This report is the forty-ninth relating to the operation of the Danvers Archival Center. Still in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Peabody Institute Library began at the very end of the last fiscal year in late June 2020 to allow its full-time staff, and later its part-time staff, to work within the building every other week. They would then work at home on the odd week, so that only a limited number of staff would be working in the building at any one time. At the end of the FY 2021 fiscal year, on June 1, 2021, the library began to be open to the public with some restrictions, including everyone masked while in the building.
The Danvers Archival Center first opened in October 1972, following a Danvers Town Meeting vote authorizing the establishment of the position of Town Archivist and creation of the Danvers Archival Center as a new department within the Peabody Institute Library. Our first home was in the lower level of the brick and concrete Danvers Historical Society’s “Memorial Hall” building at 13 Page Street.
The Society gave over their Memorial Hall basement as the temporary home of the Town of Danvers’ new Archival Center at no cost to the town. After nine years there, the Archives moved in 1981 to the newly renovated and expanded Peabody Institute Library at 15 Sylvan Street, which included space in the underground addition to the library designed specifically for the Archival Center. Included were a large public research room, a secure manuscript storage area, and a walk-in-vault with a 6-hour fire-rated door.
We are guided in our gathering of material for the Danvers Archival Center by our collection policy which states: “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.
We collect our materials through various sources, including deposits by Danvers town agencies and local organizations, as well as new items being regularly donated by the public, or purchased through our annual budget. Ours 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. We are committed to continuously upgrading our collections, and properly storing and protecting them for use by the present and future generations.
This report will highlight Archival Center activities during fiscal year 2021, between July 2020 and June 2021.
Thanks to Alexander Lent, who served as Library Director from October 2017 till his somewhat surprising resignation, with his last day as Director on January 20, 2021. Assistant Director Jennifer McGeorge was again called upon to become Acting Library Director, this time during the difficult pandemic period for the Town and Library. Her experience, knowledge, and good-humor made a quite difficult time for our institution and its staff very smooth-flowing in a period where changes, concerns, and staff needs seemed constant. She was very supportive to the Archives and our needs, and did a great job during a trying time.
Thanks also to Jim Riordan who cares for the technical aspects of our archive website; to accountant Susan Kontos who is a pleasure to work with and regularly assists me with all budget matters in a department that has a number of non-traditional orders generated from numerous sources.
My co-worker, Julie Silk, has been of immense help with all aspects of Archival work during the health crisis. For a time we could only work within the Archives every other week, and Julie kept up with my office needs, getting rid of much back-log tasks, and assisting patron requests. I am very pleased and fortunate to have Julie as my co-worker.
Our dedicated volunteer since 2003, Thomas Marsella, was not allowed into the building for months due to Covid restrictions, until the last month of the fiscal year. But as soon as allowable, he took up his important tasks for the Archives, including sorting and cataloguing our back-log and new manuscripts. He was also a godsend for keeping current with a backlog of newspapers, in that during the time when the Library was not open, our subscription to the Danvers Herald, and its poor relation, new substitute publication covering news in both Danvers and Beverly, the Herald Citizen, was not delivered. Tom had a home subscription to these newspapers, and brought copies to fill in for the many weeks we had no coverage.
This past year we obtained, accessioned, processed, and catalogued 36 imprints for inclusion within our public access book collection. Twelve of the volumes were acquired through gifts, while 24 were purchased.
Our “Ellerton J. Brehaut Witchcraft Collection” is a nationally known collection of witchcraft imprints chiefly relating to the 1692 events in Salem Village. We continue to expand this collection to keep it as the premier printed collection on the subject. I donated a July 1963 issue of USSR: Soviet Life Today, a layout-clone of LIFE Magazine published by the Embassy of the USSR of which I had a subscription as a teenager. In this issue is an illustrated article on the production of Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, in Moscow. Also acquired by gift was Tituba: the Intentional Witch of Salem, by author Dave Tamanini (2020). Mr. Tamanini had visited with me at the Archives several times for information to use in this work of fiction, and sent along a copy of his book, which included a printed acknowledgement of our help.
Purchased witchcraft volumes included: Before Salem: Witch Hunting, by Richard S. Ross II (2017); Wicked Salem: Exploring Lingering Lore, by Sam Baltrosis (2019); Switching Sides, by Tony Fels (2018); Three Sovereigns For Sarah Teachers Guide, by Victor Pisano (2020), relating to the movie starring Vanessa Redgrave, of which I was historical consultant in the mid-1980s; We Ride Upon Sticks, by Danvers author Quan Barry (2020), a fictional work blending Salem Village flashbacks with a Danvers girls Field Hockey team; The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, by Brian P. Levack (1987); Witch Blood of Salem, by Roger Kriney (2019); Blast Back! The Salem Witch Trials, by Nancy Ohlin (2017); I Escaped the Salem Witch Trials, by Juliet Fry (2020); and The Salem Witch Trials, by Kristen Marciniak (2014). The last three titles are juvenile books, not necessarily with great or accurate content.
Among rare witchcraft pamphlets and books we purchased, catalogued, and shelved this past year, and which now reside in the safety of our Walk-In-Vault are: Witchcraft in Kinross-Shire, by Ro. Burns Begg (1889); King James’ Daemonologie, In Form of a Dialogue (2019), being a special limited printed and bound volume; Sidonia the Sorceress, by William Meinhold (1926); and The Drummer: or, the Haunted House, a Comedy, by Joseph Addison (1765).
Among our “Danvers History” book collection received as donations were: Historical Sketch of the Old Sixth Regiment, by John W. Hanson (1866); The Preservation Collaborative Report [Danvers State Hospital] (2020); Proceedings at the Celebration of the 250th Anniversary of Topsfield (1901); The Customs of New England, by Joseph B. Felt (1853); and Zerobabel Endecott’s Synopsis Medicinae, by Erin Connelly (2020).
An illustrated juvenile book sent to us was The Very Oldest Pear Tree, by Nancy I. Sanders, published by Albert Whitman & Company, and illustrated by Yas Imamura. The author had contacted me over a year ago after viewing our website on the Endecott Pear Tree, titled “What a Pear.” Over several months she asked me questions about the famous tree, and requested I review the fairly short text for accuracy, which I did.
Also donated to us this year were a very large number of extra copies of books and serial volumes already within our collections. One large collection of printed, manuscript, and visual materials was donated by the daughter of the late Harvey Lewis and his wife Jean. Harvey was a long-serving Library Trustee and Treasurer. Besides about 40 items we did not have within our collection, the Lewis material included duplicate copies of 35 books and booklets, and scores of serial volumes. Also donated by my High School classmate from her parents’ estate were photographs, manuscripts, and ephemera noted elsewhere, for a total of almost 200 items from the Lewis family.
From six other donors we also received 29 duplicate Danvers history volumes, including the 2 volume set of Danvers Vital Records, as well as 13 Holten magazines; 5 Danvers Annual Reports; 5 Valuation Lists; 3 issues of the Danvers Historical Society Collections; and 5 Street Poll Lists.
Among purchased books we acquired for our printed local history collection were: Historic Streets of Salem, by Jeanne Stella (2020); Salem Serves, by Bonnie Hurd Smith (2019); A New England Typology of Projectile Points, by Jeff Boudreau (2016); and Grenville Mellon Dodge in the Civil War, by James P. Morgans (2016). One rare book was added to our Vault Collection. Reverend Peter Clark of the First Church of Salem Village wrote a religious tome titled, A Defence of . . . Infant-Baptism. It was published in 1752 by S. Kneeland, and is one of over two dozen pamphlets, sermons, and books produced by this important New England divine in the 18th century.
“Ephemera” is a class of printed paper items which are typically single items, pamphlets, sheets, etc., originally meant for temporary use. These point-in-time bits of history, though not typically warranting individual cataloguing within our archival collection, can be very informative. We store our ephemera collection within acid-free folders under appropriate subject headings and placed in vertical file cabinets in our Manuscript Storage Room.
Included among ephemera items donated this past year were: a dance card from the Danvers 150th Anniversary Celebration (1902); two Danvers Garden Club Flower Show programs (1984); dance cards from HHS Class of 1941 and 1942; Historical Society newsletters (2001-2002); Senior High School handbook (1941); Danvers Historical Society Yearbooks (1990, 1995-1996); Veterans’ Memorial Dedication program (1966); a Holten High School booklet titled “Commencement Memories” kept by Ruth Hutchinson (1936); two magazine articles on Glen Magna from Coastal Home and Country Gardens (2011 & 2018); two graduation programs of Perry Kindergarten Normal School (1939); over 60 news clippings and articles concerning Danvers people and places (1960s-1980s); warrant for a Special Town Meeting (1941); Traffic Rules & Orders (1940); and a four page First Church of Danvers “Inaugural Supper” menu celebrating the March inauguration of President William Howard Taft, with a photo of President Taft on the cover (1909).
Local Salem historian and collector Nelson Dionne sent us a group of Danvers advertising ephemera, including a calendar by Sam & Joe’s Restaurant (2019) and 20 advertising cards and sheets of various Danvers businesses, including Ford Motors and Brothers Restaurant (1990s-2019). A number of items relating to High School reunions were also given as gifts to the Archives from several donors, including news clippings and file folders relating to the Class of 1941 reunions (1956, 1961, 1966, 1991 and 2001).
Formal gift acknowledgments were sent to 14 individuals or institutions which donated books, items of ephemera, photographs, and/or manuscripts to the Archival Center, reflecting single or multiple donations. Gifts came from such places as Chichester, N.H.; Harrisburg, PA; Wenham, MA; Georgetown, MA; Santa Fe, NM; Durham, N.H.; Barnstable, MA; Southport, NC; and Danvers.
We occasionally come across material which does not relate to Danvers, and we attempt to place these items in appropriate collections. This past year we sent as unrestricted gifts items to the Beverly Historical Society, the Phillips Library of the Peabody Essex Museum, and a marked class of 1940 blue necktie owned by Harvey Lewis given to the Danvers Historical Society.
During FY 2021 we acquired 398 audio-visual items, mainly photographs, for our archival collection. All were donated with the exception of two special purchased items. Our two main storage classifications for photographs are file boxes for “People,” arranged by last name; and “Buildings,” arranged by street address. We only do complete cataloguing of images worthy of inclusion due to their age, rarity or significance.
Photographs, prints and other pictorial images donated to the Archives this past year included: two “Real Photo” postcards of 11 Centre Street (c. 1900); long roll photographs of the High School Class of 1941 and three color reunion photos; 25 photos of the Berry Tavern (1890s-1920s); 65 5”x5” color photos of the reburial service of George Jacobs at the reproduction 1672 Salem Village Meeting House and the Rebecca Nurse Graveyard (August 1992); color photo of the Danvers Alarm Company in a parade (1989); class photo of the Maple Street School (1925); two drone aerial color photos of the gardens at Glen Magna (2021); VHS tape of the 50th reunion of the Class of 1941; and a color photo of the fire in Danversport after the Thanksgiving eve explosion (2006). Matt Martin, Historical Society Buildings and Grounds Restoration Manager, donated an album he created of 190 4”x6” color photographs of grounds projects he undertook at Glen Magna (2010-2020). My classmate and friend George Watson, who lives in the Southwest, has sent as donations to the Archives scores of great materials about Danvers and his Ropes family ancestors. One photographic item he gave this year was a 10”x 2 ½” long postcard of Danvers State Hospital matted within a 12”x5” metal frame (c. 1900), as well as two Real Photo postcards of a Danvers house packed in by snow (Christmas, 1909).
In November 2020 I was contacted by Mrs. Joy A. Gombossy, then living in New Hampshire. Mrs. Gombossy, was previously married to William Bellows, the couple having four children prior to Mr. Bellows death. A resident of Danvers for many years, Mrs. Gombossy was for many years President of Blumberg Company of Newburyport, a family business associated with the leather industry. She asked if the Archives would be interested in a portrait, as she was no longer able to live by herself and forced to drastically down-size, and was looking for an appropriate place for the painting. The 30”x24” oil-on-canvas portrait within a wooded frame was of her daughter Stephanie Joy Bellows painted by noted artist and Danvers resident Richard Vanderfold Ellery (1909-1993). Stephanie had been born November 16, 1954, and had tragically died in an ice accident on January 13, 1958. The beautiful painting of Stephanie portrayed her in her blue 1957 Easter outfit reconstituted in 1958 by Ellery utilizing a photograph of Stephanie and with the daughter of Ernst Gutbier posing in Stephanie’s clothing and hat. We were honored to receive this gift from Joy Gombossy, delivered to us in mid-December by her son Kurt. We received a Christmas card from Joy with the note, “I am so grateful to you for finding a place in your Archives for my Stephanie’s portrait. I will look forward to visiting you when conditions allow in the near future.” A lovely lady, Mrs. Gombossy passed away only months later, in March 2021.
The two image items we purchased for the Archival Center collections both have an association with Danvers native, and military hero Israel Putnam (1718-1790). At auction we acquired a lovely, small ca. early 19th century scrimshaw horn drinking cup, with an engraved image of Putnam and inscribed “Israel Putnam” and “Major-General of the Connecticut forces” The drinking cup has a height of 2⅞”, with a plug bottom. The incised image was taken from the famous 1775 London mezzotint of Putnam, the original print of which we also have in our collection.
Also acquired is a lovely ca. 1849, hand-colored lithograph print of the June 17, 1775 Battle at Bunker’s Hill, titled “The Path to Liberty is Bloody.” This rare, undocumented lithograph copy of the historic painting by American artist John Trumbull (1756-1843) depicts the death of General Joseph Warren in the battle. The original painting has been published many times. This version, displayed in a 13¾”x17” original wooden frame with gilt inner border, was produced by famed lithographer Nathaniel Currier (1813-1888) at his studio on 2 Spruce Street in New York. Currier partnered with James Ives in 1857. In the bottom selvage of the print is a key identifying 17 figures within the painting shown in outline below. Israel Putnam is depicted with sword raised at the extreme left of the print.
Several folders of photographs previously sorted into categories of street address and stored within the Danvers Archival Center photographic collection were examined, accessioned, and placed in Mylar-type sleeves by volunteer Tom Marsella. Teacher and local historian Dan Gagnon requested use for a fee of several of our witchcraft related images for his forthcoming, eagerly anticipated book on Rebecca Nurse.
Our manuscript collections are very impressive and include materials collected and owned outright by the Peabody Institute Library/Archival Center, and deposit collections, including from all departments of the Town of Danvers going back to 1752, most all the churches in town, and dozens of active and defunct Danvers organizations, together with the manuscript collections of the Danvers Historical Society.
Manuscripts donated to the Archives this past year as gifts included a very nice unsolicited gift from A. Lovell Elliott Autographs of two deeds for Danvers land, one granting from Amos King land and a pew in Rev. Nathan Holt’s Meetinghouse (1777), and the other a deed granting to Jonathan King 20 acres of land (1770). Also a partially printed Commonwealth of Massachusetts form filled out appointing John Fowler (1778-1824) clerk and first Sergeant in the 5th Regiment, 1st Brigade, and 2nd Division of Militia signed by Jethro Putnam, Commandant of the 5th Regiment. Another donation was two Masonic admission certificates issued to George Henry Wood (1867, 1869).
Our “Dr. Richard P. Zollo John Greenleaf Whittier Collection” saw several important manuscripts acquired this year. A significant donation made by a New Hampshire resident was a three-page autograph letter signed by Whittier to Charles Henry Brainard of Medford. Brainard was a noted historian, print dealer, publisher, and abolitionist. Whittier mentions famed abolitionist and U.S. Senator Charles Sumner, and that Brainard has a “capital idea” and should be followed up with his published recollections of Sumner. The poet asks Brainard to request 8 cabinet size images of himself from “the photographer” and to send Whittier the bill. The gift Included the original envelope, with a Danvers postmark of August 21, though no year is noted.
Several Whittier manuscript purchases included an 1883 autograph fair copy stanza written and signed by Whittier at his Oak Knoll home in Danvers. It reads “The tissue of the life to be / we weave in colors all our own / and in the field of Destiny / we reap as we have sown. John G. Whittier Danvers 10 Mo 6 1883.” The stanza is taken from Whittier’s 1842 poem “Raphael,” inspired by a copy of a portrait of Raphael at the age of fifteen.
Another important acquisition was a June 15, 1882 ALS from Danvers to “My dear friend” [Elizur Wright]. Whittier reports that he has just returned from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 70th birthday in Newtonville, and that he would love to attend Wright’s “Forest Festival” “were I strong enough.” Whittier praises Wright’s nature and park conservation efforts. We also acquired a December 19, 1887 autograph note signed by Whittier at Oak Knoll concerning a check. Our Whittier collection is a very important collection of materials, both printed and manuscript, concerning the famous Quaker poet.
Among several other interesting manuscripts purchased during FY 2021, and now processed and catalogued, is a rare military note dated August 24, 1775, from Lieutenant Colonel Israel Hutchinson (1727-1811) to General John Sullivan during the siege of Boston. Hutchinson requests that Captain Addison Richardson be permitted to procure milk for Hutchinson’s regiment. The note is signed with the rare autograph of General Sullivan consenting to the request.
We also acquired from The Gallery of History in Las Vegas several manuscripts relating to William Crowninshield Endicott (1826-1900), who served as Secretary of War in the first President Grover Cleveland administration. In one, a contentious 1869 letter from Salem, Endicott writes to Boston lawyer Samuel Sewall regarding a property dispute in Nahant. We also obtained a card stock item with “Autograph of” printed in purple ink at the top left, and signed “Wm C Endicott, March 23d 1885,” the month he began service as Secretary of War. Also acquired was a letter dated 1886 on “War Department / Office of the Secretary / Washington” letterhead stationery to Frank W. Hackett concerning membership in the Harvard Law School Alumni Association, in which Endicott wrote he would be happy to join “while I am in Washington.” Finally, in a letter dated at Washington in 1888 in reply to Florence N. Rosen of New York City, Endicott wrote: “It gives me pleasure to comply with your request. So reasonable a demand shd. not be refused, and I trust that will always be your experience.”
One set of Manuscripts that we tried our hardest to acquire, turned out to be a bust.
The Danvers Archival Center is a very specific and special collection of Danvers and Salem Village items, and besides receiving gifts and deposits for our collections, we are always on the look-out for items to purchase. Over the 49 years I have been working here, however, fewer and fewer book and manuscript dealers use catalogues at fixed prices. There is a surprising amount of very historic or interesting materials relating to Danvers history out there, and I constantly am on the lookout for more. The nature of what we purchase and how it is acquired is generally very different, however, from the usual municipal or business purchases involving quotes, etc.
Many items of interest to our collections appear and are sold on eBay, which is an on-line auction running over a specific number of days, and which winning bids on an item are required to be made through Paypal or credit card. Purchasing on eBay has made our collections of low and medium priced Danvers materials, including post cards, 19th century letters, local ephemera, etc. so much richer, and is a wonderful resource unheard of and unavailable only a dozen years ago. Typically I must personally pay for archive items I win over eBay, as these items must be electronically paid within a day or two, and sometimes include sales tax. I then later request reimbursement, giving the Town a receipt for the winning bid, which includes the date of my payment. I am reimbursed by the town or library after several weeks, though I have to absorb the sales tax, if there is any, as eBay is not set up for non-profit or municipal purchases.
Auctions for rare local manuscripts and books make up a large part of the current means of acquiring rare or unique items. I have successfully bid at auctions by computer, over the phone, or occasionally in person, attending the auction if it is not too far away. I always have to make arrangements with the auction house for the uniqueness of municipal or institutional payments. Auction houses generally want immediate payment, but have in the past been fairly cooperative with me. Generally if I win an auction, they will send me out an invoice within a day or two. As auctions typically involve hundreds of lots, and the auction house usually has an independent shipper they use for items, shipment is obviously not immediate. So too items I purchase from book dealers of rare or valuable items are generally not sent out prior to their receiving payment. I have never been burnt by any dealer or auction house in not obtaining items, and generally the items are specially packed to preserve them in the best of condition.
I always worry that at the end of the fiscal year something important will come up. And at the end of the FY 2021 this occurred. In June 2021, I received an email from Cowan’s Auctions of Cincinnati, Ohio, letting me know of a June 25 auction which would include a lot of over 200 original manuscripts from 1741 to 1815 by or to Samuel Holten, including many relating to his governmental service.
Samuel Holten (1738-1815) is the most famous person Danvers has ever produced, being one of our “Founding Fathers” who served at the time of the birth of our country in just about every town, county, colonial, state, and national position during his long career. He was a President of the Continental Congress, and a signer of the Articles of Confederation, our first Constitution, and served in the early U.S. Congress. I have spent years pursuing Holten manuscripts, and we have a multi-hundred item collection that we have acquired from gifts, permanent deposits, manuscript purchases, and auctions. This collection at the Cowan auction was the largest I had ever seen, and the content was significant to both Danvers and the nation. Several years ago I purchased at auction 40 Holten documents, but this far outweighs that purchase. If these manuscripts were being purchased individually over time, they would sell for from several hundred dollars per item up to over a thousand per item.
Starting price for a bid on the Holten material was $5,000, with the auction house estimating the lot to go for $10,000 to $15,000. I knew this estimate was low, but hoped there would be little publicity about this particular lot.
We had established our Archival Center Special Fund just for this kind of event, when a major Danvers item became available for purchase that would be too expensive for my annual budget. Funds come from donations, sale of books, fees for photographic use, etc. All of our special funds had been used in November 2018, however, for a once in a lifetime chance to bid on the rarest of the Salem Village imprints, the 1693 sermon preached by Rev. Deodat Lawson titled, Christ’s Fidelity the Only Shield Against Satan’s Malice. Since then we had raised about $1,200 in new Special Fund monies. Meetings were held with our Library accountant Sue Kontos and Acting Director Jen McGeorge, as well as with Town Hall accounting representatives, and Library Board of Trustees President Mike Hagan and Vice-President Natalie Fiore, among others. With their very kind and strong efforts, we were able to cobble together funds from several sources, including Library monies not yet expended, to be able to bid up to $30,000! We put a holding bid of $8,000 on the lot, and I would participate in the auction via phone on the auction date. I pledged $1,000 of personal money, as did my very dedicated volunteer, Tom Marsella, and his wife Marlene. Unfortunately Cowan’s featured the Holten lot in much publicity, including a wire service article picked up by the Salem News the day before the auction.
Unfortunately we lost the 200 manuscript lot of Samuel Holten Papers. I was crestfallen! Final bid was $37,500, with the next bid I would have had to make being for $40,000 plus a 25% fee. Final amount, with the Auction fee, was $45,875! A previous Revolutionary lot of 8 items at the same auction had gone for $15,000, so I thought this might not be a good day.
There were three other phone bidders, as well as some in attendance at the auction who were also bidding for the Holten papers. Bidding began at $17,000. My top bid was going to be $30,000. When it got to $32,500, I made a desperation bid of $35,000, which was immediately countered. I could not go any further. The only other remaining phone bidder (two phone bidders had quit) seemed intent on acquiring these papers and had money.
I am grateful to Jen, Sue, members of the Trustees, and Town Hall personnel for their willingness to find money to bid, get through red tape, and to trust my judgement. With Jim Riordan’s and Chris Amorosi’s help we at least have copies of 20 of the most important documents for reference. We still have the most complete Dr. Samuel Holten manuscript collection, save from The Library of Congress (which collection we obtained on microfilm in the 1970s), but would have liked to include this significant grouping with our Town collection. A heartfelt thanks to all.
This past fiscal year I was requested to participate in several local broadcast and taped educational programs.
In conjunction with the Danvers Historical Society Education Committee, including Society staff, Maryann Kowalski, and education chair Sheila Cooke-Kayser, I was asked to discuss on site at the Salem Village Witchcraft Victims Memorial at 176 Hobart Street, and at the Endecott Pear Tree located off Endicott Street in Danversport, these two historic sites. The talk would be taped for use as part of the Society’s annual student visitation program, and also be available for viewing by the general public. This project of the Historical Society is an off-shoot of the “Danvers History Week Education Program” begun in 1986. Former Society Curator Joan Reedy and I co-created a curriculum in 1986, involving students’ time-traveling back to Danvers in the 1750s and the 1850s using all their senses, all the while comparing and contrasting life then and now. Half day visits were made by students to the Nurse Homestead and the Page House. By the early 2000s, our day-long programs went the way of changes in curriculum, local history shifting from 4th to 3rd grade, and the pressures of MCAS testing. Within these new time and curriculum constraints, the Historical Society continues to be active in school outreach relating to local history, and in this period of pandemic when the school kids could not visit historic sites, these video presentations could be a substitute.
My two 20 minutes each on-site discussions were shot in May 2021, with the audio track picking up all sorts of annoying ambient sounds of the outdoors. The Society also recorded programs by David McKenna at the Village Training Field, Matt Martin at Glen Magna, and Sheila Cooke-Kayser at Tapley Memorial Hall.
Another recorded video presentation in which I participated was one of our own Peabody Institute Library live monthly Zoom programs of all manner of popular and educational talks sponsored by the Reference Department and coordinated by Acting Director Jenifer McGeorge. Initial sign-ups were for the program to be aired April 20, 2021, in conjunction with our State’s annual Patriots’ Day Holiday. Notice of the talk urged patrons to “Join Town Archivist Richard Trask to learn about the prime role that Danvers played in our struggle for independence and the many rare documents from that time that are preserved in the Danvers Archival Center as part of our heritage.” The one-hour program was recorded in the early evening in the Archival Center, with Jen doing all the technical work going between me talking and showing artifacts and documents, to cut-aways illustrating 25 rare and historic documents within our collections.
One couple emailed me that “We wanted to thank you so much for the amazing program you presented. It was chock full of interesting tidbits and facts about our town, not to mention all sorts of wonderful artifacts. That may have been the fastest hour we have ever experienced. It definitely was a great way to explore the Revolution the day after Patriots’ Day.”
With the ever-helpful assistance of technically-savvy Reference Department director Jim Riordan, the video program on the Revolution was added to our Danvers Archival Center website, www.danverslibrary.org/archive. The site itself is divided into major topics of: (1) “The Archival Center,” concerning our services, a brief illustrated guide to our collections, annual reports, etc.; (2) “Danvers History,” featuring history articles; (3) “Salem Witchcraft;” and (4) “Other Resources,” linking the Archive site to other helpful sites.
Back in November 2020, out of the blue I received an email from a well-respected Cambridge researcher and educator commenting on “your excellent webpage,” indicating its content is “extremely interesting research and information for a wide range of people,” and to “keep up the fascinating work – you are an excellent historian and writer!” Thanks Mom.
One of our website articles was picked up for inclusion on a popular Blog. My article titled Discovering Paul Revere in the Dried Prunes Box can be found at:
The very well-done, attractive, and informative blog “Boston 1775,” created and hosted by J. L. Bell, describes my article and adds to it. It may be found at:
In history-related activities outside of 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 typically meets in the Gordon Room for public meetings, though during the Covid pandemic we electronically conduct our public meetings over Zoom.
As Archivist, my least favorite task is assisting the Danvers Preservation Commission with the Danvers Demolition Delay By-Law. Each year the Town receives requests for demolition of buildings, and any structure over 100 years old must go through a public hearing process to determine if the building is historically or architecturally significant. If it is so declared by the Commission, a one year delay is put upon the building to see if some solution can be put together to preserve it. This fiscal year I had to research the date, history, and architectural significance of 1 partial and 8 entire dwellings and one garage, and if in my opinion any is significant, to so state in my report.
This year our Archival Center Special Fund brought in reference and certified copy fees amounting to $40, while our Historic House Marker Program included 7 new signs we researched, bringing in $315. Among other income for the fund was donations in memory of my wife, Ethel Trask; the resale of several duplicate items; a $100 donation as thanks for our help by a researcher; and $300 for the use of several of our photographs in publications. This amounted to $515, for a total of $870.
Among supplies, we replenished our stock of Permalife Bond Paper for preservation copying, and purchased multiple sizes of Mylar and polyester 4 mil. sleeves to store and preserve manuscripts and photographs. As time allows, we go through some of our photo files making sure they all have accession numbers, and then insert the photos, many quite fragile, within the sleeves for protection from use and exposure. We also acquired toner for our printer, and flat and expanding acid-free manuscript folders. Also obtained were packets of Epson ultra-premium glossy and matte photo paper for use in reproducing images for our collections and patron requests from our collection of images or via copying from email and web sites. Every year I am contacted by people asking for advice in storing family documents and treasures, and am happy to give advice and sometimes a sample of a folder or sleeve.
Thus ended our second year dealing with the Covid pandemic.
Richard B. Trask