As promised I have returned to bring the Holyoke History Room into the cyber world.
I am thrilled that sources like Blogger exist as it gives people the world around a chance to see what we have to offer. And by all means, drop me a line if there is something you would like me to talk about. And spread the word! Tell all your history buff friends about the History Room. We enjoy meeting people who are interested in the history of this wonderful city. We'll do our best to fill all of your requests.
Today's topic, Holyoke History Finds a Temporary Home at HCC, is a bitter sweet one for me to be sure. However, its one that needs to be addressed as I imagine it is a bit confusing to find out that Holyoke Public Library's History Room is actually at Holyoke Community College. But before I take you to our space at Holyoke Community College, let me tell you about our true home, Holyoke Public Library.
Like many venerable New England Libraries, The Holyoke Public Library has amassed quite a collection of items focused on Holyoke. Donated over the years, these items were placed willy-nilly throughout the library without any real order. By the 1980s, a small space was found to gather some of the items, but the vast majority were still found throughout the library. It wasn't until 1993, when Paul Graves converted the old Art Gallery on the second floor of the Holyoke Public Library into a place dedicated to the preservation and study of Holyoke History, that Holyoke had centralized place to find out about its past. The room was dedicated to Attorney Phillip O'Brein, member of the Board of Directors at Holyoke Public Library and long-time benefactor.
It was a grand room to be sure. Portraits of Holyoke luminaries hung on the walls; paintings by American masters, remainders of the Holyoke Museum's art collection, brightened the stark brown backdrop; four large library tables (the original tables that were chosen specifically for the Library in 1902- sans their glass-shaded light fixtures unfortunately) sat in the middle of a gorgeous honey colored floor atop lush persian rugs; a chipendale clock with a unique hand painted face graced one corner of the room; a colonial-era table said to have come from Crafts' Tavern held pamphlets for local organizations and geneological resources; chinese marble top tables and federal style endtables held flyers for the latest exhibit in the spacious exhibition space and two overstuffed leather chairs gave the feel of someone's drawing room. And topping all of this was a gorgeous light fixture whose geometric patterns echoed that of the grand ballustrade encircling the mezannine and in the heavy glass pane of a door whose weight truly reminded you that it was made of wood. But sadley our library is over one hundred years old. The fluctuating temperature, the humidity and the UV rays from unfiltered lights were all contributing to the decay of our formidable collection. The collection needed to be moved, but where? There were thoughts that the collection might have to be put into storage off site while all of these issues were addressed. That would have meant that the collection would have floated in limbo, unaccessible for an unforseen amount of time.
However, in the spirit of community, Holyoke Community College stepped foreward to provide the History Room with a space. Its smaller than our original space. However, it is much brighter and the environmental conditions are far superior. Plus, we have compact shelving for our archival collections! This is an exciting addition as it holds everything that was stored in the Holyoke Public Library's archives with room to spare. Plus, it is totally portable so we will have the benefit of this wonderful storage when we get our new space. I have done my best to make it homey here. I do hope that you will find it a nice place to visit should you get the chance to see us.
I am of course sad that we have had to move the collections. Honestly, I believe that it has been like ripping a hole right in the heart of the library. But as an archivist I had to advocate for the move. (And by the by, if anyone out there is planning a move of a special collections room I would HIGHLY reccommend National Library Relocations- they were wonderful! They even got my huge library table and glass top down the winding, narrow and steep grand staircase without even knicking it. I was scared stiff to be sure when the happy news was given to me that it wouldn't fit in the elevator- but they got it down, out, and into our new space with no trouble. I would be more than happy to talk about my experience planning for and carrying out the big move if you would like.)
I am looking foreward to a time when we can bring the collections back. This collection needs to be with its library. But while I'm here I plan on making use of my time here making collections with the College. I cannot say for sure how long we will be here. We are on the waiting list for Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners funding and we hope that this money will come through. I will keep you posted on the progress when I know something. Keep the faith, keep supporting our library and hopefully we can bring the History Room back downtown soon!
Next: Santi Graziani's Holyoke Public Library Mural series: terracotta blah becomes a bold history of Holyoke.