Our preservation is about collecting, cataloging, preserving and often repairing items made of paper or the like. Paper is sometimes referred to as ephemera. Ephemera is something meant to be discarded after brief use; tickets, posters, broadsides, correspondence, newspapers, magazines, etc. Ephemera are collectible. It illustrates the fabric of life.
In the Fredericksburg area, ticket stubs reflect transportation modes, performances, athletic events, and more. Programs and invitations record graduations, awards, church services, funerals and more. Posters show political concerns and candidates. Correspondence, like that of the Stearns and Knox families, discusses the goings-on for over 150 years. It is all "grass roots" history, the small, but important details that paint pictures of our community.
The Center also has maps, several going back to the late 1800s. A map collection from Caroline County shows the area taken over by the US Army to establish Fort A.P. Hill. These maps show the plats and the names of the owners. Comparing maps of Stafford County dated 1980 with current maps, the changes are enormous; road networks, subdivisions, shopping areas, schools, etc.
The Center has nearly 10,000 images or photos, many have been scanned. They cover all sorts of subjects. Many are of individuals, including about 1,200 of which are unidentified. The oldest ones, taken just after the Civil War, are challenging and sometimes amusing - facial expressions are solemn because the subjects had to remain perfectly still for quite some time. There is no one alive who can tell us the names of these people. Careful examination reveals similar features, suggesting family relationships - sisters, brothers, parents, but most are lost to time. The photos also show the fashions of the time - clothing, jewelry, and hair styles.
Court records, particularly those from Caroline County, provide records of marriages, land sales, wills, and civil suits. There are also Spotsylvania records of births, deaths, slave manumissions, road and bridge maintenance, commitments to state hospitals, deeds, and business permits.
Business records show the changing commerce. The Fredericksburg area once had many small local business providing goods and services. Agricultural equipment sales and supplies once dominated retail sales. There were stables, farriers, carriages and wagons before the automobile. Automobile sales in Fredericksburg have also evolved over time. Once there were car dealers selling Fords, as well as Hudsons, Oldsmobiles, and Studebakers. The latter three have disappeared and cars made in Europe and Asia are now being sold - unthinkable in the 1930s.
Volunteers spend thousands of hours going through collections, sorting and aggregating them into logical subgroups. Numbers are assigned to collections enabling easy retrieval of the information. The Center now has nearly 10,000 collections. Some consist of dozens of boxes taking up to 20 linear feet of shelf space. Other collections are a single file folder. All contain history. By collecting and keeping these items, the Center keeps the memories of the area.
Most of the items are fragile and need to be protected from fluctuations in temperature, humidity, light, dust and pollution, and yes, insects and mold. Acid-free/archival materials, temperature and humidity controls, window blinds and the gray boxes protect the collections. Scanning allows researchers to view the material without actually handling old, fragile documents.
Often items arrive at the Center in some state of disrepair. At a minimum volunteers remove staples and paper clips (rust), rubber bands (aging rubber sticks to paper), string, and tape. Unless the items are large, they are carefully unfolded and allowed to flatten out. Sometimes they must be placed in a humidified box to allow the item to "relax." Scrapbooks arrive with feathers, leaves, flowers (corsages), packets of sugar and matchbooks (souvenirs of restaurants, hotels and celebrations). These organic/caustic items must be removed to prevent damage or attracting vermin. What about serious damage or conditions that will cause further deterioration, like iron-based ink? The Center has a special fund, the John T. Rector Fund for professional preservation and restoration. The Rector Fund was established by Mr. Rector's family after his death in 2002. Mr. Rector was a dedicated Center volunteer and historian. Funds have been used to restore the Spanish American War Roster and a 1782 property tax list from King George County. Two legers, one from the Hopewell Nursery (1830 - 1860) and one from the McCoull Farm (1840 - 1860) are currently being stabilized and repaired.
Keeping and protecting our local history is a constant process. Before you discard that box of old photographs, letters or other memorabilia, please bring them to the Center. See if you can help us preserve local history by donating your items. To learn more about the Center, please visit us at our website