Sunday, March 8, 2015

Save those treasured documents!

The Meriwether Historical Society met on Sunday, March 1, 2015 at the society’s headquarters in Greenville. President Sallie Mabon welcomed guest speaker David Ownings, an archivist at the Schwob Memorial Library in Columbus.

A brief business meeting and announcements took place.  Diana and John Norris have been working to correct our society’s name and align it with state laws.

Mabon announced that an essay contest open to all fifth graders in the county had begun. Mabon has met with the school principals who have dispersed the information to teachers.  The contest concludes March 18th and cash prizes will be awarded.  Most exciting is the topic: What I Love about Meriwether County.  We are encouraging students to learn more about our county and what makes it special.  Mike Shaddix, Lynda Woodall, and Diana Norris volunteered to help Mabon read and score the essays.

Another exciting development for the historical society is the sixty page Visitor’s Guide to Meriwether County that will be completed in May. The guide contains a blurb about Greenville and its historical homes. Chris Cannon from the governor’s office has recommended we use a mobile ap that visitors can download as they tour historic Greenville.  This is a dream come true for the society as we have worked for years to create a booklet, then a brochure, a CD and more but could not keep up as technology evolved.  The information will be contained in box available at the MHS building for visitors to obtain.  Many thanks to Penny Hale who made available a real estate agents’ box to hold the information.

Mabon brainstormed with the members a bit on an idea inspired by last year’s “Traveling Trunk” program. She said it would be fun and useful for the historical society to create a “Meriwether Traveling Trunk” that could visit schools and be an effective instructional tool. Copies of special documents and artifacts could be included for visits to the classroom and the trunk could be created with very little cost.

The club voted to create a discretionary fund of $150-200 for Mabon to make purchases for items like customized pencils for those students who entered the essay contest. The motion carried.

Mabon introduced the speaker, David   Ownings, who works at the Columbus State University and who encourages the public to donate documents and pictures to the Chattahoochee Valley archives. Letters, journals, diaries, ledgers, receipts, maps and photographs are all encouraged to be donated. The collection currently has over 5000 photos in its safe and protected environment. The museum has acquired 250 maps that date pre 1800s from a local collector. David said it is exciting to follow the evolution of the state pf Georgia.

CSU also collects books, but its resources are limited and storage is too. Ownings finds studying the way the early books are made is fascinating: the paper making, the book binding, etchings and illustrations.

The most exciting thing for the public is the amount of access we have to CSU’s collection. They welcome guests, and the collected items are not locked away but available for viewing. David explained the delicate balance of viewing and exposure involved in preservation. Of primary importance at the museum is storage temperature and humidity-65 degrees and 30-40% humidity. Filtered air keeps pollutants from further damaging documents. The most damaging factor is sunlight which fades ink. Documents are stored in boxes that are a barrier to leaks and fire. Acid free folders hold documents and are especially good for newspapers which are very acidic. Spray cans of acid neutralizers also help preserve newspapers.

The most fragile documents are housed in plastic protectors.   Gaylord and Hollinger Metal Edge are suppliers for materials to preserve documents.  

The classic staple is cotton white gloves used for handling items, but Ownings pointed out people are often do more damage when wearing gloves as they are harder on the document.

Ownings recommends that folks preserve those special documents at home.  Get rid of staples, rubber bands, paper clips and tape. Note how documents are stored: a fold becomes a crease which becomes a tear. Torn documents are best saved in a plastic sleeve. Scanning and making digital photos are a good idea too. 

CSU has a website that shows the digital archives. A question was asked about copyright which Ownings said laws began in 1923. When items are given to CSU their copyright is requested too.

The archives which began in 1975 is joined by other archiving institutions like CSU, LaGrange-Troup County, U. of West GA, UGA, libraries and historical societies.

Members asked Ownings what was used the most, and he replied students studying the history of pre-Civil War Georgia and Alabama and World War II. Popular too is the Mary Mercer collection of Carson McCullers material. When asked about Horace King, Ownings said very little is original.

Ownings had brochures about the library available and encouraged members to check their attics, family Bibles, letters and journals and preserve those treasures.