Here’s a warning, Dear Readers, I’m in a mood!
I’m not sure if it is my location or if you, too, are experiencing difficulty in finding local archives open for use.
I blogged last year about my problem in locating someone who has a key to unlock a mausoleum where one of my husband’s great uncle is buried. I have yet to find a way inside.
I’ve tried to visit two local museums but they, too, are always closed. One has been under renovation since before the pandemic. No response when I sent a few messages on Facebook requesting information about their holdings. Another claims to be open between Memorial and Labor Day but it hasn’t been. There is a sign on the door that provides an email and a phone number for more info. The email is non-deliverable and the phone doesn’t allow for messages. I have repeatedly stopped by; a few weeks ago, a person was leaving the building as I drove up. I asked how I could arrange a time to visit and was given a different email to make a request. It happened to be a member’s work email. This individual said they would also email the member to let them know how I obtained their email address. Never got a reply. I got a tip last month that a group uses the basement weekly so I showed up and found the door open. A woman was at the entryway and I asked for information on the museum. Was told she didn’t have any. Asked for a particular individual I was told would be at the site that evening. She didn’t respond but the man did hear his name and came from an adjoining room. His story is that my email doesn’t work and couldn’t explain why he hadn’t tried the phone number I had also provided which is local. Claimed he’d contact me and would arrange for me to come and look at the archives. Still waiting.
Last week I blogged about visiting the Wells County Public Library. I tried to contact their historical museum to arrange a day/time I could visit as I’m trying to gain more info about my Great Uncle Charles Landfair. Their website directs folks to send a message through Facebook. No response.
Last summer I visited a small museum in Mercer County, Ohio. The docent recommended that I call and schedule a time to meet with a more knowledgeable area historian. The number is out of service. No one responds to the website form filler request for information.
If you are a long-time reader you know I do not give up easily. So, after a while, I try again. After a few more days I reached out to the local library; the response is usually, “Good luck with that.” They have no additional information. I then contact the Chamber of Commerce. They often don’t have any information, either.
Yes, this is frustrating but there is a bigger concern than poor Lori not finding records. What is happening to these small communities’ history? Without access, the stories of the past are being erased.
Sure, the pandemic took a toll on all of us. Membership declined. Folks got used to staying at home and haven’t got back into volunteering. Younger people weren’t always welcomed into historical groups. Many of them are too busy raising families and working to get involved.
We shouldn’t be letting roadblocks become dead ends!
Reactivating historical organizations and societies is vitally important. If the area has little interest in stepping up, then the archive holdings should be transferred to an organization that is willing to preserve the artifacts.
I know firsthand how hard it is to let go. Last year when I relocated and downsized I had no room for my family’s heirlooms. They have been passed on to family members who can use and enjoy them. I know that giving them to the next generation was wise as they are in good hands. Museums need to do the same if they do not have support to maintain the collections.