NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

December 23, 2013

Shining a light on Archival Center

New group aims to promote Newburyport Public Library's collection

NEWBURYPORT — A group of the community’s most committed history buffs intends to raise the profile of an underground treasure trove.

The Archival Center Friends was formed earlier this year with a sole mission in mind: to put the spotlight on the Newburyport Archival Center.

Situated in a climate-controlled room in the basement of the Newburyport Public Library, the center holds the scope of local history, an ever-growing collection of everything from individual genealogies and cemetery records to city directories, valuable maps, historic photographs and more.

The 20 members of the Archival Center Friends are among the archive’s loyal followers, each with over two decades of experience in historical and genealogical research, according to Skip Motes, a member and local artist.

They decided last spring to band together to give the center a boost in response to what they felt was a lack of focus on the archives by the library management as other programs — “rightfully so,” Motes said — received attention.

“The city runs on volunteers,” Motes said. “We felt it was value added to have a group supporting the center with outreach and promotion but also help out the staff inside the room.”

The visitors log shows roughly 180 monthly visits to the center, which archivist Jessica Gill describes as a gold mine of primary source materials, accessible to the public but out of reach of the snooping eyes of hackers and online government surveillance.

“I love that what we’ve here is unique,” Gill said. “Documents are very powerful, they present the history and culture of the community and that’s very important to me.

“You can’t change primary source material.”

Mayor Donna Holaday recently handed over boxes and boxes of historic city documents containing hundreds of thousands of pages to be meticulously sorted and catalogued, Gill said.

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