Shirley Historic Records Project

Shirley Historic Records Project

This project is being funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Historic Records Advisory Board and local donors. The goal is to inventory Shirley’s historic records and to educate records managers as to the appropriate care of these records.
Shirley’s Historic Records Project Step I – Where are we at?

Tuesday evening, January 9, 2001, a core group of people interested in preserving Shirley’s Historic Records met at the Hazen Library to discuss the present status of the paper evidence of Shirley’s past.

With the 250th Anniversary of the Town of Shirley coming up in 2003, it would be wonderful to add a 20th century history of Shirley to our other history books, but the evidence of that history is either scattered throughout the town or is totally missing. Papers, photos, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, notebooks, video tapes, audio tapes, and record books need to be located, identified, organized, preserved, and made accessible.

Besides the project’s prime supporters – the Hazen Library, the Town Clerk, and the Historical Society, representatives of the Historic District Commission, the First Parish Meetinghouse Preservation Society, Trinity Chapel, and the Shirley Grange, were present for the first project meeting. They filled out an initial survey which describes the condition of our historic records before the project begins. As suspected, it was discovered that some records are in public buildings, some in private homes, and some records are missing at this time. Some records have become moldy or chewed by bugs and mice. Other records are just plain dirty. Some records are in file cabinets and acid free folders and have catalogues to help locate specific items. Some records are in unlabeled boxes with only the memory of one person to help find the piece of paper that will answer the question.

Other groups who have already made the commitment to participate in the Historic Records Project include the American Legion, the United Church, the Shirley School District, the Altrurian Club, and the Shirley Water District. They will be asked to complete the initial survey forms and return them to Project Director Meredith Marcinkewicz.

We still need representatives of the Hose Company, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, ST. Anthony’s Church, Shirley Cooperative Bank, the 4-H Clubs, and other businesses and organizations to take part in this project. We need to find out if there is still anyone around with records of the Baptist Chapel that was on Chapel Street, the Shirley Center Community Club, the Polish Club, the Oddfellows or the Rebekahs which once met in Shirley. Perhaps there were even other clubs or organizations which we didn’t know about. Hopefully, people who know of these organizations or may even have the remaining files, will contact Project Director Meredith Marcinkewicz, at the Shirley Historical Society, P.O. Box 217, Shirley, MA 01464, 978-425-9328, shs1@ma.ultranet.com.

A professional historic records consultant will be hired to offer a series of workshops designed to help participants improve the condition of their records. Besides the participating organizations, individuals who have collections of family records will be welcome to attend the workshops and learn the best methods of organizing and preserving historic papers, photos, and scrapbooks.

At the conclusion of the project, an index of Shirley’s Historic Records will be kept at the Hazen Library, the Town Clerk’s Office, and the Historical Society. Information will also be put on the Historical Society’s website, (www.ma.ultranet.com/~shs1) to help researchers identify the organization that can best answer their questions.

The Historic Records Project is being funded by a $6,000 grant from the Massachusetts Historic Records Advisory Board, with over $7,000 in local in-kind contributions. An additional $900 in cash must be raised locally. Along with its donations of copy paper, and computer use, the Shirley Historical Society has pledged $50 towards the project, . An additional $150 has been pledged by private individuals. That leaves $700 more to raise in local contributions. Donations may be given outright, or in memory of a loved one. Checks may be made out to Town Of Shirley and sent to Historic Records Project, P.O. Box 217, Shirley, MA 01464.

Shirley Historic Records Project Update February 12, 2001

The Committee met with a prospective consultant for the project. This person would lead the educational workshops, consult with town groups, and help organize the information. As soon as the hiring decision is made, more details will be announced.

We now have received $325 in donations and only need $575 more.

Shirley Historic Records Project Update March 16, 2001

The Committee has hired Melissa Mannon of Archives and Information Consulting Services as our consultant.
Melissa is an information specialist with experience organizing and managing town, city, historical society, library, museum, and corporate records.  (See www.mannon.org/archives.)  She will be leading three workshops to educate local records managers about the identification, care, and organization of historic records.  The first workshop will be held at the end of April, specific time and place TBA.  In early April, Melissa will be contacting Shirley organizations and setting up appointments to meet with them and help do a survey of their records.

We have received another donation for $250 towards the project.  This donation is from the Fidelity Bank.  Thank you, Friends at Fidelity.  Now we only need $325 more to cover our local share of the project.

Shirley Historic Records Project: Training Session One
What is a Historic Record?  by Melissa Mannon
April, 2001

1. What are archives?
    a. Archives as a place to store historic records
    b. Types of records – paper (including manuscripts), photos, film, audio/video, digital
    c. Examples of Archives

2. What do archivists and records managers do?

3. Why are historic records important?
    a. Legal and administrative value
    b. Understanding the past and preparing for the future
    c. Education
    d. Research
    e. Sense of community
    f. Marketing and outreach

4. What are our responsibilities regarding the historical materials?
    a. For individuals
    b. For collecting agencies

5.   Toward a clearer understanding of collaboration
    a. Collection development policies – who collects what?
    b. Collaborative projects
    c. Archives in Massachusetts – Shirley’s archives important to the Commonwealth and American heritage

Workshop on Archives

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 shs1@ma.ultranet.com.

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