All archivists know that the records they care for contain remarkable stories to be discovered. After all, this is one of the most alluring aspects of the profession. These stories make our collections valuable for research but they can also offer benefit to the organization that preserves them. Such is the case with a recent discovery in the records I’ve been processing in the Shafer/Motherway Collection.
In brief, we know the general timeline of who lived in the house in the Hamilton Willard Shafer House which the Burkittsville Preservation Association is currently stabilizing and preparing to restore. The Shafer Family lived on the farm from the late-1880s until 2004. However, there are points in the timeline that are less clear than others and members of the family who's stories aren't as well documented as others. A recent discovery in the collection being archived from the Hamilton Willard Shafer House has helped to shed light on one of these family members and an important era in the timeline of the property.
The recovery of these stories demonstrates the research value that the Shafer/Motherway Collection provides. However, the collection is also proving its value to the preservation association, the organization that is overseeing its archiving. As work progresses to restore the Hamilton Willard Shafer House, these stories will be vital for interpreting the property for visitors. Understanding the lives of those who lived in the house provides an opportunity to attract visitors who will in the long-run support the activities of the preservation association. Archive collections not only provide value for intellectual activity, they can also be invaluable tools for supporting local cultural and economic activity.
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.