Part 3. Sharing. Sharing for an historical society means making its collections or information from its collections available.
Throughout the collecting and preserving parts, an historical society must maintain intellectual and physical control over the materials. Who gave what, when, under what conditions, where is it being kept? Was the donation a few, disparate items or boxes of family papers? Will it be called the Susie Q Papers or was the donation two postcards that will be be added to a “curated” collection of North Hampton postcards? Even if added to such an artificial collection, the identity of the donor needs to remain known internally.
Enough of the necessary scut work — how do we go about letting people know what we have? Yet more administrative work. We arrange and describe the collections and create “finding aids”. A finding aid may be a list by name, date or some other arrangement. It may be an abstract that provides very brief biographic information and a description of the collection. Or it may be the whole nine yards — biographical or historical sketch, scope and contents describing arrangement, date range, volume of materials, related collections at the Historical Society, any known related collections elsewhere, subject terms, and a container list by box and folder number.
In reality, a local historical society is unlikely to have many researchers familiar with the more elaborate finding aids. That means we are probably using the finding aids ourselves to try to find the answer or to figure out what collections or parts of collections to look in that may help the inquirer. If you have a research question, write down what you are trying to find out, for what purpose, what you know, where you’ve already looked. The more information we have, the easier it will be for us to home in on where to look and what to seek.
Sharing also is public outreach aimed at the community at large. We install mini pop-up exhibits at Town Hall, the Library, and Centennial Hall. We recently used the small vertical exhibit case in the Library for the Half-Way Tavern china and to provide a brief history of taverns in North Hampton.
More extensive, longer-term displays are in the Clerk/Collector’s building (stone building). Don’t be intimidated by the small gate to the space across from her office. It’s always open. For a little while longer, that exhibit will remain. About North Hampton Schools, it includes documents, records, photographs, and artifacts from some of North Hampton’s schools over time. Most of the materials relate to Center School at Centennial Hall, East or Little River School across from the Little River Cemetery, and the current North Hampton School. We recently added Carolyn Brooks’ graduation dance dress.
The aim of this website is to make the Historical Society more open to everyone, and, of course, to reach former residents and others living just about anywhere in the world. If you are reading this and are in Timbuktu or Paris, Maine or Paris, France, please drop us an e-line. A website is the next best thing to being here.
The Historical Society offers free programs during the year, now almost always at Town Hall and televised. We sometimes co-sponsor programs with the Library. Topics, especially those offered by New Hampshire Humanities, may relate to all of New Hampshire or the region. We add the local color to the topic. Last but not least are the barn and trolley tours which provide a more close-up view of the town around us. There will be a trolley tour in August as part of the Old Home Day weekend activities, and we’re even going to do a cemetery one in October with some long-gone people brought to life by re-enactors.
The Historical Society’s publication program began at the the Society’s inception in the 1970s with the publication of Scenes of the Past, and then a full-blown history of North Hampton by Stillman Moulton Hobbs and Helen Davis Hobbs funded by the Town and the Historical Society with assistance from the U.S. Bicentennial fund. The second printing of the book is available for $10 at the Clerk/Collector’s Office and Library. Be forewarned that the history stops about 1975.
As North Hampton is not Brigadoon, our history has continued and we are trying our darnedest to update the Town Timeline to the present. A graduate student intern from Plymouth State University, Hillary Christopher, began the process by going through all the Town annual reports since 1975. By the way, does anyone get the reference to Brigadoon? I only saw the movie after its showing, and I’m old.
The Historical Society, often in cooperation with the North Hampton Heritage Commission has created several tri-fold brochures available in the Town Clerk/Tax Collector’s Office. They are ten or more years old now but people still pick them up. Topics include Historical Profiles of Famous People, Before the Battle relating to the Battle of Bemis Heights at Saratoga during the American Revolution where militiamen from North Hampton participated, Locales of Old North Hampton, and World War II Monuments. Some are online now and the rest will be digitized.
One of the most ambitious efforts of the North Hampton Historical Society, in collaboration with the North Hampton Heritage and Little Boar’s Head Heritage Commissions, is a walking tour color brochure for those who are ready to walk or bicycle through town. It’s available at the Clerk/Collector’s Office or on a digital version on this website. Some of the historic properties have bit the dust since 2001 but many remain recognizable.
Personally, I’d take a look at the Conservation Commission maps available on the Town website, and create my own route for viewing, really seeing, the man-made and natural environment of North Hampton. Let us know if you come up with a half-day or full day excursion you think others would enjoy. And, very important, where along the route is a good spot for a backpack lunch?
‘Nuf said, sharing what we have and have learned, we hope others will share their memories and materials for the benefit of all.