Over the past two weeks while continuing to inventory documents and artifacts, I also helped to clean out one of the largest areas of the house which contained objects from the past owners, the attic. If you recall in my first post, I shared a photograph showing the attic as it appeared when the Burkittsville Preservation Association began working on the Hamilton Willard Shafer House (I've inserted the picture below). Documents including newspapers, letters, notebooks, and prints were strewn across the floor of the attic and piled in boxes. The bulk of the materials were stored in the front section of the attic which is under a significantly deteriorated slate roof. This of course means that the objects have been subjected to weather over the past several years.
Considering the neglected state in which these historical records have been kept for the past decade (or longer), the condition of the documents and artifacts recovered is not as bad as one may suspect. While some documents which were on the tops of piles or laying alone on the floor are moth-eaten or water damaged, those which were stored in boxes or in larger piles are still in a good state of preservation. These records include medical sketches and notes from Mary Hamilton Shafer Motherway's studies and career as a nurse.
In order to preserve these items as quickly as possible, the Burkittsville Preservation Association organized a work day in which four volunteers (including myself) cleaned items and brought them down from the attic to a secure room on the second floor of the house. In this space, I have been working to sort through the artifacts to determine which ones will be transported to our records storage space for permanent archival preservation. After two days of work, I worked through about 2/3 of the materials we recovered from attic, as seen in the before and after photographs below.
As in so many stages of this project, I've been fascinated by the discoveries that we are making. I am sharing a few of the special items recovered in the photo gallery below. Each of these records offers an important link to life in the house for the Shafer family over the past century, including personal items like trinkets and artwork to political buttons indicating the family's societal and cultural views on the national stage.
In the next few weeks, as I wrap up the inventory phase of this project, I will begin ordering acid-free folders, interleaving tissue, and boxes to begin storing these important records in archival-quality containers that will contribute to their further preservation. This process will also include describing each record which will be completed using the Dublin Core Metadata framework and stored in an Excel spreadsheet which can be imported in the future to an online content management system for web access to the collection.
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.