The second workshop in the Shirley Historic Records Project was held at the Hazen Library on June 27th. Project Consultant Melissa Mannon led participants through a discussion on the definition and care of archives.
Archives are the original documents created on paper, and other media, relating to the history of an institution or individual. For example - people usually keep their check stubs for the current year on their desk and then archive them to a shoebox in the back of the closet after they do their taxes. All town governmental bodies should be storing their archived records in the vault at the new Town offices building. Shirley organizations also have current records and archived records. The problem is that some of these organizational archived items may just be in shoe boxes in the back of closets and people don't know how to find specific records when they need them.
Melissa Mannon has been visiting various organizations in town and inventorying their archives. She is preparing a report with recommendations for each of the participating organizations and for the Historic Records Committee.
One problem is that organizations often aren't sure just what they should keep and what is not necessary. Most organizations and individuals have limited storage space, so this is an important topic to discuss. Melissa suggested that each group have a collections policy approved by their Board of Directors. She advised them to make this policy known to potential donors. Melissa provided workshop participants with sample donation forms and forms to use when accessioning or archiving records.
One of the new terms for amateur archivists to learn is the term "provenance". This refers to the proven identification and history of a paper or object. A lovely old photo of a woman in a garden may be decorative, but the archivist needs to know who is in the photo, where it was taken, and how the donor came to be in possession of the photo. At the Historical Society Museum they have some interesting news clippings about Shirley, but they are not all dated, and they do not all have the name of the newspaper they came from. This makes it much harder to understand the context and significance of the information described in the articles.
The Historic Records Project is being funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Historic Records Advisory Board and local donations. More donations are needed to cover our part of the project. Checks may be made out to Shirley Historic Records Committee and mailed to PO Box 217, Shirley, MA 01464
The third public workshop will be held at 7:00 p.m. at the Hazen Library on Wednesday August 22nd. The topic of that workshop will be "What practical things can we do to improve the storage and organization of our records ?" All interested parties are welcome to attend. For further information contact Project Coordinator Meredith Marcinkewicz at the Shirley Historical Society at 978-425-9328, Mondays and Saturdays 10;00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. or firstname.lastname@example.org