On Halloween, visitors were invited to the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College to learn about the Spiritualism movement that swept mid 19th century America. What did Quakers – some alive at the time, some already deceased and sending messages from the Spirit World – have to say about the trend?
Archives came alive at the primary attraction of the evening, a pageant of a 19th century séance. Attendees gathered around the “spirit table” to contact several deceased Quakers, who explicated their views on Spiritualism – echoing quotations from books and documents that can be found in the Friends Historical Library.
In fact, many of these books and manuscripts were on display nearby, in a special one-night-only pop-up exhibition. Featured items included a handwritten example of spirit writing by (ex-)Quaker Isaac Post, author of the 1852 book “Voices from the Spirit World,” channeling his deceased uncle; a letter from Quaker Thomas Garrett, a known stationmaster of the Underground Railroad, in which he both mentioned a recent visit from Harriet Tubman and expressed an interest in attending an upcoming meeting on Spiritualism; and a photograph of ectoplasm taken by a Quaker in the mid-20th century.
Non-archival activities were available as well. Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions of Ouija boards, have their tarot cards read, sip on Temperance beverages, or nibble on thematically-appropriate snacks. It was a night of fun for all – Friends, friends of the archives, and phantoms alike!