Hagerstown officials discuss possible museum

November 09, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

For more than 25 years, a home on North Locust Street served as a window to black history for visitors and school groups, brimming with five rooms full of old photos, bills of slave sales, quilts made by slaves to commemorate their freedom and other artifacts bought or donated from local families.

Since its curator, Marguerite Doleman, died in 2000, public access to the collection has been limited, and the items have been packed into boxes, Hagerstown Planning Director Kathy Maher said. But that soon might change.

Local officials and historians took a first step this week toward the Doleman family's goal of opening a history museum in Hagerstown to preserve the collection and make it accessible to the public, Maher said.

The city has been awarded a $15,000 grant from the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority to hire a museum conservation professional to review the collection and recommend solutions for its care and display, said Tom Riford, president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.


On Wednesday, Riford and Maher met with Charles "Sonny" Doleman and his relatives, Mary Alexander of the Maryland Historical Trust's museum services division and other local officials for a goal-setting session, Maher said.

"We wanted to get around a table and just start talking about how we can get the collection more available to the public and protect it," she said.

According to the city's application for the grant, the collection only had been visited by the public twice in a period of a year and a half.

"With the loss of the Doleman Collection's curator, visitors to the collection have also lost an important source of interpretation and explanation of the artifacts in the collection," the application said. "In its current location in the basement and ground floor levels of a single-family residence in an urban setting, the collection is not handicapped accessible, nor is off-street parking available nearby."

Maher said controlling temperature and humidity to preserve the most fragile elements, such as old documents and instruments from the Civil War-era Robert Moxley Band, also was a concern.

At the meeting Wednesday, Doleman family members reiterated their desire to preserve the collection and keep it in the community, Maher said.

The city plans to request bids for a consultant to review the collection within the next couple of months, Maher said.

The group also agreed to set up a 10-person board of directors by early January so the collection can apply for a status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, she said. This will allow them to apply for additional grants, such as one from the Maryland Historical Trust's Museum Assistance Program, to help with the cost of acquiring and setting up a museum, Maher said.

That might be years off, but assessing the collection and setting up an organization were a "great first step," she said.

"It's an important resource in the community, and we want to make sure it stays in the community," Maher said.

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