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The Thompson-Ames Historical Society
writes a weekly news release.

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1-2-06   Preserving the Memory of a Community’s History – Part 2

This past November, Thompson-Ames Historical Society released an article telling about the essential role that historical societies play in preserving the memory of a community’s history and the specific ways in which Gilford’s historical society has promoted the preservation of Gilford’s history.

Included in the article was a statement that a series of articles was planned to more fully expound on the efforts of Gilford’s historical society. Today’s article is the second in the series.

Thompson-Ames Historical Society, a 62 year-old 501(c)(3) organization, has a two-prong mission: the preservation and celebration of Gilford’s cultural history. This educational thrust is essential to preserving the memory of Gilford’s history.

The memory of Gilford’s farm-based history is revealed not only in the museum buildings themselves and their more than two dozen theme display areas but also in T-AHS’s archival collections.

Beginning in the year 2000, Gilford citizens have voiced their willingness to include in the Town Budget $10,000 annually to support T-AHS’s efforts to preserve and make accessible to the public the town’s history. This annual $10,000 line-item support has enabled T-AHS to have a two-days per week paid employee to serve collection-management needs.

“What exactly have been the collection management accomplishments achieved since June of 2000?” is a valid question.

In April and May of 2000, T-AHS volunteers created office space upstairs in its Grange Museum Building (which is on the National Register of Historic Places as the John J. Morrill Store of 1857) and, using grant monies, purchased a computer and other needed office equipment.

The first goal was to begin to transfer to the computer, accession records primarily found in the Society’s old ledger. To accomplish this, T-AHS invested $595 in the purchase of computer “Past Perfect” software, a highly recommended collection management program, and also paid to have the collection management employee attend an archival workshop sponsored by the New Hampshire Library Association.

Sadly it was realized that the old ledger and accession records of 1943-2000 were scanty at best in respect to needed information about donated items, the donors, and pertinent provenance. Whatever information was found was entered into the Past Perfect computer program. Whenever necessary attempts were made to reconstruct accessioning and provenance information, of course, each item had to be located in the museum, notes taken about its condition, its accession number verified, and a digital photograph taken.

To find needed pertinent information, T-AHS curators joined forces with the collection manager to read through all T-AHS meeting minutes in search of information about donated items. Notes from this search were also compared to items for which no record had been found. – How difficult it must have been during the period of 1943 – 2000 for Thompson-Ames Historical Society volunteers to record and to keep records at the Union Meetinghouse where there was no office, and where the limited display space was already over-crowded and heat and electric lights were scarce!

Collection management work in 2000 was not limited to records and acquisitions of the past, but rather also had to keep pace with additional items that were being offered to T-AHS. This required development of an accession policy for T-AHS; curators Judy DalPan, Shirley Burns and Dot Pangburn joined forces with Thompson-Ames Historical Society’s collection manager in January 2001 to develop a collection policy which was subsequently submitted to the T-AHS Board of Directors for approval. – Having such a policy defines the scope of the museum as well as the acquisitions and collections.

As names were being added in the Past Perfect program, a paper trail pertinent to genealogy started to evolve and has proved useful for genealogical searches and purposes.

By February of 2001, 76 objects still had not been reconciled – either no record or no item! About 150 items were in need of more clarification of some aspect of the cataloging, and as stated in our 2001 collection manager’s report, “All items need to be examined for maintenance and preservation, and a schedule needs to be set up to see that it is done.”

By March 2001, museum artifacts donated 1943-2000 had been completed except for clothing, “problems,” and reexamination of some items in the Meetinghouse. Archival items were ready to be dealt with, so a request was submitted to the National Endowment for the Humanities for a Preservation Assistance Grant in the amount of $2,995, with the expressed purpose being “how to identify our needs and goals in preserving our paper collection of photographs, documents, etc.”

At the same time the use of Past Perfect software was extended to include membership files, which would help the work of T-AHS’s membership chairperson.

In July of 2001, the beginning of a Library Reference collection was established in Thompson-Ames Historical Society’s office. The nucleus of this collection was books received via Gary Francke from Kathy Franke’s reference library, several books of which Kathy had lent to the Society over the years to aid in our research efforts.

Also in July our collection manager went to Shelburne Museum in Vermont to attend a two and a half day workshop sponsored by the Association of State Libraries. The workshop, designed to address collection management in the broadest sense, was of key importance to Thompson-Ames Historical Society, as will be revealed in the next article in this series which is scheduled for release in two weeks.

More information about Thompson-Ames Historical Society and its programs can be found on the Society’s website, www.gilfordhistoricalsociety.