ancestryink fisherman

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Out of the Depths

Shipwreck Exhibit  (Image from M.V. Museum website)
I like to think of the local historical society as a schooner. "In the holds"  are shelves and vaults and boxes that are almost as cool, dark and time-worn as the interior of a ship's cabin.  She carries the tales, local business, and passengers of our past.

And master of this great ship is the able administrator of all these great physical resources, usually assisted by a small but knowledgeable and devoted crew.  It is an occupation, like being a mariner, that is more about passion than comfort or prosperity.

So, today I re-arranged the blog's "Resource" list to create a separate category for the Historical Society.  My list only contains those I have actually visited in person.  This list will grow.

Also, as a special highlight today, I'm pointing our bow towards the Martha's Vineyard Historical Society and its current exhibit "Out of the Depths," which I had the good fortune to see two weeks ago.  I have a long history with Martha's Vineyard (near 30 years of island living) and the Historical Society has, like a good ship, been well-tended, its sails 'filled with wind' to meet the growing Island's interests.  The research library is dark, cool, and replete with studious researchers, some glove-clad, others deep in local family genealogies or local Island histories.  Quiet prevails.
M.V. Museum and Fresnel Lens  (photo from website)

I remember years ago visiting this same Library.  It was winter.  The room was barely heated and two women worked at cataloging and weeding books, vertical files, photos and artifacts.  One of them would literally disappear down an ancient staircase in a hole in the floor (to the basement, I guess) and come up with more books.  I was researching my house - an old Captain's home in Chilmark built in the mid-1800's (and which later became for awhile, the town Poor Farm.)

These welcoming women handed me several boxes containing hundreds of loose photos, many from the 1800's, and invited me to just sit on that old wood floor and have my way with them.  Most fun ever.

It is a little different now.  It truly is like a great ship - now a 'breeze' to navigate the holdings under the direction of the collections manager, Dana Costanza Street-a young woman with a completely clear grasp of the collections - and an avid interest in all topics, it seems.  Creative imagination being key to a good researcher, Dana was able to "think outside the box" so to speak and locate resources that might contain the information I needed.

In future posts, I would like to highlight more of our favorite historical societies.  They are all worthy of mention, and all in need of support.

The other day, at the Old York Historical Society, "Mrs Virginia Spiller" the sharp-as-a-tack librarian/historian/author there said about her imminent retirement: "I'm 75!  I'd like to finally have some time with my husband."  She will be missed, I am sure.

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