When archivist Sara Goldberg received a request for information she used to have to search through the dark, crowded archives, lined with hundreds of boxes in order to retrieve documents. With 500 to 700 requests for information a year, the cramped filing system was a challenge.
But all that changed when the circa-1809 Jackson Homestead museum in Newton underwent its latest renovations, including a brand new space for more archive space.
“It was like a treasure hunt and tricky because the person in place before me was here for 25 years and knew where everything was,” said Goldberg. “With the new system we can reorganize and move forward with cataloging.”
The archives are now spacious with rolling cataloging shelves, a research desk and extra shelving to store donated goods. The project was primarily sponsored by Community Preservation Funds but also had a $40,000 donation from Nabisco and a $24,000 donation from an anonymous donation. The total cost came to approximately $1.25 million.
The entire wing, which includes the archives and gift shop, had to be gutted and rebuilt in a process that took about 14 months. During that process volunteers and staff had to pack up all of the achieve items and move them to either off site storage places or to other parts of the house.
Throughout the entire process the museum stayed opened. Sometimes certain exhibitions were closed due to construction. When sections were limited the museum gave discounts or offered free entrance.
The goal of the project was to make the museum more accessible. That meant that the museum is now both more physically accessible and knowledge is also easier to get hold of.
“There are many kinds of accessibility. People can come in because we have our new ramp and everything is ADA code. There is also intellectual accessibility. Now we are equipped for any researcher to come in and talk to us,” said Director Lisa Dady. “Going forward I want to make sure that anyone who wants to find their history can.”
Part of the renovations included a new handicap accessible ramp that was approved by the ADA.
In addition to be more accessible the renovations contribute to the overall safety of the facility. A complex sprinkler system now protects the building from fires.
“[I] sleep more soundly at night knowing there is a fire suppression system and knowing that everything won’t go up in flames,” said Goldberg.
The Jackson Homestead was gifted to the city in the 1950s. It is run in partnership by the city and Historic Newton. Once, a certified stop on the Underground Railroad, the museum has a permanent slavery and antislavery exhibit on the basement level. It also houses Newton specific history.
“School children can always come and learn here about local history and more national themes,” said Dady.
Right now the museum has an exhibition called “Eyes of History: Archives Tell Your Story” which features different goods that people from Newton have donated over the years. The collection displays family scrapbooks, pictures, even the Mayor’s school year book. But perhaps most intriguing piece in the whole collection is a slip of paper declaring the carrier free. A black woman coming from Maryland once owned the certificate and her life was protected by this single slip of paper.
In the future the goal is for people from Newton and with links to Newton to be able to find items related to their own history.
“If there are any gaps in time periods or events now we can go out and invite the community to bring their stuff here so that their grand kids when they come will see their own history,” said Dady.
Source: Wicked Local