Wendell Historical Society offers online museum
|Published: 12-03-2023 3:28 PM
While work continues at the Wendell Historical Society’s new museum at the former depot store and post office, those interested in learning about the history of Wendell and the surrounding towns can view items from the society’s archives in its new digital museum.
“We are giving the public the opportunity to see the collections while we are doing renovations,” said Ed Hines, president of the Wendell Historical Society. “We are hoping the online archive will be used by anyone interested in the history of Wendell, Wendell Depot and the history of eastern Franklin County.”
The predecessor of this new online museum was a page called “Our Town Wendell” on the Historical Society’s website.
“I had to take that page offline as it was too big and too cumbersome. People were waiting forever for the images to download,” Hines said.
Hines then began a search for online museum databases, and a neighbor who is skilled with technology suggested doing a search for an open-source online museum database.
Through this search, Hines discovered CollectiveAccess, an open-source software used by major museums across the U.S. to archive collections and present them to the public.
“It took easily three weeks and closer to a month to learn to use the program, because it’s open-source freeware — there is no customer service to call if you have questions,” Hines said.
Hines soon had the program up and running and the site went live right after Labor Day. Currently, the online museum has 160 items.
“I still have eight boxes that have to be loaded in,” Hines said. “If there is anyone out there who wants to volunteer their services to help archive these items, they are welcome to help.”
The categories in the digital museum include Physical Items, Publications, Natural Objects, New Clips and Ephemera, which includes scrapbooks, historical documents and everyday items, as well as Photographs, Arts and Crafts, Public Records, Natural Events and Special Projects, which include larger collections and volumes. Other categories include Non-Secular, with documents and records related to Wendell churches, and Beyond Wendell, which features photos and items from the Pioneer Valley and other places.
“We don’t live in a vacuum, we share this part of the state with other towns,” Hines said.
The earliest clipping in the online collection is a public notice from 1793 to Honorable Oliver Wendell, whom the town was named after, to pay his taxes, Hines said.
Hines said through his work at the society and the archiving of items he has learned that “every town has a history to celebrate.”
“What we’re doing at the Wendell Historical Society is uncovering treasures of the past that people are not aware of. When people go through Wendell Depot as it is right now they see three buildings, a railroad track, the Route 2 overpass and the Millers River. I go to Wendell Depot and I have a ‘Field of Dreams’ realization. I see what was there. I know where the buildings were and think about what life was like 100 years ago. It’s a huge motivation for me, walking around, seeing what was there, what was lost and how the society can bring that time back to life.”
Renovations on the old Wendell Depot Store, now the home of the Wendell Historical Society’s museum, continue, Hines said. He added that the society hopes to have the post office section of the building, which will serve as a gift shop, open by late winter or early spring. When the society does open its building, it is planned to be open year-round.
The Wendell History Digital Archives can be accessed through www.wendellhistoricalsociety.org. Free registration is required to access the digital archives.
The society is always looking for more people to contribute anything and everything related to Wendell history, Hines said. Anyone interested in volunteering time or donating items to the society can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carla Charter is a freelance writer from Phillipston. Her writing focuses on the history of the North Quabbin area. Contact her at email@example.com.