Thursday, December 20, 2012


Archivist Janet Berggren described
materials found in the Archives to
Aidan Purinton (center) and Atlas Beneda.
Detroit Harbor, Washington Island -

This morning, let's take a short break from talk of low water, dredging and winter storms to visit the Archives.

Last week I escorted grandsons Atlas and Aidan to the Archives where they met Janet Berggren, Archivist.   Atlas asked me as we walked to the Community Center, "What do they have in there, anyway?" and I suggested that would be a good question to start with once we were inside.

Aidan was particularly interested in a photo Janet had displayed on the Archives page several weeks ago in the Island Observer, that showed a dozen ladies, both seated and standing, from a century or more ago.  They all wore grim expressions in addition to their dark dresses as they posed for the camera.  In accompanying text, Janet asked if readers could identify the photo, or any of the ladies shown.  (She received at least one reader's response, that the photo showed a relative, and it was of the Detroit Harbor Ladies Aid Society, perhaps even the organization's charter group.

For some reason, Aidan thought the photo in the paper looked familiar, and he wanted to see the original.  Janet also made a copy of the photo for him to take home and study.

Janet gave the boys a quick tour of the vaults where photos and documents are maintained, and she opened one folder entitled, "Island Children."  Ih held, among the many photos, one of the boys' grandmother, Mary Jo, and her sisters.  Neither grandson recognized the three-year-old, considering the year it was taken.

Atlas was impressed that there were files on Island homes, of the home owners and properties, some with photos, and this might lead to a future visit as he researches his own home.

Looking up each boy's name in the computer master files, Janet found entries for each from when they participated in events or organizations that were featured in the Island paper, and consequently added to the Master File.

I appreciated the fact each boy was interested enough to want to return to the Archives some day soon, each with an idea of what they wished to find there.  Volunteers who work in the Archives often comment on how hard it is to accomplish their volunteer work when they're continually diverted by interesting photos or news items.  The amount of information contained within the Archives is never complete, and more historical documents are donated every week.

Sifting through Archives files can provide entertainment for interested visitors of all ages.
-  Dick Purinton

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