The new Heritage Center will provide many services and benefits to the community. When opened, we will serve as a research hub, modern archival repository, media center, and programming partner. This is all possible by the construction of a modern facility and the hiring of permanent, dedicated staff.
The Eastern Shore Room, donated in memory of Katharine H.S. Edmonds, houses our outstanding collection of genealogical and Shore history material, forms the basis of the collection. Consisting mostly of monographs, these will be accessible to our core of local researchers as well the rest of our international constituency. This material will be augmented with the archival material that will all finally be housed and accessible in the same facility. We will also continue to provide access to digital resources and databases, such as the invaluable MilesFiles.
As an archives, we are responsible for the long-term storage, care and preservation, and discoverability of the historical materials we possess. The Brooks Miles Barnes Archives Room, a large, modern space, allows for the many activities required to meet these core responsibilities. More physical space will ensure proper storage of this material and will allow us to begin accepting new collections again. Proper storage includes the physical housing, but also includes maintaining adequate, stable environmental conditions year-round, namely acceptable ranges for temperature (60°-70°F) and relative humidity (45%-55%). This is the first step in proper preservation, and these parameters are difficult to maintain in the Accomac facility during the summer.
Discoverability, or the ease of finding the information sought and providing access to it, is done through the processing of collections and writing of finding aids to gain intellectual control of a collection. First the collections are organized in a logical manner and finding aid is produced to provide the researcher with the descriptive data informing what information is contained therein. A good finding aid will provide biographical and historical information about the donor, the complete contents of the collection, and the subjects these contents cover. Processing is meticulous work that needs dedicated, trained staff, and more staff require more space which the new Heritage Center can provide.
The Heritage Center will also serve the community by providing access to a Memory Lab and gallery space, and the opportunity to attend programming and/or reserve the lecture hall. The Dennis R. Custis Lecture Hall provides a location to host public programs, workshops, lectures, conferences, etc. The Memory Lab provides access to equipment and technology to migrate digital data from one format to another. And the gallery space allows for the exhibition of collection holdings, work of a local artist, or a travelling exhibit from a partner repository.
The Heritage Center Manager was hired in May to join the ESPL team and has been working diligently to prepare the collections for relocation, while also doing outreach, conducting research, and contacting donors. We anticipate more community usage and collection processing needs, so we lean on our current, outstanding staff, and look to grow our team.
The Heritage Center is poised for success. It’s an exciting time for us, but we hope it’s more so for you. As we strive to make your local history and culture accessible to all, we hope you’ll take pride in the facility the community has built.