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Important Archival Work Continues at Friends Historical Library

Important Archival Work
Continues at Friends Historical Library

by Zoe Lewicki '11

Scott Roben, Harvard 2012, started working at Friends Historical Library (FHL) last summer as a student employee and decided to continue his work there this year. "I got the idea to work at FHL last summer because my older sister and some of my brother's friends had worked there before," he says. "Researchers come from all over the world to study here." 

Friends Historical Library 2008

Scott Roben in the Friends Historical Library


Scott's main project is to organize the documents of two Quakers, Henry and Marry Cushing Niles, whose records were donated to the College about 10 years ago. The papers he handles are mostly carbon copies of originals and are about equally divided between personal correspondence and business letters.

The work also entails taking a deep look into their lives. In the 1920's, the Quaker couple married and became heavily involved in 20th-century peace movements. However, they did not go without their own share of scandal. In the 1950's, the husband's letters tell a story of an affair and a false identity.

"Most researchers are not specifically interested in Quakers," says FHL Curator Christopher Densmore, "but in some other topic which is documented in Quaker records and papers." Densmore recently received publications from a historian on her textile research, in part conducted at the FHL, about Quaker families who had worked together to create "friendship quilts." Not only were Quakers from Adams County, Pa., involved in these quilts, but so was a former slave from Virginia who obtained her freedom and lived among the Quakers for the rest of her life.  "This is a good example of the interdisciplinary nature of archival research," he says, "from anthropology and folklife to Quaker history, women's studies, and African American history."


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