Throughout this project, I have gained a clearer understanding not only of the Shafer/Motherway Collection itself, but the role these collections can play in supporting the mission of the Burkittsville Preservation Association. Becoming familiar with these records and the story that they tell, I understand how this collection will provide reference for the ongoing preservation of the property and its historical interpretation for future visitors to the site.
As an organization dedicated to preserving the material culture of Burkittsville, the association's collections will be vital tools for contextualizing the historic properties that they preserve. All of this context builds a stronger case for the allocation of resources to capital preservation projects as well as ongoing heritage tourism efforts that can help to boost the local economy and further integrate the association into the community.
As the property is preserved and becomes safer and more secure, the collection will provide a variety of opportunities for exhibits to narrate the history of the property and the people who lived there for over 150 years. Since the collection encompasses so many medias of information, there are many different approaches to exhibits that are possible for the site, from traditional historical displays to art-themed gallery exhibits.
The collection will also give the preservation association the ability to facilitate its own research as well as that of other scholars. This opportunity gives the preservation association another way to reach its mission of facilitating the study of Burkittsville's unique and significant history.
In a sense, the recovery of the Shafer/Motherway Collection is serendipitous for the association. When the organization acquired the property last year, the initial focus on preserving the historic house and farmstead was a driving force for the association. Now, with the addition of the collection from the house, the association can tap into more programing opportunities that will draw in new audiences to this historic and important place.
With the processing of the manuscripts record group now finished, I have also wrapped up the initial finding aid for the collection. The metadata for this collection guide is the result of the past three months' work of inventorying and describing the collection as it grew from a few recovered objects to a larger, more formal historical collection. I utilized tags from DACS (describing archives: a content standard) and Dublin Core Metadata Standard to describe the overall collection in the finding aid. While the present form of the finding aid is as a searchable PDF, the document could easily be transformed into EAD (encoded archival description) for web presentation in the future if the association procures the necessary equipment to support this kind of finding aid. In the meantime, the finding aid now provides a comprehensive introduction to the overall collection with the most emphasis being given to the manuscripts group, which is described further in the attached container list.
I am providing a selection from the finding aid below to show the descriptive information that I have generated for the collection:
Finding Aid: Shafer/Motherway Collection
Creators: Hamilton Willard Shafer, Mary Hamilton Shafer Motherway, Nora Margaret Shafer, and others
Title: Shafer/Motherway Collection
Date Range: 1869-1995*
Extent: 8 Linear Feet (14 Boxes) of Manuscripts, 177 objects, 81 textiles/apparel items
Languages: English, Spanish
Acquisition: Acquired in 2016 with the Hamilton Willard Shafer House and Farm
Accruals: Continued accruals will occur as more objects/manuscripts are recovered
AV Materials: None
Copyright: Burkittsville Preservation Association
Processed By: Jody Brumage (Spring 2017)
*The date range does not include undated objects which may pre-date 1869. The date range provided in this finding aid most accurately describes the manuscript group.
The Shafer/Motherway Collection incorporates the personal and professional records of two generations of the Shafer family in Burkittsville, Maryland. The collection provides strong research potential in rural business and agriculture, women’s advancement in professional careers in the early-20th century, and the life of a farming family during the Great Depression. Beginning with the acquisition of the property in the fall of 2016, the collection has been recovered from the Hamilton Willard Shafer house and farm as the structures are cleaned out to prepare for significant preservation and restoration projects. In addition to its research value, the collection will support the interpretive design for the Hamilton Willard Shafer house and farm as the site is further developed to welcome visitors to the Crampton’s Gap Historic District.
Scope and Content:
There are three main groups in the Shafer/Motherway Collection: Manuscripts, Objects, and Textiles/Apparel. The collection as a whole documents the life of the Shafer and later Motherway families who resided at the Hamilton Willard Shafer house and farm from the last-quarter of the 19th century until the turn of the 21st century. While the bulk of the collection details the life of Mary Hamilton Shafer Motherway (1900-2004), other members of the family are also represented, including Nora Margaret Shafer (1896-1963), Dr. Ralph Alexis Shafer (1890-1964), Hamilton Willard Shafer (1860-1919), and Sarah Margaret Arnold Shafer (1858-1939).
The Manuscripts Group contains all documentary (bound and unbound) records in the collection, ranging in date from 1869 to 1995. There are six series in the group: Books, Periodicals/Newspapers, Prints/Artwork, Sheet Music, Hamilton Willard Shafer Papers, and Mary Hamilton Shafer Motherway Papers. The latter is further divided into four subseries: Correspondence, Financial Records, Personal Records, and Professional Records. With the exception of the Personal Records subseries of the Mary Hamilton Shafer Motherway papers, all of the group’s series and subseries are arranged chronologically within their respective sections.
The Objects Group contains all three-dimensional objects including those comprised of metals, wood, glass, and other natural and man-made materials. The Objects Group has been inventoried but will undergo further processing before becoming available for research purposes.
The Textiles/Apparel Group contains all objects made of fabrics, including household items such as sheets, table cloths, and other decorative scarves and clothing. The Textiles/Apparel Group has been inventoried but will undergo further processing before becoming available for research purposes.
In my last post, I discussed some of the decisions that we are making in regards to the immediate steps we will take in preserving the Shafer/Motherway Collection. Many of these decisions are predicated on the resources that are available at the present to address the most critical needs for the collection. In reviewing the variety of documents, objects, textiles, and more that this diverse collection contains, I decided to immediately rehouse the manuscripts group with the available resources.
The manuscripts group contains about 8 linear feet of documents, including bound works and loose leaves of paper. This group of the overall collection contains some of the oldest items, dating back to the Civil War era. However, age was not the only consideration that went into deciding to fully process the manuscripts group first. While all of the collection has been subjected to the elements in its original environment (water damage from the leaky roof, vermin and insects, etc.), the documents have weathered the worst of all of the collection. Naturally, because the primary material in this group is paper, they are particularly susceptible to water damage, both from direct contact and through changing climate conditions
Before rehousing the manuscripts section into acid-free folders and boxes, I stored them in temporary folders while I cleaned particles of dust and dirt off of them and allowed them to acclimate to their new temporary environment in our records storage room. Most of the collection is now rehoused in standard file folders and document cases, but the larger bound books, many of which are in fairly deteriorated states of condition, were placed in clamshell boxes that will allow for them to lay flat. This will also allow them to be viewed without removing them from their boxes during handling, which should also help to protect them from further damage.
With the rehousing of the manuscripts group finished, I will finish the finding aid by creating the scope and content statement and descriptive guide to join the container list. Upon completion, the manuscripts group processing will conclude and the collection will be accessible.
In my last post, I discussed the completion of the inventory component of our accession of the Shafer/Motherway Collection. The numbers reported in that blog included details on the size and scope of the collection. However, there are numbers that can be gleaned from the results of the inventory: the cost of completing the processing of the collection and providing for its continued preservation.
There are many economic factors that contribute to successfully archiving a collection. Physical site expenses such as shelving, boxes and folders, and climate control contribute to the preservation of the collection while database software and web development costs are necessary to ensure accessibility. For any institution, these costs can be prohibitive or difficult to budget, but this is especially true for small, non-profit organizations.
I have worked for the past six years in my local historical society and have experienced the challenges of balancing desired level of archival storage, preservation, and accessibility with the realities of volunteer workers, donation-based income, and limited resources. These experiences have demonstrated the need to prioritize your projects and to move forward with manageable goals. Long-range planning is often necessary to ensure that the goals you set are achieved in a manner than can be supported by annual funding plans or, in some cases, special fundraising efforts.
For the Shafer/Motherway Collection, I am approaching the drafting of my recommendations by prioritizing those parts of the collection that are most in need of proper housing and storage. The manuscript collections are an easy first step which meets this goal since the documents themselves have been subjected to moisture and weather that have hastened their deterioration. However, fully processing these documents will also support greater access to this group of the collection and provide the association with a better impression of the records contained within this section.
Looking forward, rehousing the most fragile or vulnerable objects and textiles/apparel will follow the processing of the manuscripts group. Developing a tool to grant digital access to the records will also be a priority in the next phases of archiving this significant collection. All of these goals will, of course, need to be aligned both with funding realities and with the programmatic goals of the organization.
Jody Brumage is a graduate student in San Jose State University's Masters of Archives and Records Administration program. This project is fulfilling the MARA 295 course requirements for an Organizational Consultation Project.