2013-03-07 / News

Jamestown Historical Society News


A new compact storage system has been installed in the society’s vault in the lower level of Town Hall. With the new system, four banks of archival shelves – which can move on tracks and be easily shunted to the left or right to allow access to a specific area – are replacing and augmenting the fixed shelving that was installed when the vault was built seven years ago. The system more than doubles the vault’s capacity.

Planning for the systems began over two years ago, soon after we received an evaluation of our archive conservation efforts from the Conservation Assessment Program, a national museum and library oversight project, which recommended the upgrade. Under the direction of Dianne Rugh, our collections committee chair, the effort has gone smoothly.

Eleven months ago, a grant request was submitted to the Champlin Foundations, which responded in early December with an award that covers the cost of the shelving. Planning for installation began at once.

Boxes containing archival material were relabeled to ensure the tags clearly reflected the content. The boxes were also color coded so that similar materials could easily be recognized and kept together. Emptying the vault began in mid-February. Volunteers moved critical and fragile archives to secure locations. Members of the town’s Public Works Department removed some of the old shelving that the society was giving to the town. Workers also moved the larger desks to the room outside the vault. Students from North Kingstown and Prout high schools spent a Saturday morning moving the heavy boxes of papers and photographs from the vault to the staging area in the room outside.

The existing lighting wouldn’t have lighted the new shelves as they changed positions. So on Feb. 26, electricians installed more fixtures, carefully placed to give as much light as possible in the aisles no matter where the shelves were positioned. They also installed electrical outlets in the area outside the vault where most of the cataloguing, inventorying and conservation activities will be performed in the future.

On March 1, the new shelving was delivered and installation started early on Monday. All the new equipment is expected to be in place by the end of the week.

Over the next couple of weeks, the collections committee will decide how to arrange everything in the vault and in the work area outside. On March 16, North Kingstown students and other volunteers will be back to put the archival boxes where they belong.

After the vault reopens on March 19, please drop by to see the improved facilities. Volunteers are normally in the vault between 9 a.m. and noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Or call 423-7202 during those hours to make an appointment to come at a different time.

The other big effort this month is at the Conanicut Battery National Historic Park. Spring cleanup there actually began on Jan. 19 when President Obama declared a national day of service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A lot was accomplished – but that just made it clear that more needed to be done.

The JHS battery committee organized a second workday on March 2. More than 20 people showed up and worked for two or three hours each. The main focus was on the Bicentennial Liberty Tree, a weeping beech planted in 1976 in honor of the country’s 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The tree is in a small clearing off the Prospect Hill trail just inside the main entrance to the park. Most of the greenbrier that had invaded the space around the tree, making it difficult to keep the grass cut, has now been cleared away. After the remaining brush is removed and the area has been raked, the open space will be seeded.

The only way to keep the area clear of the invasive vines, as Dennis Webster who organized the work party explained, is to mow regularly. To facilitate mowing, an area between the clearing around the liberty tree and the east meadow where the Cub Scouts camp, and a path from the meadow to Prospect Hill were also cleared.

The storm on Feb. 8 downed trees and broke branches, blocking most of the trails in the park. Along with Webster, JHS volunteer Larry McDonald had all the trails passable by Feb. 15, although some broken branches still overhung part of the connector path. These, too, were cleared during the March 2 workday. Clearing paths to their full width should be completed by the end of the month.

Another workday is planned for late April. If you would like to be involved, please send your name, email address and telephone number to info@jamestownhistorical society.org.

At the north end of the park, the Boy Scouts are adding a new trail to the park’s trail system. In 2010, Eagle Scouts Dylan Walsh and Nathanial Hopkins cleared the Fallen Maple Trail that runs from the north side of the parking lot through the red maple woods that lie west of the main trail. A North Loop Trail, designed by Zachery Neronha as his Eagle Scout project, will extend the Fallen Maple Trail along the northern border of the park and provide an overlook across the West Passage north to the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge and beyond. The project will also relocate the south end of the Fallen Maple Trail so that it terminates at the interpretive sign at the north side of the earthwork. Zachery and his crew began work on the trail on March 2, and, weather permitting, should complete it by the end of the month.

At the battery itself, new signs will soon be erected warning, “Please keep off the parapets and out of the ditches of the Conanicut Battery,” because foot traffic damages the vegetation and leads to erosion. The society hopes that the signs, funded by a Rhode Island Senate grant sponsored by Teresa Paiva Weed, will help us care for this fragile remnant of Revolutionary War history.

And finally, on an historic note, on March 6, 1781, Gen. George Washington rode across Jamestown on his way to meet Gen. Rochambeau in Newport.

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