Two weeks in (four working days) and I am ready to make a blog post about my new, part-time gig as town archivist at Garrett Park, Maryland Archives.
Garrett Park is a lovely community in the Washington, DC suburbs. The first day I visited for my interview I remember thinking it reminded me of a cross between the prep school I attended in central Virginia and a couple of embassies I worked at in West Africa – peaceful, placid, well-manicured. I said to myself after the interview, ‘If they offer me this job, I’m gonna take it, the long commute notwithstanding.” Well, they offered, and I accepted!
About Garrett Park. The passing of the Civil Service Act of 1883 resulted in the springing up of several local communities in Washington, DC and on its periphery. Employees could depend on a steady career path, not subject to the vagaries of political favors and election spoils. Garrett Park, incorporated in 1898, was one of these communities. A Maryland.gov website says it was named for John W. Garrett, a B&O Railroad president. Land was originally purchased by Henry W. Copp who formed the Metropolitan Investment and Building Company in 1886 to acquire 500 acres of land on which to develop a commuter summer home suburb for artists and professionals along the Metropolitan Branch of the B&O Railroad. In 1975, Garrett Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It passed local legislation to declare itself an arboretum in 1977. It declared itself a nuclear free zone in 1982.
The archives itself is a repository of historically significant collections covering the history and governance of the town. Collections include detailed records of all its residences, historical records of the town council and other civic activities, and oral histories of many of its residents. The archives shares the basement of Town Hall with the post office, frequently visited by the public as Garrett Park does not have residential mail delivery.
The work of former town clerks Betsy White and Sibyl Griffin and librarian Norah Payne laid an excellent foundation for the archives by preserving and organizing town records and many of the collections we now have. The town’s first archivist was Elizabeth Shidler, who can be credited with tremendous work and keen insight in pulling the archives together. Since 2009, an active and very capable archives advisory committee has worked with the town manager and a series of part-time archivists and volunteers to build on the valuable work of White, Griffin, Payne and Shidler. Here are some photos:
In the first week I updated the Montgomery County Volunteer Center website and already we have received a respectable response from interested potential volunteers, whom I’ll be able to orientate as soon as I have finished my own orientation! This week coming I hope to make courtesy calls on other archivists in Montgomery County.
It is a tight space, but I lived on submarines for four years back during the Cold War and I believe I can make this space work for volunteers, for researchers, and for collection processing and preservation.
My aim is to make this a biweekly post, at least, maybe a weekly one if there is stuff to post. In the next post we will look at individual collections and software applications used to organize and preserve the collections and make them accessible to researchers and the public at large.