One of the most important archives for the study of John Brown and the Brown family in Ohio is the Hudson Library and Historical Society (HL&HS) in Hudson, Ohio. Hudson was Brown’s hometown after his family migrated there from Connecticut in 1805. Brown kept close connections with family members in Hudson throughout his life, and the HL&HS contains the most extensive collection of materials on the Brown family, as well as a vast and often overlooked collection on Brown materials. This collection is largely attributable to the research of the late Rev. Clarence S. Gee, a Congregational minister who became interested in the Browns in the 1920s when serving in the pastorate in Hudson. As a biographical researcher of Brown’s life, working in HL&HS has been one of my favorite experiences, and I recommend it as a “must” for anyone with serious intentions of studying John Brown. This article from the Cleveland, Ohio, Plain Dealer, reveals some of the concerns that archives like the Hudson Library and Historical Society face in preserving their precious collections. (You can visit the website of the HL&HS here)--LD
Cleveland Public Library has scores of old Cleveland City Directories, volumes that predate telephone books, that are packed with information about people who once lived here. At least once a day, someone visits the library to see one of the directories for genealogical studies and other research.
Leaders from both places were in Washington, D.C., this week as part of an invitation-only summit meeting aimed at helping libraries and museums save such treasures from time and the elements.
In 2005, Heritage Preservation and the Institute of Museum of Library Services published "A Public Trust at Risk," a report on the state of historical collections across the country. Among findings: 65 percent of collecting institutions have had items damaged because of improper storage.
Jill Collins, an event spokeswoman, said small-town institutions are of particular concern. "What a lot of people forget about is that in small towns, it's the library that becomes a repository for the history of the community," Collins said. "It is critical and pivotal to that community."
"Our budget is $2.65 million, but the majority of our dollars go to the public library end of things," Pollot said. She gave her institution "maybe a B-minus" for its preservation efforts, adding "and I'm happy it's a B-minus. I guess we're not as bad off as some institutions."
Copying documents to digital files and film are two common preservation methods. Both are costly, but they can be crucial to preserving old and brittle objects. Part of the conference was devoted to helping institutions find ways to raise money for such projects.
Ann Olszewski, preservation librarian at Cleveland Public Library, said technology has advanced preservation methods. A machine called an ultrasonic welder can encase maps in clear polyester, extending their lives indefinitely, she said.
Even low-tech solutions, such as bathing brittle paper in water to restore moisture to fibers, can go a long way toward preserving items.
Last year, for instance, an 1884 Cleveland City Directory was disassembled so that each page could be washed and encapsulated in a protective covering, then re-bound. The cost: $7,220.
"But now that book is preserved for all time," she said. "It'll be usable by the public for hundreds and hundreds of years."