Part 1. Collecting
Collecting is both passive and active.
Passive part — someone approaches the Historical Society and asks, “Do you want such and such?” or “I have such and such” or “I’m cleaning out my relative’s house and I found such and such” or “Do you want a copy of such and such?”
We ask questions, look at the materials, and decide whether the materials fit our collections policy. Do they relate to North Hampton, to people who live or lived in North Hampton, to businesses or farms or other organizations that operate or operated in North Hampton? Would people expect to find these materials here? Do they duplicate what we already have? For instance, we have a complete run of town annual reports for the twentieth century to the present but there are gaps in our collection in the nineteenth century. Are the materials on offer damaged - water damage, mold, dirt - and a potential threat to the existing collections?
If the questions all receive checkmarks on our mental checklist, we turn inward in our questions. Can we take care of them? Do we have the space? Do we have the necessary equipment or expertise? If someone has terrific farm equipment, are we being responsible accepting the equipment or should we direct the potential donor to the Tuck Museum in Hampton or The New Hampshire Farm Museum in Milton? How much will it cost to preserve the materials? Will the materials need to be reformatted? If someone offers us 1930s and 1940s audio recordings, are they of such significance that we could obtain a grant or entice contributions for the preservation of the recordings?
Active part — The Curators Working Group and Historical Society members are on the lookout for today’s materials that have potential historical value. What should we collect from today for future generations? What do we think people will want to know or should know about us and about North Hampton in 2019? One collection that has come over from the Library’s Vertical File is campaign literature for town government positions for some years in the 2000s. Do we keep it going? How about obituaries and news “clippings”, now printouts from local news sources? Or events such as Town Hall Day, the 275th anniversary, Memorial Day, Bandstand Concert programs for each year? Quick - in what years were Old Home Days held? What were the activities? Did North Hampton have an Old Home Day at the beginning of the twentieth century when Governor Rollins encouraged them? It’s not a rhetorical question. We do not know.
Active collecting also means considering the gaps in our collections, and trying to fill them. Here’s where oral interviews fit in. What can donors tell us about the materials they are offering to the Historical Society to provide meaning to those “things”? We now try to conduct a donor interview as a recording rather than just jotting down notes when someone drops in.
Some basic information about the people who are represented really helps. Birth and death dates, places of birth, parents’ names. Did they go to school locally? where? when? Where did they live? Did they serve in the military? What did they do for a living? Of what local organizations were they a member? Why did they create or collect the materials that are being offered?
We missed a huge opportunity only a few months ago when Jackie Manix and Gloria Ajemian visited, bringing photos of Gloria’s husband and uncle who served in World War II. We recorded some of what was said but were fixated on World War II and neglected to ask Jackie about her mother, Dot Spear, and the many photographs taken by Dot that Jackie and her sister Gwen Eames had donated twenty years ago.
We also have started scheduling interviews with some of our older residents to learn about the families, farms, businesses, schools, social and civic organizations, sports, recreation, transportation, churches, politics, government, buildings, houses, barns, walls, land of North Hampton to fill in gaps in the documents and physical artifacts, and to help us make connections between past and present.
Two years ago when architectural historian Lisa Mausolf was preparing the town wide survey of historical resources for the Heritage Commission, she asked us to put together a group of people who might review a draft of her work and provide additional information about structures in town. She was especially interested in learning more about Route 1 businesses. A group oral interview resulted.
Some information was of immediate use to Mausolf’s project while the rest includes some great stories and provides a sense of life in North Hampton sixty or so years ago. Police Chief Oliver Henckel, lobsterman in the morning (he kept a dory at one of the fish houses) and police officer in the afternoon, was among the notables. We’ll be posting a transcript soon.