Bomb squad removes World War I ordnance from Archives

Bomb squad removes World War I ordnance from Archives

The Goshen Police Department bomb squad removed two large caliber shells, one hand grenade and one small bomb from Goshen’s campus just after 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 8 after they were discovered in the Mennonite Historical Archives.

The Goshen Police Department bomb squad removed two large caliber shells, one hand grenade and one small bomb from Goshen’s campus just after 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 8.

Colleen McFarland, a new archivist at the Mennonite Church USA Historical Committee Archives (located on campus next to Newcomer Center) found the World War I ordnance artifacts in a box a week earlier as she was going through the Archives.

As the Goshen Police removed the ordnance, Newcomer Center was evacuated for 90 minutes.  Later that day, the police found the items to be inert.  No one was injured in the process.

Rich Preheim, historical committee director, said, “The ordnance was in a collection submitted to the archives by George Springer in 1989.  Springer served in France with a Mennonite relief unit after World War I, and perhaps brought the items back as souvenirs.”

Among the collection, Springer also brought back spent shells with “peace on earth” engraved on them.

The archivists at the time catalogued the items and put them in a box labeled as “World War I memorabilia,” without specifically naming each item, and without noting that they knew the artifacts were inert upon receiving them.  This happened before any of the current staff began working at the Archives.

According to Preheim, no one has had any reason to go through the boxes since then, until McFarland began sorting through all of the Archives, making sure everything was pertinent and properly labeled.  As soon as she discovered the ordnance, which, according to her knowledge at the time may have been dangerous, she followed standard procedure by calling law enforcement.

Oddly enough, this is the second time McFarland has been in this situation.  During her previous job as an archivist in Walla Walla, Wash., she also encountered some historical weapons that may have been unsafe.

The Archives on campus belongs to Mennonite Church USA and was given to the former Mennonite Church when Goshen Biblical Seminary became part of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries in the 1960s.

Alysha Landis
Written by Alysha Landis

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