A World War II Service Honor Board that features Bridgewater College men and women who served in WWII is among those selected for Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program for 2021.
Virginia’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts program sheds light on the expense museums and other collecting institutions undertake every day to care for the unique items in their trust, as well as connects them with future donors and provides direct conservation funding. As a Top 10 honoree, the WWII Honor Board will be part of a public voting competition Jan. 18 through Jan. 27. Supported in part by funding from the Virginia Association of Museums, the artifact with the most votes will be awarded $2,000 toward conservation. Voting can be done once per day beginning Jan. 18 through Jan. 27 online at vamuseums.org.
Bridgewater College’s WWII Honor Board was submitted into the annual competition by Special Collections Librarian Stephanie S. Gardner, who said, “We are proud and grateful that an artifact in the Robert R. Newlen ’75 and John C. Bradford Special Collections at Bridgewater College has been selected as a Top 10 winner.”
The WWII Honor Board started in 1944 when the Bridgewater College Alumni Association began to create an honor roll of BC students who were serving in WWII. After crowdsourcing names through the College Bulletin, the association had a large wooden shield made bearing approximately 360 names on golden cardstock nameplates. The nameplates of those who died in the war were highlighted by paper stars.
The wear from constant display of the honor board has been the greatest threat to this artifact. Nameplates have been lost over the years and other paper nameplates have cracked. The star stickers that designate those killed in action are worn and inaccurate because of deterioration, while the board itself has suffered large cracks.
“In addition to honoring those who served by its presence as a primary source on WWII at Bridgewater College, the service board has larger Virginia significance,” Gardner said. “Bridgewater College historian the late Francis F. Wayland estimated that 44% of the 440 Bridgewater students and alumni who served in the WWII military and the Civilian Public Service were residents of Rockingham County, Va., or the city of Harrisonburg.”
After the honor board was created, additional names were collected and added to a paper list. Gardner hopes to research and restore the names of the individuals for full conservation of the artifact. In addition, a supplemental plaque could be created to memorialize the individuals who served in the Civilian Public Service, a program developed at the onset of WWII that was administered by the Church of the Brethren to provide important work under civilian direction.
“Our community should be proud of the spirit that resulted in the creation of the WWII honor board,” Gardner said. “It is a poignant reminder that hundreds of Bridgewater College affiliates served in WWII and 17 Bridgewater College men lost their lives in the war. This artifact is a tangible reminder of the pride and connections of our community, and it needs conservation care. Please take the time to vote for it.”
In addition to the public voting competition, the program selection committee will select an additional artifact to receive $1,000 for conservation funding. The remaining eight artifacts will be awarded $250 each toward their conservation efforts.
ABOUT BRIDGEWATER COLLEGE’S ROBERT R. NEWLEN ’75 AND JOHN C. BRADFORD SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
Bridgewater College’s Special Collections serves the College as a teaching and research collection, preserving and enriching student education and liberal arts scholarship. Special Collections at BC is able to do this kind of work thanks to the financial support of our alumni and friends. To make a gift online, go to bridgewater.edu/give and specify in the comments section the Newlen-Bradford Special Collections Conservation Fund.