Some came for the nostalgia, others came to discover new tools for studying the past.
The Rutland Historical Society celebrated its 50th year of collecting, preserving and sharing Rutland’s bygone days this past weekend by holding an open house and digital workshop session.
Jim Davidson, curator and past president of the society, said the organization has embraced technology and has been working for years to digitally record its photographs and documents, not only to further preserve them, but to share them with others.
A big part of the open house was showing people how to access old copies of newspapers through newspapers.com. Davidson said that while the society wasn’t directly involved, it’s working to publicize and teach people to use the site, which has partnered with the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration.
Maryann Jakubowski was one such person, learning to use the digital tool for a project she’s working on. Jakubowski was the tax collector for the town of Castleton for 39 years.
“I’m from Castleton, and I’m looking for articles from the Rutland Herald, and so I called the Rutland Herald looking for the archive, they said they gave everything to the historical society, so Jim Davidson said come on down we’ll show you how to get on so you can search it right online,” she said.
Jakubowski said she saved newspaper clippings about Castleton during her time working for the town, and is working on a history project during her retirement.
“So I’m laying it all out in leather-bound scrapbooks for Castleton, but I was missing a section, that’s why I called the Rutland Herald,” she said, adding that once these scrapbooks are complete, she’ll give them to the Castleton Historical Society.
Joyce Underwood, 72, of Rutland, said she was enjoying looking through photographs the historical society has collected and remembering her youth.
“The memories from when I was a little girl, the Grand Theater, the Paramount Theater, stuff like that,” she said. “I started looking through some of the stuff, the old places, all of them, I remember so many of them.”
The Rutland Historical Society’s home is at 96 Center Street. It used to be a firehouse in the days when firefighting equipment was moved around by horses, said Tom Carpenter, Rutland Historical Society treasurer. At one point, he said, the windows were removed, but the society kept a few of them, namely the ones the horses had a habit of chewing on.
The society isn’t a museum, Carpenter said, but it does have some objects out for display, and had a few not-normally-seen items out for the open house. Among them, some windows belonging to the former GAR building, a dog collar made for a dog the size of a small horse, and dozens of photos by retired Rutland Herald photographer, Albert J. “A.J.” Marro.
Marro said he gave many old photographs to the historical society years ago after being told the collection was a fire hazard.
Carpenter said the society doesn’t have much space to store things, which is another reason why its efforts to create digital archives are important.
“I think it’s going to continue growing, but we’re going in a different direction now with the internet, with our website, so people who can’t come here to actually see this stuff to do their research, we’re going to be able to provide that opportunity to them through the website,” Carpenter said. “We want to get a lot more of our pictures that we have on our website so people can see those things.”
Ron Hemenway is the chairman of the society’s collections committee and catalogues many of the group’s records.
“We’re not a Rutland County historical society, however, because Rutland is kind of the center of Rutland County, if someone comes in with pictures from Bomoseen or something, then we’ll go through that and we’ll make a space in our collection, because there’s not really a Bomoseen,” said Hemenway. “A lot of people traveled back and forth, went swimming and stuff over at Bomoseen. Local is relative.”
The society focuses on Rutland City, Rutland Town, West Rutland and Proctor, which was once part of Rutland.