|By G. Michael Dobbs|
HOLYOKE Rick Murray, a Chicopee resident but a Holyoke native, was looking through the drawers of a flat file in the new Holyoke History Room at the Holyoke Community College (HCC) Library on June 14.
"It's like digging in someone's attic," he said with a smile. "It's a fantastic collection they have."
Murray was one of dozens of people who attended the official opening of the temporary location of the Holyoke Public Library's local history holdings. Sarah Campbell, the Library's curator of historical collections, explained that excessive heat and moisture as well as security concerns promoted the Library administration to seek a new home for the collection.
Dr. William Messner, president of the College, said once the College learned of the Library's difficulties, he was "dedicated to collaborate to find temporary quarters."
"It's very appropriate the community college plays a role in the preservation of history," he added.
Campbell said the completion of renovations at the Maple Street library building will signal when the collection can come back.
The collection has 294 linear feet of books and materials that relate directly to Holyoke and its history as well as a near complete run on microfilm of the Holyoke Transcript-Telegram from 1882-1993; city directories; census records; vital statistics (births, marriages, and deaths) from 1850 to 1900; and a collection of 500 postcards of the city.
Campbell said that many people tracing their family tree use the resources of the History Room.
Other materials are available for research, but on an appointment basis. Those include the papers of the Hadley Falls Company. Campbell explained that these documents show the growth of the city from a farm community to one of the nation's first planned industrial cities.
"Few cities can show such evidence of their history but also the high cooperation of its preservation," said Neil Moriarty, chairman of the Holyoke Gas & Electric Company said.
Looking through the collection, Carol Patterson, a Holyoke native now living in Springfield, said that while growing up in the city she "spent all my time at the Holyoke Public Library." She added that she was "thrilled" the Library had moved the History Room to the College.
During the summer the History Room located in the HCC library will be open from 1 to 6 p.m. Mondays, 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays and from 9 a.m. until noon Fridays. The hours will change in August.
To use archived material, call Campbell at 552-2842 for an appointment.