Bixby, DAR preserving local history


JOY MINNS, IN red, Rena Trepanier, and Susan Ferland from the DAR Seth Warner/Rhoda Farrand Chapter and Maureen Labenski, left, from Green Mountain Chapter, get to work at the Bixby evaluating the Strong box’s contents. Courtesy photo

VERGENNES — In 2017 the Vermont State Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) embarked on a joint project with Bixby Library in Vergennes to conserve specific Samuel Strong papers found in Bixby’s collection. These papers date from the late 1700s to the mid-1800s and contain documents related to the Strong family and the early history and culture of the Vergennes and Addison County area.

During a huge rainstorm more than 10 years ago an escutcheon on the roof of the Bixby Library failed and water streamed into the History Room where the Strong documents are kept. Many of the historical items the library’s care became wet but thanks to the quick work of staff, trustees and volunteers in our community most of the items housed were saved. Sam’s Box sustained some of the worst damage.

It is unknown when Sam’s box came to the library and in what condition it arrived. This is indicative of a major difficulty many libraries face. The Bixby has served as a repository for local archives since it opened in 1912 — but there has never been an archivist on staff, and with a limited budget, library resources must be directed toward library services. Fortunately, the DAR took up this project with the library.

Four items were identified to have historical or cultural significance and be in good enough condition to justify conservation. The estimated cost for doing this conservation work is $1,028.25. Funds for library archives are not included in the general operating budget. One of the four DAR volunteers, Maureen Labenski, will be applying for a DAR Special Projects Grant. This grant requires matching funding, so DAR and the Bixby Library are hoping to raise a little over $500 to match the grant and conserve these four historic items from Addison County history. They have raised over $400 already but they aren’t done yet and every little bit helps.

When the Bixby published the four items and their descriptions online, within days a woman from Alabama called to say that her great grandfather was named in one of the documents. She then planned a vacation to Vergennes to leaf peep and do more research. This situation illustrates the value in conserving these items so that they can be shared and transcribed and digitized, increasing access to them and to the story they tell.

If the library and the DAR raise more than the matching funds, director Masha Harris says, “All of these donations are being marked as ‘restricted donations’ when they come in, which means they can only be used for the reason the donor specified. I’ve made sure all of them specifically indicate that they’re for use for the Strong box (rather than just ‘archives’). All of these donations will be used for the preservation of the Strong papers, even if they aren’t used for this particular conservation project.”

Bixby Staff member, Maddy Willwerth will present a brief history of the Strong Family as well as the Strong box project as it stands on Oct. 17, 5:30 p.m., at the Bixby. The presentation is free but donations towards conservation are encouraged.

See the items and their descriptions at bixbylibrary.org/samsboxdar.

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Addison County Independent

58 Maple Street
Middlebury, VT 05753

Phone: 802.388.4944
Fax: 802.388.3100