Hobart College’s Charter penned in 1825 will be on display in the Warren Hunting Smith Library beginning in February.
In the Spring of 2019, Archivist and Special Collections Librarian Tricia McEldowney and Archives Technician Brandon Moblo pulled a large flat archival box off the top of a storage rack in the library archives and uncovered the Permanent Charter of Hobart College written in 1825 on parchment by Regents of the University of the State of New York.
While the two-sided animal hide document was hard to read, McEldowney says they quickly knew they had uncovered the official certificate that established Hobart College. “We could read enough to know what it was,” she says, noting the date and embossed seal from the Board of Regents were most legible. “The discovery came as a surprise because while the document was well secured in our environmentally controlled space, the Charter was not catalogued.”
Since then, Hobart’s Charter has been preserved by West Lake Conservators in Skaneateles, N.Y., removing residue and undergoing a humidification process to make it flatter and more legible, while photographing each step in the process. Due to issues related to the coronavirus, the process took nearly two years to complete but the Charter is now returned to the HWS archives contained in a 28” x 31” preservation package.
The importance of this finding is immense and the timing with Hobart’s Bicentennial kicking off this year is wonderful, McEldowney says. “The 1825 charter is one of the foundational documents of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Historically speaking, it’s the document that officially made this school a college, subsequent to the provisional charter of 1822. Without the charter, there is no college. Today, the charter is a reminder of our 200-year-old roots. This document speaks to our history, the foundation from which we’ve grown. It allows us to reflect on that time in history when the hope for a college in Geneva first became a reality. It connects us to our past in a physical way,”
In conjunction with Hobart’s 200th celebration, on Tuesday, Feb. 8, the date in 1825 when the Charter was granted, the document will be on display in the Bicentennial Exhibit on the first floor of the Warren Hunting Smith Library along with two other display cases and a timeline of Hobart and William Smith history, and other artifacts and stories from the archives. McEldowney and Moblo are also working to get photos of the document and the Charter’s wording available online.