This is our forty-sixth year of operation of the Danvers Archival Center. We were established in October 1972, following a Danvers Town Meeting vote authorizing the establishment of the position of Town Archivist as a department head within the Peabody Institute Library. Our first home was the basement of the Danvers Historical Society’s “Memorial Hall,” a secure 1930 brick and concrete building located at 13 Page Street.
The Danvers Historical Society generously loaned their Memorial Hall basement to the Town of Danvers’s new Archival Center at no cost to the town. In 1981, after nine years at the Historical Society, the Archives moved to the newly renovated and expanded Peabody Institute Library at 15 Sylvan Street, which included space in the underground addition designed specifically for the Archival Center. The 2,668 square foot space included a large public reading room, a secure manuscript storage area, and a walk-in vault with a 6-hour fire-rated door.
Our operations are guided by a Collection Policy Statement which reads: “The Danvers Archival Center is a repository for information relating to the history and development of the geographical area encompassing Salem Village and Danvers, Massachusetts. The Archival Center performs its mission by gathering and collecting flat, informational materials through gifts and purchases and through permanent deposits in cases where the material is owned by functioning corporate organizations. Among items collected by the Archival Center are books, pamphlets, monographs, manuscripts, broadsides, newspapers, maps, architectural drawings, photographs, prints, audio and video tapes, films, DVDs, CDs, and microfilms.” All our materials are stored in a secure and stable environment, and are available to all who wish to use them.
Our collections are ever increasing. Sources of new materials include documents, maps, and photographs deposited by Danvers town agencies and organizations, as well as new items being regularly donated by the public, or purchased through eBay, auctions, autograph and book catalogues, and any other source we can find.
Our collection is one of the largest and most important documentary resources of a community of its size in the entire country. It is a collection of a seldom-found mixture of diverse municipal, corporate, and private research materials gathered together through a cooperative combination from many organizations that were willing to turn over physical custody of their papers for their being conserved, preserved, properly stored, catalogued and accessible. Our commitment is to continuously upgrade our collections, and to properly store and protect them for use by the present and future generations.
This report will highlight Archival Center activities during fiscal year 2018, between July 2017 and June 2018.
Many thanks goes to our new and innovative Library Director Alex Lent, who is very supportive of the Archives and our special projects, and who is inclusive and often meets with me and visits the Archives to keep current with our activities and possible needs. Our very special Assistant Director, Jennifer McGeorge, is always interested and supportive of the Archives, and very kind to me and my requests. Two other members of the staff who regularly assist the Archives are Jim Riordan and Susan Kontos. Jim is always willing to create and assist in the technical aspects of our Archive website. His work is top notch, fast and accurate. Sue regularly assists me with all budget matters in a department that has many non-traditional orders from eBay and auctions that are not geared to municipal accounting procedures. She keeps her books and I keep my own records of expenditures, and at the conclusion of this past fiscal year our two sets of records agreed to the penny. Thanks also goes out to the nine-member Board of Library Trustees led by President Mike Hagan, Each member is serious about his/her responsibility, and the Board is continually supportive of the Archives and its goals.
Julie Silk of Danvers has been working part time in the Reference and other departments of the Library for over twelve years, and is familiar with both the Library and Archives. She has a real interest in history and knowledge of the many technical skills that I lack. She is a great worker, willing to go the extra mile in the Archives, and I rely on her knowledge and enthusiasm which create a great work environment, and a welcoming Archival Center to all visitors. She works an average of 8 hours per week at the Archives.
Then there is Thomas Marsella who volunteers at the Archives on Wednesday mornings. Tom has been with the Archives since 2003. Several years ago he retired as a senior page here at the library earning money through the town, but has found the attraction of his pay ($0) here at the Archives too good to retire from his volunteer position. Tom is a gregarious, always willing to do-any-task worker. This past fiscal year he volunteered 116 hours at the Archives in researching, cataloging, accessioning, and performing many other archival tasks.
It’s always satisfying when other out-of-town organizations or institutions want to visit and discuss our establishment and running of the Danvers Archival Center, attempting to emulate part of it for their own community. This past year I have had several visits and various phone discussions with officials of the Town of Marblehead, which is attempting to establish a similar archive. In October I hosted a tour and meeting with Marblehead officials, including the Town Administrator, Town Clerk, Archive Consultant, and Chairman of the Marblehead Historical Commission. The ancient and historic coastal town is now in the planning phase to construct an Archival Center of its own.
It is also pleasing to conduct several tours each year for people interested in the workings of the Archives and its collections. Among special tours this past year were with the Archivist at the Peabody Institute Library in Peabody, and on May 24th with the new, enthusiastic Assistant Town Manager, Jen Breaker. Also accompanying us was Danvers High School senior, Michael Walke, who was serving for a week as an intern at both the Library and Town Hall, as a possible introduction into college study for municipal government service.
During FY 2018 we obtained, accessioned, processed, and catalogued 56 items for inclusion within our Public Reading Room book collection. Twenty-five of the volumes were acquired through gift donations, while 28 were purchased, and 3 deposited.
We continue to add items to our nationally known “Ellerton J. Brehaut Witchcraft Collection.” Purchased items included: Increase Mather; Clergyman and Scholar, by Norma Lutz (2001); and Satan’s Scourge, by Lewis Putnam Turco (2009). A rare book purchased for the witchcraft collection was Spiritualism, by William McDonald (1866). It is stored with other rare witchcraft books in our walk-in-vault.
This year’s donated acquisitions included two separate books with the same title, donated several days apart, and with both authors expressing thanks to the Archives. In the Shadow of Salem: A Novel Inspired By True Events (2018) is based on the life of Mehitabel Braybrooke of Ipswich, “a woman twice condemned, and once redeemed.” Written by genealogist and author Donna B. Gawell of Westerville, Ohio, the author includes a generous acknowledgment to me and the Archival Center for information I provided her on a number of occasions. This gift book and letter of thanks arrived by mail in late June.
Shortly thereafter, I was visited by Rhode Island State Records Coordinator and historian, Richard Hite, who brought in a gift copy of his newly published book, In the Shadow of Salem: The Andover Witch Hunt of 1692. Richard had visited me several years ago, and I encouraged his wanting to research the role of Andover in the history of the 1692 witchcraft outbreak. Andover’s history of the witchcraft rivals Salem’s for the number of accused and executed. Hite’s resulting volume is very attractive, based on extensive primary sources, and the first scholarly book which concentrates on this aspect of the witch outbreak, including the extensive family and church relationships within Andover. It is interesting how these two new books relate to events not having to do with the traditional concentration of Salem area people and events. Also donated to our witchcraft collection was Witchcraft and Witches, by Henry Curtis Ahl (1967).
Our “Danvers History” book collection received as donations several volumes including: Historic Danvers, by Frank Moynahan (1894); The Onion, a Holten High School yearbook (1947); A Designer’s Holiday Show House, by the Danvers Historical Society; and Heritage 2018, the newest Danvers High School yearbook (2018). Deposited through the Danvers Historical Society was a near perfect copy in original binding of the 1848 volume, History of the Town of Danvers, by J. W. Hanson, including a paper label “Sold by George Creamer, Salem.” Our own Myrna Fearer, author of the weekly Danvers Herald “Circling the Square” series donated a number of items including the following locally produced cookbooks: Hunt’s Treasured Recipes (ca 1960); and the Thorpe School Cookbook (1984).
For many years High School Librarian Nan Blanchette has been sending over to us each June the most recent copy of the Danvers High School yearbook, Nan retired from the High School Library this past June, (though still working part time here at the Library). We thank her for her assistance to our collection these many years, and congratulate her on her retirement from the High School Library.
And speaking of yearbooks, this year we participated in a wonderful project bringing us great reference materials at no cost. Back in late July 2017, I was contacted by Mark Lee, a state representative for the Oklahoma Correctional Industries, which does data entry and digital imaging of Oklahoma records through a job training program utilizing screened prisoners. Their for-profit digitizing allowed them to begin their OCI High School Yearbook Project several years ago of offering free services at first to Oklahoma Libraries and historical agencies, and now across the country. We were invited to send yearbooks dating between 1950 and 1989 to them at their cost. They would then scan the volumes at 300 dpi, saved in a PDF format, and the originals returned within 10 to 12 weeks, along with a full set of DVDs containing digital copies of each yearbook. Sounded too good to be true! They also gave a list of libraries with whom they had previously worked, and I contacted several. The librarian from Haverhill stated –“I was skeptical of OCI, but they did an excellent job! I highly recommend them.”
After much prep work, I sent three large boxes via FedEx containing 36 yearbooks from 1954 to 1989 to Oklahoma in October. By early December they were returned, along with two sets of DVDs, the quality being very good. Many thanks to the OCI program. We hope to further participate in the future.
Also donated to us from some 6 or 7 sources, though not accessioned or put into the count of new books, were a large number of copies of serial volumes already within our collections. Included in this category were Holten magazines, Statements of the Accounts of Danvers, Danvers Annual Town Reports; Danvers High School Yearbooks, and many issues of the Danvers Historical Society Collections (1913-1987).
Beginning in 2016 North Shore Media Group began publishing a colorful, glossy quarterly magazine titled, Danvers, featuring numerous articles on Danvers people, places, businesses, and events. This Danvers magazine joins with other sister communities producing similar publications about their community. For the last two issues I have selected an illustration from within the Archives, and written a description of the photo and its significance. Unfortunately the 1866 Memorial Day procession image chosen as the illustration for the summer 2018 issue was mistakenly replaced by the editor with another image, so the description did not match the photograph. A corrected article is scheduled to appear in the fall issue. With minor glitches aside, the glossy publication touting fine production value spotlights the best of Danvers, and copies are always made available to us for our collection.
A number of books were purchased for our printed local history collection including: The Danvers Directory (1908); The Relations Between the B&M Railroad and the Danvers Railroad (1857); The Battle of Hubbardton, (1927); Speech at the Dinner of George Peabody, by Edward Everett (1857); Rules for Employees of the Danvers Lunatic Hospital (ca. 1880); Bickerstaff’s Boston Almanack, published by Ezekiel Russell (1782); The Road to Concord, by J. L. Bell (2016); 1777, Tipping Point at Saratoga, by Dean Snow (2016); and three copies of The Spire, the Saint John’s Prep Yearbook (1950, 1952, & 1953).
This past year the very successful illustrated history publication series, Images of America, printed by Arcadia Publishing out of South Carolina, issued its third volume relating to Danvers subjects. Danvers State Hospital is a 128-page, softbound illustrated history of this Commonwealth of Massachusetts mental health hospital opened in 1878. Gathered by Katherine Anderson and Robert Duffy, the volume has an introduction by Danvers’s John Archer. Many of the illustrations are taken from the two Archival Center website’s on the State Hospital, identified and used with our permission. The authors also purchased rights to several other images within our collection, that do not appear on our website.
Another volume purchased this year was a new biography on Danvers native, and American Folk Hero, Israel Putnam. Researched and written by retired professor Robert Ernest Hubbard of Connecticut, the volume follows Putnam (1718-1790) from his birth and early years in Salem Village (Danvers), through his numerous military exploits during the French & Indian War and the American Revolution. Titled Major General Israel Putnam: Hero of the American Revolution, the 256-page illustrated volume reintroduces Putnam to a new generation.
In early 2018 Rachel Alexander, Assistant Head of Technical Services here at the Library had contacted Hubbard to request him to speak at our highly successful library lecture series held in the Gordon Room, a program that Rachel organizes. As the Danvers Historical Society owns the Putnam Birthplace, I thought a co-sponsorship of the event would work well, and asked Rachel and the Historical Society if they could co-sponsor the event, to which they agreed. Laura Cilley, staff member of the Society, coordinated the event and publicity, and on April 12, 2018, the program was given at the Gordon Room of the Library at 7:00 pm to an audience of some 80 people. Prior to Rachel’s introduction of Mr. Hubbard, I showed several blow-up images of Putnam and his birthplace, and mentioned that about at this time in New York City an 18th century French print of Israel Putnam was being auctioned at Swann Galleries, and I hoped that our absentee bid would be successful (it was, as is later mentioned in this report). I also briefly spoke about the wonderful gift of over $38,000 given to the Danvers Historical Society for the Israel Putnam Birthplace, through the efforts of Cynthia Hawkes Meehan by the Adam Hawkes Family Association. Mr. Hubbard’s talk was spellbinding, presenting popular and obscure stories about the exploits of Israel Putnam. He also inscribed copies of the Putnam book for our Archive collection.
Several rare books were also purchased for our Danvers History Collection including: a sermon titled, Man’s Dignity and Duty as a Reasonable Creature, by Rev. Peter Clark and given at Harvard College in 1763; and The Annual Register . . . for the Year 1775, published in London by J. & R. Dodsley in 1776 as a compendium of news, including the fighting breaking out in Massachusetts in April and May of 1775.
Our important “John Greenleaf Whittier Collection,” originally gathered and donated by Danvers native, professor, and Whittier scholar, Dr. Richard P. Zollo, is continually upgraded. (See the manuscript and photograph sections below concerning other Whittier items obtained). In our book collection we acquired the Whittier work, Saint Gregory’s Guest, published by Houghton, Mifflin and Company in 1887. Our copy is signed and inscribed by Whittier, and included in the Rare Book Collection housed in our walk-in vault. Also donated to the collection was The Complete Poetical Works of John Greenleaf Whittier (1883).
Besides all of the above described Danvers history books, I wanted to spotlight two not so valuable, but fine history books in which two Danvers men with the same last name are major players in the history of the west. Both volumes were acquired this year, one by gift, the other by purchase.
The first book was a modest purchase of $25. Titled, Massacre: The Tragedy at White River, by Marshall Sprague, this 1957 Little, Brown volume tells the story of a violent episode in Colorado in 1879 perpetrated by Ute Indians in reaction to cultural clashes between them, governmental policy and the local Indian Agent. Following a massacre of a group of whites, and the ambush and encirclement of a Calvary Troop by a large band of Utes, a white officer from Danvers and his troop of black “Buffalo” soldiers, without receiving orders, went to the rescue of their beleaguered fellow white troopers. The complicated story is enmeshed in cultural differences, misunderstandings, and racial prejudice, but a brave, shining act in this tragedy is the fact that Danvers native, Captain Francis S. Dodge, rescued his comrades from death.
In Sprague’s narrative, he describes: “For a dozen years, Dodge and Company D had toured the Southwest on escort duty, scouting, Indian fighting, and border patrol. No other company, white or black, had made a better record for high morale and devotion to duty. But somehow Dodge had never had the chance to lead his colored men into the sort of crisis which would show their courage and fighting skill for all the nation to see. Never until now.” For his gallantry, Dodge eventually received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The other book, a second copy donation to the Archives, is: Nothing Like It In The World: The Men Who Built The Transcontinental Railroad. Published in 2000, the book was written by acclaimed author Stephen E. Ambrose. We have a number of histories of the Transcontinental Railroad, but none that goes into such detail concerning the role played by Danvers native Grenville M. Dodge, Chief Engineer of the project.
In his epilogue, Ambrose summarizes the Civil War General and intimate of U. S. Grant by stating: “Grenville Dodge rightly gets most of the credit for building the UP [Union Pacific Railroad]. It was a stupendous project and his great ambition. . . . Not many men, in his lifetime or later, spent so many nights sleeping on the ground. But he was also active as a railroad lobbyist and as a projector, builder, financier, and director of railroads. His record places him high among the railroad builders of the world.” (For more about Grenville Dodge, see our web article: https://www.danverslibrary.org/archive/?page_id=2702)
Broadsides are a sub-category of printed items within our collection. These items are one-sided printed sheets, usually of a large format giving information important to a moment in time. Through the deposit of town records, we have a large collection of Revolutionary War period broadsides issued by the province and state generally relating to the war with the mother country. These broadsides are historically quite significant and also quite valuable due to their being so rare.
Two of these broadsides were catalogued this year, being a 1777 sheet offering a cash bounty, clothing, equipment, and land to men who enlist in the Continental Army for the duration of the war. A second broadside issued in 1779 by the Massachusetts General Court again requests troops and informs that a bounty of $300 would be paid to each man who enlists as a soldier for the Continental Army.
Another broadside obtained by us as a gift is of a non-political nature. Found as a backing to a framed photographic donation to the archives, the broadside (somewhat cut down) is a colorful playbill of coming movie attractions to be shown at the Orpheum Movie Theatre on High Street. We were able to date the item to the week of October 6, 1940. Among coming attractions noted on the broadside are Three Faces West, staring John Wayne; and a festival of “Great Walt Disney Hits.”
Newspapers are another sub-category of printed materials. Donated this year was a copy of The Danvers Herald Souvenir Edition Town of Danvers 200th Anniversary (June 26, 1952).
Among newspapers obtained through purchase was: The London Chronicle, published June 15-17, 1775. This issue has an early, sketchy account of the Lexington Alarm of April 19, 1775, including a report on the numbers killed and wounded, as well as details concerning the resulting beginning of the siege of Boston. Back in 1989 we acquired the later London Chronicle issue of June 24-27, 1775, which gave a more detailed account of the British expedition to Concord.
Two other newspapers purchased were: Harper’s Weekly reporting on June 5, 1869, of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad ceremonies at Promontory Point, Utah, in which Grenville M. Dodge played a major role; and the February 1876 issue of The Cottage Hearth, with an illustrated story on American poet John Greenleaf Whittier, who that year began a 16 year residency at Oak Knoll in Danvers.
We continue to order 35mm microfilm rolls of the Danvers Herald newspapers for long-term preservation storage and reference use. This past year we sorted, boxed, and sent off to Heritage Archives in California hard copies of the 2017 Danvers newspaper. We order and retain both the original negative and the Silver positive reel of the newspaper, as well as having them return the hardcopy newspapers for preservation storage.
Added to our Danvers History Union Catalogue were 190 cards, while 95 new main entry, title, and subject cards were created and interfiled into our Witchcraft Catalogue.
“Ephemera” are a class of printed paper items which are typically single items, pamphlets, sheets, etc., originally meant for temporary use. Though not typically warranting individual cataloguing, these point-in-time bits of history can be very interesting and informative. We keep our ephemera collection within acid-free folders under appropriate subject headings and placed in vertical file cabinets in our Manuscript Storage Room.
Among ephemera items donated this past fiscal year were: a seven page give-away booklet from C. N. Perley general store with train schedules between Danvers and Boston, and a listing of fire alarm boxes in Danvers, along with local advertisements. This booklet (1896) was found this year by the Urbanski family within a wall of their house under repair; membership cards belonging to Miss Sarah E. Hunt and Abner P. Goodell, who were members of the Salem Oratorio Society (1888, 1898); two articles by Myrna Fearer written for The Jewish Journal (2017); official program of the 200th Anniversary of Danvers (1952); programs of the Salem Oratorio Society for the performance of The Creation by Haydn (1869-1871, 1879); Holten High School Class of 1947 Reunion (1987); ordination program of Reverend Daniel Joseph Sheehan (1953); a photocopy of a typescript “Hotwatt History,” by Sandra Horwitz (1998); and a large group of 21st century mail cards, advertisements, notices, and other ephemera relating to Danvers organizations and businesses, most distributed via the U. S. mail.
Items of ephemera are often offered for sale through eBay. Among items purchased on this popular website were: a ticket to the social assembly of XQZ (Excuse?) to be held at Porter’s Hall (1881); a card containing an illustration and the Whittier poem, Barbara Fritchie; a colored calendar with an ad for William A. Berry, builder (1926); a price list brochure for bulbs manufactured by Consolidated Electric Lamp Company of Danvers (1920); a receipt for weighing of hay on a Fairbanks scale (1865); and a scrapbook put together by some local collector between the 1880s and the 1930s. The book was in poor shape and had over 100 articles, programs, and tickets that were separated and redistributed in appropriate ephemera files.
And speaking of “ephemera,” we were also able to include two small, contemporary newsy items about Danvers that momentarily had a national audience. On February 6, 2018, while my wife and I were watching the television program Jeopardy, one of the categories the three contestants were questioned on was “Memorials.” We were surprised and delighted to see and hear the following answer worth $800: “Danvers, Massachusetts has a memorial for those who died after being accused of this in the late 17th century.” One of the contestants buzzed in with the correct question to this – “What is witchcraft?” Take that Salem!
The next month the poplar Internet search engine “Google” replicated a mural as their “doodle art for the day” banner over their box used to search a topic. In the write-up about the doodle, Google states, “Today we celebrate George Peabody, a man widely considered “the father of modern philanthropy.” The image pictures George Peabody and some kids opening a book which has pop-ups of institutions founded by Peabody, including our own 1892 Peabody Institute Library. The illustration is taken from a mural created for the cafeteria of the George Peabody Elementary School in San Francisco, California. Both these items are now part of our “ephemera” file on Danvers.
Formal gift acknowledgments were sent via mail to 27 individuals or institutions which donated books, items of ephemera, photographs, and/or manuscripts to the Archival Center, reflecting single or multiple donations to us.
We occasionally find within new material to be catalogued photos or documents which do not relate to Danvers, and we attempt to send these items to the appropriate place. This past year we sent as unrestricted gifts items to the Topeka and Shawnee Kansas County Public Library, the Ipswich, and the Saugus Historical Societies. Also several organizations and people temporarily borrowed items from our collections, including original or copies of photographs and documents for exhibition or research purposes.
Popular preservation periodicals to which we subscribe and are available for perusing in our Reading Room include: Old House Journal, Early American Life, and Preservation News. We also subscribe to several genealogical publications including Essex Society of Genealogy, New England Historical Genealogical Register, About Towne, New England Archivist, American Archivist, The Manuscript Society, and The Endecott-Endicott Family Association.
Since 1990 we have been pleased to allow the genealogical group, The Towne Family Association, storage space for a four-drawer file of their records here in the Archives. This Association includes the important and historic Nurse, Cloyse and Esty families, and the group sends us multiple copies of their very fine quarterly journal, About Towne. The group recently was able to find secure storage of their own, and the materials have been removed, with much thanks to the Archives for years of courtesy storage.
This year we obtained 164 audio-visual items, mainly photographs, for our collections, 149 through gifts. Fifteen photographs and prints were purchased including: a carte-de-visite photograph of John Greenleaf Whittier signed by him, along with a cabinet photograph and an engraving of the famed poet; a large framed and matted photograph of President Grover Cleveland and his Cabinet members photographed in the White House, with the President and each member signing their name below their image. Photographed about 1885, the images include Secretary of War William Crowninshield Endicott, whose summer residence was at Glen Magna; several postcards of Danvers businesses (1960s); a color photograph of an Ahrens Fox Fire Engine purchased for Danvers in 1925; an 8th grade graduation class photo from the Maple Street School (1926); and three glossy photos of the Metal Hydrides, Inc., a sodium borohydride chemical facility off Route 114 taken by a professional photographer from the Boston Herald at the time the facility began operations in 1957.
Our most significant acquisition in the area of visual images this year is a rare ca. 1777 French print of American General Israel Putnam published in the midst of the American Revolution. Titled, Israel Putnam Esqr. Major General of the Connecticut forces and chief at the engagement on Bunc-Kershill [Bunker Hill] Boston 17 June 1775, the engraved portrait measures 31 x 20 cm. and is matted in an ornamental frame. The print is a re-worked copy of the 1775 English mezzotint print (which we also have within our collections) by C. Shepherd, and pictures Putnam in a blue and buff military coat flanked by red and white striped flag, and with his right arm resting on the barrel of a cannon. We obtained this print with an absentee bid at an auction by Swann Galleries in New York City.
Among photographs, prints, and other pictorial images donated to the Archives this past year were: a beautiful colorized, matted, and framed “View of the Collins House, North Danvers, Mass.” from Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion (1853); sixty-six 35mm color slides of the Danvers Memorial Day Parades (1988 & 1989); George Peabody’s tomb at Harmony Grove Cemetery (1920s); a long framed photograph of Masons in front of the Masonic Temple on High Street the day of its dedication (June 23, 1926); 13 color prints of gravestones in the Prince Cemetery (2018); 23 prints of various Holten High School sports teams (1930s-1950s); and 6 long photographs given by six different people of Holten High School graduation classes (1935, 1939, 1940, 1947, 1952, 1955). Also acquired by gift were 3 DVDs, including one by the Chemical Safety Board on research into the 2006 Danversport explosion titled, The Blastwave in Danvers (2008).
One of the projects Alex, our library director, has been working on is the refurbishing of the Library Foyer and the Standring Room, with decluttering, new paint, new curtains, etc. The large, beautiful George Peabody full length portrait has been moved from its location since 1892 into the foyer’s east wall, making it more prominent. I suggested it might be appropriate to include a framed history of the painting with an original carte-de-visite photograph from which the huge painting was replicated. I was able to locate an original ca. 1860s photo from England at a cost of $49 to use in the framed explanation. The copy with the image will read:
In 1856 renowned banker and philanthropist George Peabody gave $10,000 for the establishment of a branch library of the Peabody Institute Library of South Danvers (Peabody, Mass.) in Danvers. Danvers and South Danvers had separated into independent towns in 1855. By 1866 Mr. Peabody decided that the Danvers branch library should become completely independent, and donated $40,000 for that purpose. A Gothic style library, the Peabody Institute Library of Danvers, was built here on “Peabody Park” in 1869. The Library Trustees indicated to Mr. Peabody they would welcome a full-length portrait of him to be hung in the new building.
Peabody was a frequent subject in the 1860s for numerous engravings and photographs, including the smaller cartes-de-visite photos measuring 4” x 2¼”. Collecting cartes-de-visite of famous people was a popular pastime. The English photographer who popularized this size portrait was John Mayall (1813-1901).
Mayall made numerous photographic portraits of Peabody, including a full frame image of the Philanthropist taken in March 1866 at Brighton, England, with Peabody standing adjacent to an ornate table and in a mannered stance with his right hand tucked into his frock coat.
Peabody chose this image which was “magnified by the Solar Camera to its present size & painted in oil.” Peabody posed for the color version of the copy painting in January 1869, which portrait was approved by him on February 13, 1869, and the new, large portrait sent to Danvers.
On May 3, 1869, the Trustees passed a resolution of thanks to Peabody for an additional gift of $5,000, and for his full-length portrait to “adorn the walls of the Institute ... which exhibits such a specimen of the highest artistic skill and so accurate, animated and pleasing an image of his person.” The new Peabody Institute Library of Danvers was dedicated July 14, 1869, with Mr. Peabody present.
In July 1890 fire gutted the Library building, though through the efforts of Danvers High School students most of the 11,000 book collection was saved, as was the Peabody portrait by several boys, including later Library Trustee Ralph F. Abbott. When this, our present library building was dedicated in October 1892, the Peabody portrait was hung in the Library Reading Room (now the Standring Room). In April 2018 the portrait was moved to its new, more prominent location in the Library Foyer.
As time allows, our collections of previously held photographs and images within the photographic collection are accessioned, sorted, and placed in Mylar-type sleeves, and then stored within acid-free storage folders. Among our major photographic collections are multiple boxes housing images of Danvers houses and buildings arranged by street address, and pictures and images of people filed alphabetically by last name.
Several of our images were requested to be used in special projects and for which we waived a use fee. Several images of the Endecott Pear Tree from our Archive web site were requested to be used by the web site “Atlas Obscura.” The site is a compendium of unusual and wonderful places around the world that encourages people to visit and explore. Also the 1878 floor plan of the Danvers State Hospital Kirkbride Building was allowed to be used by Assistant Professor Owen Whooley of the Department of Sociology at the University of New Mexico. We also granted for use a photograph taken by me of the reproduction Salem Village Meeting House built for the movie, Three Sovereigns for Sarah, and now part of the Archive photo collection. The image was used by the Duxbury Rural & Historical Society for an exhibition panel.
Our manuscript collections are ever-growing. The collection includes materials collected and owned outright by the Peabody Institute Library/Archival Center, and deposit collections of the Danvers Historical Society, and Town of Danvers going back to 1752. Also deposited are collections of all the churches in town except for the Roman Catholic Church, and dozens of active and former Danvers organizations.
Among manuscripts donated to the Archives this past fiscal year as gifts included: papers, correspondence, and a large number of published magazine articles written by local author and nursery school director, Louise S. Morgan (1962-1982); an archaeological survey of the land previously owned by Creese & Cook Tannery (2016); a list of people attending the marriage of Dr. Edward Augustus Holyoke to Mary Viall (1759); an historical monograph of a talk given by Richard Trask at the 200th birthday dinner of the First Baptist Church (1993); the will of Wallace Parker Hood (1946); an exterior condition assessment concerning the conditions of the library by Finch & Rose (1997); and an Autograph Letter Signed (ALS) from Rev. Ezra Dodge Hines to Alice Witherbee (1914).
Seventy manuscripts representing 20 accessions were purchased in FY 2018, all processed and catalogued. Among these purchases are: a large number of correspondence of Charles Augustus Peabody, son of J. Flint & Betsey (Wilkins) Peabody, who as a student attended Phillips Andover and Amherst College. The letters are from friends and relatives concerning local and family news, and Peabody’s weighing his choice to become a minister or physician. He chose to be a doctor (1863-1872, 1878); invoice to Nathan P. Merriam for specialty shirts he sold (1869); deed to William Sutton for a dwelling sold by Joseph Shaw, Jr. (1838); an Aetna insurance policy to Edward D. Kimball for his mansion house “Locust Lawn” off Nichols Street (1857); deed selling 20 acres of land by Joshua Moulton (1789); a bill of lading issued to Edward Dearborn Kimball for shipping 28 packages from Danversport aboard the schooner R. G. Porter (186-?); deed to James Renfrew for three lots of land in Ohio from Martha (Page) Fowler (1816); and a receipt signed by David Putnam for money provided for a man to go in his place into the Continental Army (1781).
Very significant additions were made within our historically important Dr. Samuel Holten manuscript collection. Holten is undoubtedly Danvers’s most historically important citizen. Born in 1738, Holten served in just about every local, county, provincial, state and federal position except for chief executive. He was present and active at the birth of our nation, and though mostly unknown to popular history, is one of our “Founding Fathers.” Signer of the Articles of Confederation, member and President of the Continental Congress, Holten served “We the People” in many capacities till the very end of his life in January 1816.
Among new acquisitions to our Holten Manuscript Collection this past year were: three Holten receipts signed by Rev. Benjamin Wadsworth of Danvers (1796); a retained draft petition in Holten’s hand from all the delegates from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress concerning future Vice-President Elbridge Gerry, who had quit Congress over a procedural ruling (1780); a retained draft letter from Holten to George Wiatt concerning “peace being restored to our country, especially peace upon such honorable terms,” concerning the conclusion of the American Revolution (1783).
I have been aware of the availability of the last two items from a high priced Las Vegas autograph dealer since 2013. The items were offered at an astronomical price. In 2016 I made an offer calculated with my knowledge of the market value of other good content Holten items, but the offer was rejected. During the last two years their price had slowly come down, and this year with an additional temporary full stock reduction of 15%, I was finally able to purchase these two drafts, at even less than my original offer in 2016.
Tom Marcella continues to catalogue a backlog of Holten papers acquired previously through Cowan’s Auctions. Included are such disparate items as an invitation to dine with Hon. Elbridge Gerry (1784); a receipt for the purchase of a cow (1806); receipt for tax on a chaise (1801); invitation by Holten to the ordination of Rev. Wadsworth (1772); notification Holten has been elected as a Counselor to the Governor (1796); a political letter from Aaron Wood (1783); a family letter to Rev. Samuel Webster (1795); and a letter from a friend praising Holten for his long life of public and private good, but suggesting that due to Holten’s infirmities, he consider resigning the office of Judge of Probate (1814).
This was also a banner year for adding manuscripts to our “Dr. Richard P. Zollo Whittier Collection.” Five letters were purchased from four different dealers. They all were written by Whittier while he lived in Danvers at Oak Knoll on Summer Street. They date 1877, 1883, 1886 (2 letters) and 1890, and include a letter to poet William Leighton about his work, Sons of Godwin; editor and author N. H. Dole; and another letter to author and illustrator Irene E. Jerome, praising her new book Nature’s Hallelujah. Also acquired was an autograph fair copy poem by Whittier titled The Way, and signed August 15, 1874. Since the wonderful and very significant donation by Dick Zollo of his large Whittier collection in 2005, the collection has continued to expand.
On a very sad note, my good friend and mentor Dr. Richard Paul Zollo died in San Francisco on December 18, 2017, after an extended illness. Born in Danvers September 30, 1926, Dick’s life and legacy are rich: his positive impact upon his beloved home town of Danvers; his many civic contributions (including being a founder and President of the Friends of the Peabody Institute Library, and Danvers Historical Society President); his influence upon the education and intellectual growth of thousands of students, both in high school and in college; his rich legacy of producing a dozen meticulously researched books on history and biography, and scores of popular history and scholarly articles for periodicals and the local newspapers; his modest demeanor and friendly manner; his donations of money and time for good causes, and donations of items and objects for museum and library preservation; his deep faith; and his positively touching the lives of thousands of people all combine to create a sterling legacy by which so many of us are humbled by its breadth. Thank you, Dick, for all your gifts.
In what spare time we can steal, we continue to catalogue the backlog of Town of Danvers records on deposit here within the Archives. We have been concentrating this season on early Town Treasurer records. Among materials sorted, catalogued, and stored were three volumes of treasurer’s accounts, giving orders on the town treasury (1752-1841); a duplicate volume as to dates covered, but which includes lists of militia and fire department men exempt from a poll tax (1829-1840); three volumes of treasurer’s account books for orders on the town treasury by the selectmen, school districts and for state aid (1857-1911); a treasurer’s account book categorizing certain recurring costs including snow removal, ringing church bells, expenses for the reception of George Peabody in Danvers in October 1856, killing of dogs, etc. (1855-1859).
Also acquired this past year is what is known as an “archival estray,” being an official town record which at some point was separated from other town records. We purchased from a private manuscript dealer a copy of a perambulation record in which the selectmen walked the town boundaries between Danvers and Topsfield (1778).
One hundred nineteen (119) new catalogue cards were created from cataloguing our manuscripts, and interfiled within our Manuscript Union Catalogue.
Maps, both printed and manuscript, are another collection area within the Archival Center, as are Plans and Architectural Records. Nothing new in these categories was acquired this past year.
The Archives was open 48 weeks this past fiscal year. During that time 684 patrons physically visited the Archives and used our resources. I also answered 693 telephone calls, while 863 letters and emails were gone through, many requiring my answers to them via research, or in using some modicum of cobwebbed brain memory.
A good portion of the request for research at the Archives now comes from email requests, rather than in-person visits. This is partially the result of our collections becoming known beyond our immediate geographical area, through media attention, and our having such a successful website. Each year we receive quite a few email requests from students around the country, often involved in “National History Day.” This multi-week educational program promotes “the study and appreciation of history among students” from grade 6 through high school. One such typical request came from three eighth grade students from North Central Washington state who were working on “conflict and compromise in history relating to the Salem trials of 1692.” Many requests are for phone interviews, this one done in late November 2017. The kids are usually very enthusiastic, and knowledgeable, and audio tape the interview. At times they are a little more sophisticated, as was the Exeter High School students in March who interviewed me via phone on an in-school generated podcast.
As Archivist I also gave talks and presentations either here in the Archives or outside the building to six groups representing some 490 people. Among the groups I spoke to was the Danvers Historical Society at Tapley Memorial Hall in May; the general public at a July program at the recreated Salem Village Meetinghouse at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead; a group of students from the College of New Jersey, led by Professor Michele Tarter, and over 100 delightful third graders from Amesbury visiting Danvers witchcraft sites and the Peabody Institute Library in November. The visit and follow-up curriculum was arranged by my daughter, Elizabeth Peterson. Eating lunch sitting on the floor of the Library’s Gordon Room, the kids were both attentive and enthusiastic as I continued to talk with and show them some artifacts from the Parsonage Archaeological Site.
One project, which began as an emailed reference question sent by Brian Atwood of Pennsylvania, was concerned with locating the grave of his ancestor Jonathan Waitt, a Revolutionary War veteran. There were two soldiers from Danvers named Jonathan Waitt, and it took some detective work to find the correct one and for me to locate the grave of his ancestor.
Both reporters Mary Byrne with the Danvers Herald and Ethan Forman with The Salem News wrote great front page stories about this project in late July 2017. The following is an amalgam of their articles: Ethan began his story with, “Time and the elements have worn away Pvt. Jonathan Waitt’s name on the horizontal sandstone marker at his final resting place.” The soldier had served in the Continental Army beginning in 1781 with stints with the 8th and 3rd Massachusetts Regiments. He died in Danvers on January 12, 1821, but his flat grave marker inscription at the High Street Graveyard had been eaten away by climate and acid rain, so that today the inscription is illegible.
Brian Atwood of Easton, Pennsylvania was researching his ancestors, including Waitt, whose death is recorded in Danvers Vital Records. He contacted both Director of Public Health and Veterans Affairs Peter Mirandi and me for any assistance. According to Foreman, “The break came thanks to Trask, who happened to have a set of 1930s Works Progress Administration maps in the Danvers Archival Center. The maps showed the locations of veterans’ graves in town at that time. Trask went to the location for Waitt’s tomb spelled out in the old map, and found the sandstone marker flat on the ground. ‘Acid rain took away the words,’ Trask said.” The grave was unique, however, in that it was a flat stone resting on a slab, while most of the other stones in the graveyard were set upright. This flat “tomb” had been so designated on the WPA map. According to Mary Byrne’s article, “With this information, Atwood was able to apply for a new headstone through the U. S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, and the new headstone arrived in January 2017.” In the spring, Mr. Jeff Moore of Kimball Memorials installed the new marker just behind the original, and a new flag with an American Revolution holder was placed on the grave.
On July 29, 2017, a ceremony was conducted at the Graveyard at 45 High Street. Over 75 people participated, including Brian Atwood and his immediate family, joined by 7 other descendants. The recreated 18th century militia, the Danvers Alarm List Company, and Danvers Veterans groups including their color guard, marched into the graveyard. Libby Potter and the General Israel Putnam Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution conducted the ceremonies. Rev. Bert White of the Alarm List gave an invocation, followed by remarks by Atwood, Potter, and I. Mr. Atwood’s young son and daughter then uncovered the new granite marker. The Alarm List fired three volleys from their black powder muskets, and taps was played on the bugle. Media from two Boston television stations and local newspapers, as well as Danvers CATV, recorded the program. Mary Byrne concluded her report in the Danvers Herald by writing, “Trask applauded Atwood’s work. ‘It’s nice that a descendant took it upon himself to make an improvement . . . It’s just one of those nice little projects that make a community special.’”
Though the Archival Center does not collect objects, exceptions are items relating to the Peabody Institute Library and George Peabody, often of a souvenir or commemorative nature. This year, through eBay, we purchased three separate silver George Peabody medals originally meant to be issued to top scholars graduating from Holten High School. One medal is inscribed on the reverse to “Annie Porter Felton, 1879,” while the two others are uninscribed. Two different designs are represented in these three examples from the 1870s and 1880s.
This past year I participated or assisted in several broadcast and taped programs. Back in FY2017 I had been contacted by Lisa Wolfinger, head of Lone Wolf Media, concerning a series they were producing for the Smithsonian Television Network titled Hidden History. They wanted to do a program on the Salem Witchcraft for the Smithsonian series. I had worked with Lisa years ago on a top quality production for History Channel titled, Witch Hunt. Also involved in the project was Tom Phillips, an independent documentary producer with whom I had worked with years ago on the introductory film shown several times a day at the National Park Visitors’ Center in Salem. Following a planning meeting here in the Archives, and meeting with the series Senior Producer, Chris Bryson, over a number of months I answered frequent phone calls and emails relating to research questions and various logistics of filming in Danvers.
A major part of the documentary would be concerned with the recent re-discovery of the general location of the place in 1692 where the witch victim were executed in Salem, the site first located in the early 20th century by historian Sidney Perley. Recently the City of Salem, using Community Preservation monies, created a memorial off Proctor Street in Salem commemorating the site, which memorial was to be dedicated in July 2017. Major participants in the re-discovery of the execution site included historians Emerson Baker, who would also serve as the host for the Smithsonian program; Ben Ray of the University of Virginia; and meticulous, multi-book author Marilynne Roach.
The production company also wanted to use as a vehicle for telling the story, someone related to witchcraft victim John Procter, who with Professor Baker could discover part of obscure family history. Wellll – as I am a ggg... grandson of Procter, I gave them the name of my daughter, Elizabeth Peterson and niece Lisa Trask, if that didn’t smack too much of nepotism. I was concerned that it might be a bit weird to use a relative of one of the “experts” as one who discovers the connection with the past. “Nope, not a problem,” and though Lisa was not available, Elizabeth did a great job, if I do say so myself. She visited the Parsonage Archaeological site with Baker, with a drone shooting some of the scenes; visited the Dorchester grave of Judge William Stoughton with Baker and Pulitzer prize author Stacy Schiff; the Nurse Homestead; and other sites, including a look around the Archives with her father, and examination of artifacts from the Parris Parsonage.
In mid-July the production company came here to the Archives to shoot a discussion of the research concerning the place of execution. The three principle historians and I sat at a round table discussing source material. A few days later I had an extensive sit-down interview at a hotel/studio location in Danvers. On July 19, the City of Salem conducted an appropriate dedication at the new Witchcraft Memorial at the place of execution. Though not part of the research team or program, my wife, grandkids Zachary and Grace, and I attended, and were interviewed by several Boston television crews about the event.
That evening I had been invited to speak at the Nurse Homestead off Pine Street during their well-attended program commemorating the 325th anniversary of the death of Rebecca Nurse. The program was in the filled-to-the-brim reproduction 1672 Salem Village Meetinghouse on the Nurse property, spilling out to the grounds. I used as my text a modification of the speech I had given on this very property 25 years earlier at the 300th anniversary program in July 1992. (Phew, no one noticed!)
Lone Wolf took huge amounts of tape for their documentary, including in Peabody, Boston, and Salem, and with many other authorities not mentioned above. Unfortunately only a small portion of the tape will be able to be used in the final cut. The program is scheduled for release sometime in the fall of 2018.
Another television production was made here in Danvers and at the Danvers Archival Center, for which I had no direct association, but was nonetheless a fun experience. Both Library Director Alex Lent and I were contacted by producer Meghan Walsh of Los Angeles, California. She works for “an historical genealogy television program Who Do You Think You Are? which takes celebrity participants on journeys to uncover their ancestors, primarily through original documentation.” She wanted to see if they could use the Archives and Library to film a segment of the program. It would entail a crew of about 12 people and two cameras, plus the interviewer, Margo Burns, and the celebrity, actress Jean Smart.
I had never had a request to use only our building for a backdrop in a witchcraft production, but it seemed fine with Alex, Assistant Librarian Jennifer McGeorge, and me, with Jen and me to follow up with them. We finally agreed to allow them to use the Archives, the Gordon Room for technical support and Kraft Services, and with several other scenes to be filmed around the interior and exterior of the Library. Generally we do not charge if a production company films in the Archives using me and possibly others for interviews, but as this was not the case, we received a check for $500 for the Library General Fund as a donation for use.
Both Jen and I were present for most of the shooting, and were very well treated by the production company. They were one of the best companies I’ve had an association with, as they were careful in the typical disrupting of the Archives with furniture and books moved, lights installed, screens set up and miles of cable laid. They provided Jen and me with earphones to intimately hear the conversation being taped, and we had a great, though belated, lunch. They arrived at 10:30 Saturday, February 10, and took till 1:00 to move stuff in and out, and set up. The shoot was between 1 and 3:15, lunch at 3:30, along with a great discussion with Margo and Jean. Pickup shots were taken inside and outside the Library and they finally left, with all clutter picked up at 5:30. Jen made the morning very pleasant with homemade cookies!
Margo Burns is a meticulous researcher and friend of many years, we being co-editors on the 2009 Bernie Rosenthal tome, Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt. Jean Smart is a three-time Emmy Award winning actress, well known for the 119-episode sitcom, Designing Women. The ancestor whom she was searching was Dorcas Hoar of Beverly, who was accused and convicted of witchcraft in 1692, but who on the eve of her execution confessed to the crime. Her hanging was staid long enough for her to survive. She is a very interesting character, having been involved in a thief ring against her minister in earlier times.
I was pleased to give Jean a copy of one of my books that had a bit about her ancestor in it. The day after the shoot at the Library, the production completed its story with Jean visiting our Danvers Witchcraft Victims’ Memorial under threatening skies, she filmed while contemplating the victims of 1692. The program aired on The Learning Channel on June 18, 2018. They acknowledged the Town of Danvers, the Library, the Archival Center, and me in their credits, and I got a kick out of a picturesque exterior shot of the entire façade of our beautiful Library with a caption reading, “Danvers Archival Center.”
This year I was not able to put together as many articles as I would have liked within our Danvers Archival Center website, www.danverslibrary.org/archive . The FY2017 Annual Report was put on-line in August 2017, including 37 photos and images. In January 2018, I included a photo from our collection with a text titled, A Teeming Town Square, within the web category “Touching the Past.” A major article was added to the “Danvers History” section of the website in April 2018 titled, Memorial Day In Danvers, taken from an address I had given the day of the holiday in May 2017, greatly expanded to include names of all the known Danversites who had lost their lives in American conflicts. Forty illustrations, many very large and impactful, were included. These additions necessitate the assistance of talented and technically-savvy staff members to be electronically composed. Without the talent and skill of Reference Department director Jim Riordan, these articles would not be available.
Major sections of our website are: “The Archival Center,” concerning our services, a brief illustrated guide to our collections, annual reports, etc.; “Danvers History;” “Salem Witchcraft;” featuring history articles and video programs; and “Other Resources,” linking us to other helpful websites.
I find it interesting to look at statistics as to the use of our website. From the final week of FY2018, 418 hits were made from the United States, while the Archival Center website was also visited among 11 countries by 35 from Canada; 14 from France; 12 from the United Kingdom; 2 from the Russian Federation; and 2 from Trinidad & Tobago (not sure which island!).
As an adjunct to my duties in the Archives, I continue to serve as a Commissioner in the Essex County National Heritage Area as Danvers Town Archivist. I also serve as a member of the Town of Danvers Salem Village Historic District Commission, which meets monthly in the Gordon Room or the Archival Center for its public meetings. I act as a resource person for the Danvers Preservation Commission, and am Honorary Historian of the Danvers Historical Society.
The Danvers Historical Society and Danvers Archival Center have always had close relations. For the first nine years of operations, from 1972 to 1981, the Archival Center was housed in the lower level of the Society’s Tapley Memorial Hall. For years the Archival Center has cared for, preserved and slowly continues to catalogue the manuscript collection of the Historical Society on permanent deposit with us, and many reference questions sent to the Society via mail or email are forwarded to the Archives for me to answer.
For the last several years the Society has been in financial difficulties. In last year’s FY2017 Archive Annual Report, I described the controversy that ensued when the Society President and majority of Executive Board went to the membership for authorization to sell off the historic Israel Putnam Homestead located at 431 Maple Street, and donated to the Society in 1991. I was absolutely opposed to such a drastic and dangerous possibility, and through a Society Membership Meeting by a vote of 160 to 40, the Society membership agreed that the Society should not dispose of this National Register historic property. So that I would assure the Society of my continued commitment to the organization, my wife, Ethel and I sent out a solicitation mailing for financial support of the Society. By January 2018 the last donations came in. Raised was $26,773.70 earmarked to House Repair; ($11,175); Summer House Project ($5,100), Putnam House ($1500), etc.
George and Cynthia Meehan have been great supporters of the Archival Center for years. They also belong to both the Danvers Historical Society and the Adam Hawkes Family Association, a long-standing genealogical society. In October Cynthia contacted me asking if I would help and possibly host the officers of the Hawkes group at the Archives. This organization was disbanding after many decades of service, and Cynthia thought we could make a proposal for them to donate some of their treasury into a positive preservation gift. She thought a donation to the Danvers Historical Society for the preservation of our National Register Israel Putnam Homestead at 431 Maple Street would be a wonderful and appropriate final act of generosity, and a real benefit for the Society and the people of Danvers. All of the extensive manuscripts, books, and other documents on paper originally belonging to the Putnam Homestead are available on permanent deposit at the Archival Center.
On October 18, 2017, Cynthia and I met at the Archives with Rev. Dr. Mary Hawkes, president; Susan Shaw, treasurer; Barbara Reed; and Glenn Hawkes. By the end of the meeting the Board voted to donate $20,000 to the Danvers Historical Society for “The Adam Hawkes Family Association Endowment to be used by the Society for the continued preservation and restoration of this historic, chronologically developed dwelling, and its wonderful collection of furnishings, manuscripts, and objects.” What a magnificent gift, and how great of Cynthia for spearheading the effort! The check arrived in December, followed by another check in March 2018 for an additional $18,900! This $38,900 must be used by the Danvers Historical Society to continue to preserve and cherish this property and its huge and significant contents that collectively is, in my opinion, the most important historical property in Danvers. In early May 2018, the Hawkes Board members were feted to a wonderful lunch by the Historical Society at Glen Magna. Many thanks to Heather King, Laura Cilley, Cathy Gareri, Wayne Eisenhower, and Dave McKenna for the arrangement and program, and to Cynthia Hawkes Meehan for being prime mover.
As Town Archivist, I continue to serve as a resource for citizens and town departments needing historic or background information. Among departments assisted this past fiscal year were: the Town Clerk, Town Manager, School Department, Fire Department, Building Inspector, Department of Public Works, Assistant Town Manager, Planning Department, Historic District Commission, and Preservation Commission. I am also available to citizens with any questions concerning preservation of heirloom documents, books, etc. in their possession.
The new heating & cooling system installed throughout the Library during FY 2016 included our independent Archive Stulz HVAC unit, which has been found not to be able to control humidity other than by the temperature. This results in a poor regulation of temperature and periods in the summer of blowing air chilling occupants of the Archives.
Least favorite of my tasks as Archivist is assisting the Danvers Preservation Commission with the Danvers Demolition Delay By-Law. Unfortunately, each year the Town Building Inspector receives requests for demolition of buildings, and any structure built before 1915 must go through a public hearing process to determine if the building is historically or architecturally significant. My task is to research the building to determine its age, architecture and historical significance, and report this to the Commission. If it is so declared by the Commission to be historically significant, a delay is put upon the building to see if some solution can be put together to preserve it. In the past, many developers build the original six-month delay into their planning so they can sit on their hands and wait out the time. Last year, through the efforts of Kathy Cimon, town officials, other members of the Danvers Preservation Commission, and me, Town Meeting voted to put a one-year delay on structures deemed historically significant.
Just as this fiscal year was ending, the Preservation Commission received demolition requests for 11 residential and industrial buildings in the neighborhood of Hobart and Maple Streets, which destruction will greatly impact the community. So too, though the demolition delay ended November 2017, the Townsend family, owners of the architecturally significant 1868 Danvers Plains Railroad Station off Cherry Street, have been patient to the extreme for not as yet having demolished this building. Hope still flickers that the station can be moved and saved to become a signature building in our community. The tale of trying to preserve this building is a sad one; the building and the Town deserve a better final outcome.
Our Archive Special Fund had a modest increase this year. Five requests were made by homeowners for our Historic House Marker Program. Research was carried out, and information sent to applicants, together with a 12”x18” sign, which includes the name of the first occupant, his occupation, and date of construction of the dwelling. Our signs are made by talented artist Robert Leonard of Providence, R.I. The signs brought in $225 for our fund. Among other income for the fund were donations, books sold, a one-time-publication right for a photograph used in a book, and a donation to me for a program I gave. This amounted to $184, for a modest total of $409 being added to our special fund which now stands at $18,154.21.
The House Marker Program began in 1975 when I obtained the Danvers Preservation Commission’s sponsorship of the program. In 1999 the Archival Center took over the entire project. We have produced hundreds of markers for Danvers dwellings and businesses.
Recalling ancient history, back in 2010, on two separate occasions, sprinkler heads within the Library’s water sprinkler system failed and seriously damaged library equipment and collections on the second floor. Seeing this as a potentially devastating situation if it ever occurred in the Archival Center with our valuable collection of manuscripts and rare books, it was determined to seek an alternative system. Following consultations, the work of three Library Directors, meetings with several different Fire Chiefs, the town DPW, a Trustee-sponsored study conducted by an outside consultant, some appropriations by Town Meeting, and several false starts, the final recommendation was that the two Archive Rooms and the Walk-In-Vault be installed with a Novec 1230 Fire Suppression System composed of gas canisters.
Finally at the May 2017 Annual Town Meeting, under the warrant article calling for improvements to town properties, $100,000 was voted for an “updated fire suppression system for the archive section.” It is hoped that this long-deferred project will take place in the near future so no potential disaster occurs to our multi-million dollar asset and to our community memory.
Good progress was made in our Archive collections this past fiscal year from significant new acquisitions being acquired, to continuing the cataloguing of our vast group of materials for public access. It is an honor to work with this large, rich, and historically significant collection of the accumulated memory and story of thousands of men, women, and children who share with us over five centuries the humanity of place.
Richard B. Trask