January 22, 2018
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Witherle Library’s Historical Papers Find New Homes in Castine

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While Castine’s public library will continue to maintain its Castine Collection of rare books, newspapers and town records (on microfilm), it is now turning over most of its manuscripts, photographs, drawings and diaries to two other organizations in town dedicated to preserving archives and artifacts. The Witherle Memorial Library Board of Trustees recently voted to approve the transfer of these materials into the care of the Castine Historical Society and the Wilson Museum.
During the span of one hundred years in its current home, the Library received donations of many significant archival papers reflecting the history of Castine. Watercolors by Noah Brooks, Perkins family letters from the nineteenth century, and daybooks of George Witherle, the benefactor and namesake of the Library, are among the items in fifteen boxes that were housed in the Library’s basement and rarely used.
“We decided these important local documents would receive better care and more regular use if we gave them away,” said Library Director Anne Romans, adding “Castine is lucky to have two institutions whose mission is to do this.”
In preparation for renovating the Library and expanding its services, Romans began working in 2010 with Executive Director Patty Hutchins from the Wilson Museum and Curator Paige Lilly from the Historical Society to carefully evaluate the Library’s manuscript collections in an effort to decide which materials would end up where. Criteria for the choice usually depended on how the Library’s items would relate to existing collections at each organization.
According to Hutchins the process went smoothly. “Maintaining some of Castine’s most important historical documents in two different places ultimately improves the chances for material to survive through the years.”
CHS Vice President and Collections Committee chair, Jack Macdonald, commented, “This step is another example of the spirit of collaboration among these organizations in Castine. We’re honored to be charged with preserving items from the Library collection and making them available to the public.”
The Library, as the recipient and long time home of these materials, placed certain restrictions on the gifts. At both receiving institutions records will refer to the transferred items as part of the Witherle Memorial Library Collection. In the unlikely event that either institution is dissolved, the Library will be consulted regarding the disposition of the collections which will remain always in Castine.
For more information, contact any of the three organizations: Castine Historical Society at 326-4118 or info@castinehistoricalsociety.org, Wilson Museum at 326-9247 or info@wilsonmuseum.org, and Witherle Memorial Library at 326-4375 or refdesk@witherle.lib.me.us.