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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Donors in the Archives

The Dale/Patterson Family papers is a recent acquisition in the Anacostia Community Museum Archives.  The materials were donated by Dianne Dale—an author, artist, and community historian, whose family settled in Hillsdale neighborhood in southeast Washington, D.C., in 1892.  Ms. Dale is a wonderful community historian and we are fortunate to receive the fruits of her labors.  The collection includes photographs and documents from her family papers and materials Ms. Dale acquired from other families for her publication: The Village ThatShaped Us: A look at Washington DC’s Anacostia Community. 

As president of the Anacostia Historical Society and former president of the Anacostia Garden Club, Ms. Dale is still utilizing some materials from the collection for her local history projects.  Not wanting to miss out on this important collection opportunity, museum administration agreed to accept her donation in multiple registration sets.  As the museum archivist, I must admit, I would have preferred to receive the total collection at one time in order to complete processing and expedite public accessibility.  However, Ms. Dale generously offered to assist with establishing physical and intellectual control of her donation. 

One of the earliest treasures in the Dale/Patterson Family papers is this 1866 program from the First Congregational Church in Washington, D.C.
It’s been months since the first accretion of Dale’s material to our permanent collection and several more have followed.  Dianne Dale is currently working as a Behind-the-Scenes volunteer to help organize the Dale/Patterson Family collection. Although processing this collection would have been a substantive project for an intern, having the donor in the archives has proven to be a valuable resource.  Ms. Dale has brought enthusiasm, passion, and a wealth of knowledge to the archival project, as well as a willingness to learn about archival principles and the preservation of archival collections.
For an archivist, listening to a donor weave facts and dates to tell little known stories around documents provides a rich and textured view of a collection. I appreciate learning about the materials and she enjoys learning how we preserve and use them.
Stay tuned to discover what interesting tidbits I learn about the treasures in the Dale/Patterson Family papers! 

Jennifer Morris                                                                                               
AnacostiaCommunity Museum Archives

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