, Newburyport, MA

July 24, 2013

Newburyport Archival Center: a researcher's destination

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Thank you to The Daily News for covering the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center from City Council public records.

Out-of-town researchers help Newburyport’s economy, spending several days here eating and shopping. Researchers usually spend between four and six hours a day working in the archival center.

Jessica Gill, archivist, with part-time librarian, Cecile Pimental, and the support of volunteers help these researchers in their quest for answers. Cecile, a member of the First Settlers of Newbury, also assists people with their research for membership applications. There have also been visitors from Canada and from “across the Pond.”

It is an exciting room filled with new discoveries about this historic area of Essex County. A place where there is a community of researchers who help each other with problems. Everyone is always learning something new.

Jean Doyle, author of two volumes of “Life in Newburyport,” spent several years in the room going over photographs, newspapers, genealogies, city directories and annual reports. Ghlee Woodworth used the center for her award-winning book, “Tiptoe Though the Tombstones,” and for her current work on the Clipper Heritage Trail website and mobile tours. Joe Callahan of Salisbury spends hours going through old newspapers on microfilm for his historical articles in The Daily News. Bill and Liz Hallett took several years for research on their book, “Newburyport in the Civil War,” with volume two under way. Susan P. Follansbee and Jane W. Wild’s book on West Newbury used photographs from the center. Michael Bulger, of Plum Island, has spent years going through old newspapers on microfilm for articles on Plum Island from its earliest days, and also on the Polio Camp, which will be having a reunion this summer. Linda Tulley pores over genealogies, city directories and historical books for her clients’ house histories. Work continues on historical signage for the Clipper City Rail Trail and the Whittier Bridge projects.

Other projects utilizing the center’s collection are: Bill Harris on the Coombs Wharf; programs for the Newburyport Preservation Trust; research for the Historical Society of Old Newbury; thesis work; and genealogical research. The city is archiving its earliest records, maps and census information in the center, and COW and the NRA are going through documents dealing with the waterfront.

The archives have early documents of the Newburyport Art Association, church histories, diaries, scrapbooks, maps, veterans records, vital records and cemetery records, just to mention a few. Generous donations paid for additional microfilm for Essex County Probate Records.

Parents bring in their children to go through old photographs and house records — and one day there could be genealogy workshops for children.

The researchers have pride in the work done in the Newburyport Archival Center and its contribution to sustaining the Newburyport area’s historical heritage. It is a busy place.

Marge Motes

Local historian and author and user of the Newburyport Archival Center