our collections

I did this short blurb for a draft collections policy I am working on. The whole thing is still in draft but if you are interested, I will share it with you. Here is the short version:

Garrett Park Archives doubles as a records center for the Town of Garrett Park and as the town’s archival repository. Official town records include records of town ordinances and charter revisions, zoning decisions, voter registration records, actual election records, town council meeting minutes (from 1898), residential property records (of every residence) including lot and block records, limited records of Garrett Park Elementary School, town events calendars, town historical events, town office records, crime and police records, etc.

The archives repository contains the following documents and artifacts: oral history tapes and transcripts (over 150, about half awaiting transcription); archived print and digital copies of The Bugle, the town bulletin (back to 1953); a small collection of reminiscences by prominent citizens; a collection of documents on civic institutions such as the Town Arboretum, designation as a Nuclear-Free Zone, the Citizens Association, the Women’s Committee, and to a lesser extent, park gardening, hiking and walking trails, and the local swimming pool; records of the historical preservation committee, the archives committee, and the Garrett Park Players; a large number of digitized and print photos, several individual collections of prominent citizens, and a number of boxes of museum-quality artifacts.

Postscript. The advisory committee chair asked me in a meeting about a deaccessioning policy. My first inclination was to respond that we deaccession on the front end, through the collection policy and appraisal. But then I thought about it. Because we are part record center and part archives, a deaccessioning policy on the back end might be appropriate. Now deaccessioning can be a sensitive thing – people become attached to “stuff” in sentimental and personal ways. So, in the draft policy, deaccessioning requires (1) recommendation by the archivist and (2) approval by simple majority of the advisory board with (3) the town manager casting the tie-breaking vote in the event of a tie on the advisory committee.

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a new blog, a new job

Two weeks in (four working days) and I am ready to make a blog post about my new, part-time gig as town archivist at Garrett Park, Maryland Archives.

Garrett Park is a lovely community in the Washington, DC suburbs. The first day I visited for my interview I remember thinking it reminded me of a cross between the prep school I attended in central Virginia and a couple of embassies I worked at in West Africa – peaceful, placid, well-manicured. I said to myself after the interview, ‘If they offer me this job, I’m gonna take it, the long commute notwithstanding.” Well, they offered, and I accepted!

About Garrett Park. The passing of the Civil Service Act of 1883 resulted in the springing up of several local communities in Washington, DC and on its periphery. Employees could depend on a steady career path, not subject to the vagaries of political favors and election spoils. Garrett Park, incorporated in 1898, was one of these communities. A Maryland.gov website says it was named for John W. Garrett, a B&O Railroad president.  Land was originally purchased by Henry W. Copp who formed the Metropolitan Investment and Building Company in 1886 to acquire 500 acres of land on which to develop a commuter summer home suburb for artists and professionals along the Metropolitan Branch of the B&O Railroad.  In 1975, Garrett Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It passed local legislation to declare itself an arboretum in 1977. It declared itself a nuclear free zone in 1982.

The archives itself is a repository of historically significant collections covering the history and governance of the town. Collections include detailed records of all its residences, historical records of the town council and other civic activities, and oral histories of many of its residents. The archives shares the basement of Town Hall with the post office, frequently visited by the public as Garrett Park does not have residential mail delivery.

The work of former town clerks Betsy White and Sibyl Griffin and librarian Norah Payne laid an excellent foundation for the archives by preserving and organizing town records and many of the collections we now have. The town’s first archivist was Elizabeth Shidler, who can be credited with tremendous work and keen insight in pulling the archives together. Since 2009, an active and very capable archives advisory committee has worked with the town manager and a series of part-time archivists and volunteers to build on the valuable work of White, Griffin, Payne and Shidler. Here are some photos:

 

 

In the first week I updated the Montgomery County Volunteer Center website and already we have received a respectable response from interested potential volunteers, whom I’ll be able to orientate as soon as I have finished my own orientation! This week coming I hope to make courtesy calls on other archivists in Montgomery County.

It is a tight space, but I lived on submarines for four years back during the Cold War and I believe I can make this space work for volunteers, for researchers, and for collection processing and preservation.

My aim is to make this a biweekly post, at least, maybe a weekly one if there is stuff to post. In the next post we will look at individual collections and software applications used to organize and preserve the collections and make them accessible to researchers and the public at large.