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1-20-06   Preserving Gilford’s History – Part 3

This is the third in a four part series designed to inform the public about Thompson-Ames Historical Society’s efforts to preserve the memory of Gilford’s cultural history and, in particular, to detail some of the undertakings of its collection manager whose role for the historical society has been made possible since the spring of 2000through the vocal and financial support of the town’s voters.

In the previous article in this series, it was stated that T-AHS’s collection manager began computer-cataloging activities by focusing on the museum artifacts as recorded by the Society in its vintage ledger dating back to 1943 when the Thompson-Ames Historical Society was organized.

In July of 2001, the collection manager went to Shelburne Museum in Vermont to attend a two and a half day workshop which was sponsored by the American Association for State and Local Historical Societies (AASLH). The workshop, designed to address the broad intricacies of museum management, provided much reference material to guide the preservation and restoration of museum artifacts and archival items. Also brought back were criteria for acquisitions as well as a plethora of notes which were made available to the members of T-AHS’s Board of Directors. Furthermore, our collection manager suggested that the time had come when we needed to be online in order to download updates to our Past Perfect collection management software as well as to receive other available information such as technical preservation notes from archival agencies and for grant research. The capability of being online would also allow us to do research to find out more information about items in our collections, such as approximate dates, use of the item, approximate value, etc.

In September of 2001, T-AHS’s collection manager turned attention to the Society’s archival materials which had been gathered together in early 1990s and placed in a four-drawer vertical-file cabinet.

Since, in the early 1990s, Thompson-Ames Historical Society had no office or other appropriate place in which to place the vertical file cabinet, the Gilford Public Library had offered to house the cabinet of archival materials in the upstairs area in which the library’s local and New Hampshire history materials had been located.

This arrangement allowed T-AHS volunteers to access the Society’s archival materials as they were doing research for writing the book The Gunstock Parish: A History of Gilford, New Hampshire, publication of which T-AHS unveiled in July of 1995.

In May of 2000, the file cabinet was moved to the Grange Museum Building and placed in the office which Society volunteers had created there to facilitate collection management work.

The Society’s archival materials, which appeared to consist of 24+ theme-related collections, needed the involvement of T-AHS’s curators. The curators looked over the materials to determine relevance of the items to Gilford and/or environs.

By January of 2002, our archival materials had been grouped and were being prepared for accessioning and cataloging while our collection manager was still looking for more accession information regarding items in our collections. Archival preservation materials, such as buffered tissue, archival folders, photo sleeves and archival storage boxes, were ordered. Volunteers stepped forward to build much-needed storage shelves for the Grange Office. – However, the big question remained, “What is the best way to proceed with T-AHS’s collection management of archival records?”

We applied to the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) for a grant by a professional archivist to assess our archival collection and offer suggestions on how to proceed, with a focus on archival methods training.

When we learned that we had not been awarded the grant, we decided to research the cost of a professional archivist. T-AHS learned that it would cost $1,120 to hire an independent archivist, such as Londonderry’s Melissa Mannon, for a two-day assessment and report.

When we learned about a two-part Local History workshop, “The New Hampshire Local Records Education Project” (NHLREP), our collection manager welcomed the opportunity to attend. As a result, T-AHS was approved for an assessment grant! Furthermore, the project coordinator, Dan Daily, Archivist for Dartmouth College, said that it might be possible to have this assessment done by Mannon.

In June, under a grant provided by the NHLREP, professional archivist Melissa Mannon began work on her assessment of T-AHS’s archival records. After two visits to T-AHS, Mannon began writing her report, which would serve to guide our collection management work in respect to our archival materials. In the meantime, our collection manager’s efforts turned to accessioning and cataloging artifacts that T-AHS had received in 2002, updating records in Past Perfect, and creating an index and summary for the Historic Store.

In August, after going to Canterbury Shaker Village to attend a two-day workshop sponsored by Past Perfect Software, our collection manager, realizing the many new software features that would be available to us, recommended that T-AHS consider up-grading its Past Perfect software.

In the meantime, T-AHS was receiving more and more requests and visits from people doing genealogy research or research on their vintage houses. Past Perfect Software proved helpful in this regard as it provides several ways to quickly access information.

Work with archival materials proved to be a lot more time consuming than the cataloging of artifacts, as documents need to be read for names and information, placed in archival preservation materials, etc. Under T-AHS’s NHLREP grant, which brought archivist Melissa Mannon to Gilford to assess the Society’s archives, there was also a provision that the Town of Gilford, at no cost, could have Ms. Mannon look briefly at the historical collections of the Library and Town Hall. The Town decided to accept this opportunity and the archivist visited both locations and reported her findings to each.

T-AHS’s curators, using the Homestead Index and Summary, inventoried the Homestead Room and made sure that the individual catalog object number assigned was on each item. The same procedure would be followed for each theme area on the Grange and Meetinghouse.

In October of 2002, the Town Librarian, Town Clerk, and T-AHS’s collection manager met to discuss the respective reports and recommendations which the archivist had made. They then decided to request a meeting with the Selectmen to ask for formalization of a Historical Document Committee consisting of the Town Clerk, the Librarian, T-AHS’s collection manager and a representative from the Town Administration for the purpose of working together to implement the archivist’s recommendations and other items of joint interest pertaining to Gilford’s historic documents.

On December 5, 2002, this committee was formed, with meetings to occur every other month, beginning in February of 2003, with stated goals of sharing information, expertise and materials, and working together to obtain grants, etc.

Based on Melissa Mannon’s visit, it seemed desirable for each of the three facilities to create an index of historical items held there as a means to identify the town’s holdings and to provide a quick reference to help researchers determine the site they needed to visit in their quest for information. Thompson-Ames Historical Society has created such an index which now needs updating before distribution.

Although the committee met several times and information was later shared via e-mail, the committee for some time has been inactive due to changes in personnel and demands on the committee members.

When T-AHS’s index is completed, a copy will be placed in the Town Hall and in the Library to facilitate the public’s quest for information. It would be helpful if Town Hall and the Library provide all three locations with copies of their indexes of historic materials.

In our next and final article in this series, we’ll bring up-to-date where Thompson-Ames Historical Society is in respect of collection management as a factor in preserving the memory of Gilford’s cultural history.

This series of articles as well as more information about Thompson-Ames Historical Society and its programs can be found on the Society’s website www.gilfordhistoricalsociety.org.