursdays by appointment, from 1 to 4 p.m., and on the third Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Other days and times are available by appointment as well. Contact Koch to schedule a visit at 610-589-4501, ext. 305, or via email.
Visiting the center is free. Donations are gladly accepted (select “Archives”).
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