|Sandy Bay Historical Society|
Volunteer Judy Bogage is there to welcome visitors and help with organizational chores at the Museum.
Upstairs, Les Bartlett is scrutinizing glass plate negatives from bygone eras, bringing his photographic expertise to curatorial improvements of the collections, and finding gems for his in-depth publications of local history.
As a newcomer to this den of antiquity I find myself tip-toeing through rooms and corridors as though they contain elements of a sanctuary, or delicate furnishings, or sleeping secrets, all of which, come to think of it, seem to define the place. There's a sense of anticipation that something unknown might be knowable, that our predecessors left us clues, that experiencing the past sympathetically can be interesting or even enlightening.
Last year Yale University Press published The Allure of the Archives. In titling their translation of a 1989 French classic by Arlette Farge they tease us about the sensual aura of intimacy with ancient voices and manuscripts. Says the Barnes and Noble review of the book, "Farge’s classic work communicates the tactile, interpretive, and emotional experience of archival research...and an elegant literary reflection on the challenges of writing history." I anticipate the pleasure of those pages.
A constant marvel among archivists is the preservation of free working space. That challenge may be nearly as daunting as preserving the collections themselves. When I heard that SBHS received the research notes that Allen Chamberlain bequeathed to the [Pigeon Cove] Village Improvement Society, for his 1940 masterpiece Pigeon Cove 1702-1840, research director Gwen Stephenson managed to create a spot for investigation.
examining Allen Chamberlain's notes
Pigeon Cove is the colonial fishing/farming village that grew up to sustain the granite quarrying industry and the summer visitor recreations. At its northern tip Halibut Point retains experiential access to these dramas of geography and history. Allen Chamberlain's narrative, map and accompanying photographs document the early settlement on which this activity is based.
Inside two storage boxes are field notes in his hand collating deeds, charts, surveys, sketches, and letters. There is correspondence with sources and keen collaborators. For someone able to sit quietly with the pages, the excursions and processes of Chamberlain's journey generate an inspired saga of their own. As a glimpse into genius, observes Les Bartlett, it's akin to looking at the annotated musical manuscript of a great composer.