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A LIGHT IN THE ATTIC: TREASURES OF CITY HALL
 
The Preservation Agenda "This is a slow moving motion picture of life in Lowell."
                                                Mark C. Robinson

"The holdings of private and public institutions in Massachusetts represent one of the richest information resources in the United States."  So begins a recent report, "Preserved to Serve: The Massachusetts Preservation Agenda," issued by a task force concerned with the preservation of the state's most valuable documents.  One of the main goals of this group is "to identify and preserve critically important library and archival materials, "which is exactly what is happening at City Hall.

     Ensuring proper maintenance of and access to archival materials should be standard operating procedure.  Lack of funds sometimes makes this difficult.  It will take additional support to process and protect the documents uncovered in the attic of City Hall, particularly those from the nineteenth century.  "The City needs to catalogue everything to assess what is here, then proceed with conservation," advises Mark C. Robinson of the Northeast Document Conservation Center, who examined the material in the spring of 1992.  "Some material should be microfilmed, but the bulk of it will exist for some time if it is stored properly."

     "This is invaluable information about how the City operated.  You can't separate the documentary and physical history," says Diana Prideaux-Brune, Administrator of the Lowell Historic Board.  "This type of preservation activity makes people think long term."

     Martha Mayo of the UMass Lowell, Center for Lowell History, a research library, was one the first people to advise the City to conduct a systematic assessment of the materials.  In 1991, the Center acquired a collection of photographic prints and negatives from the City Engineer's Office.  The original materials are secure, and some 6000 items are indexed and on-line in the Center's computer system.

To All Whom It May Concern

"State the nature and extent of applicant's disability Disease of eyes, gun shot wound in left hip."
                   Certificate of Reasons for Disbursing
                   State or Military Aid (1889)

Veterans' records are filled with details that can help us draw a picture of a time and place.  A veteran's discharge certificate often carries the address: "To All Whom It May Concern."  This proof of honorable service is one type of official document found in the files of the Soldiers' Relief Fund, which constitute a large part of the veterans' papers found in the attic.

     I've never seen a similar collection of veterans' records segregated from other municipal documents. 

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