2006-03-30 / Front Page

Island's history keepers prepare for the future

By Donna K. Drago

Historical Society officers Vice President Harry Wright, President Rosemary Enright, and Treasurer Marion Pierce. Historical Society officers Vice President Harry Wright, President Rosemary Enright, and Treasurer Marion Pierce. The Jamestown Historical Society has released a long-range plan of action that will allow them to modernize their policies and procedures and better preserve their collections.

The plan, approved by the society's board on March 9, was written by society Vice President Harrison Wright, along with members John Horton and Ken Newman.

Wright said the "very ambitious" plan would ensure that historical artifacts and documents would be properly stored, catalogued, and eventually made more accessible to the general public.

One of the items that the plan outlines is a partnership with the schools.

Wright said the historical society hopes to establish a classroom at the Lawn Avenue School by September that would both store documents and be a place where students and teachers could research island history.

There is an interest by the school administration to have "more education dedicated to studying Jamestown," Wright said.

"The most urgent matter" the plan addresses is that "our collection has expanded beyond our capacity to take care of it," Wright noted. The collections are currently housed in multiple locations, including the museum building on Narragansett Avenue, the library, and in the homes of society members, Wright said.

The museum building is not heated or cooled and is only open during the summer - a situation "that seriously increases the likelihood of deterioration of collection items," the plan states.

The plan states the historical society voted to install insulation, air conditioning, and heat into the museum building by May 2007.

Wright said a climate controlled museum would allow the society to hold more events, and to display its collections over a longer period of time.

The society is also looking to raise funds to establish an archive at the new town hall. Storing important manuscripts and historic documents in a vault at the town hall will ensure that they are properly preserved, which is the society's primary mission, Wright said. Allowing the general public daily access to the documents is also one of the society's major goals.

Talks are underway by the society's board for a year-long capital campaign and to find ways to increase membership in the society, Wright said. Membership in historical societies everywhere "tends to be older," he said. He'd like to see interest and volunteers come from a younger population as well.

Volunteers provide all of the labor to catalog and maintain the society's collections, Wright said. For all of the long-range plans to come to fruition, more volunteers will be needed to help with computer entry, scanning photographs and with general collection management activities, he added.

"It's time we take the society into the 21st century,"Wright said.

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