This spring, The House of the Seven Gables developed a finding aid, cataloging a portion of its archives, with the help of graduate student Megan Donoghue. Ms. Donoghue, a Salem State University graduate history student was taking’s course in Archives and Records Management taught by Professor Beth Bower. Working under the direction of the Gables’ Collections Manager Susan Baker-Leavitt, Donoghue focused on one specific part of the larger Gables archive collection – the papers of founder Caroline O. Emmerton. The Emmerton papers, previously un-processed, were inventoried and a finding aid document created that will make the contents of the archive more accessible.
From professional researchers to everyday history buffs, the finding aid will assist people in locating specific documents within the collection of Emmerton’s papers. This includes some of Emmerton’s original handwritten manuscripts. Examples of her writing included in the collection describe her work to save The Gables and develop the site as a historic attraction, as well as her support of Salem’s immigrant community.
Categorizing archival material needs to be methodical and well-documented, and handling kept to a minimum to preserve the items from damage. Until Donoghue’s work, items within the Emmerton collection of papers were only partially catalogued and scattered throughout the archives space in various states of protection. Manuscripts, photos, letters and scrapbooks were inventoried, and their contents catalogued. All materials are now stored safely in archival folders and boxes. The detailed finding aid will allow staff and visiting researchers a way to easily locate important Emmerton materials.
According to Donohue, one of the most fascinating things she discovered about Emmerton’s papers are that they contain “very little that is strictly personal—no diary, no outbound personal letter drafts, and just a couple of photographs of Ms. Emmerton herself. The documents most reflective of her as a person are drafts of a few poems and her speeches and reviews of contemporary books, all of which are in her unmistakable script. Instead of key personal documents, her papers are a rich source of information on her construction of and work with the Gables Settlement Association and Museum and Salem history. Through this archive, we see that Ms. Emmerton was dedicated to her work with Salem’s immigrant community, her period architecture, and her history.”
The finding aid will be available soon on 7gables.org.