The lasting gift is a gift of history from DCHS

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CAMBRIDGE — For 2015, as a companion piece to the Dorchester County Historical Society’s (DCHS) Annual Giving Campaign, donors and gift givers are invited to “Give the Gift of History” for the first time. For those on your gift list who seemingly have everything, but value history and service, this may be a perfect fit. This hardworking organization would definitely appreciate it as well.
Since its beginning in the early 1950s, DCHS has been growing slowly and quietly, driven by the need to preserve, protect and display the many wonderful artifacts that make up its collection. DCHS operates The Heritage Museums and Gardens of Dorchester, a beautiful waterfront campus in East Cambridge that consists of two museum buildings, gardens and four historic buildings.
Artifacts that have recently been gifted to DCHS’ care, (most within the last two months)  include an early Elliott Island Post Office unit, complete with wooden cubbies and a teller slot, children’s vintage toys, an early muskrat hide stretcher, more than a dozen pairs of stuffed and mounted ducks, Revolutionary War era cannon balls and much more. All of these items have a provenance that is directly linked by origin or use in Dorchester and the region.
While it is amazing to many that this heritage is still being given to DCHS, Executive Director Ann Phillips has her own ideas. “Dorchester County and mid-shore natives value their history and heritage in a way that isn’t seen for the rest of the state and beyond. Many of these families can trace their history back for generations in this area and feel truly connected. For them to trust DCHS with these prize family heirlooms is remarkable and speaks to the reputation that has been earned by DCHS.”
Once an item is gifted, the process of accessioning the piece begins. A “Deed of Gift” is drawn up and executed. This information is entered into the database, Past Perfect, and the item is numbered according to the year it was received and the donor. The artifact is then placed on exhibit or stored for future display or use.
Storage for future display does not mean the item is sent to languish in a basement or eaves.  Dependent upon the artifact’s material make up, it may be housed on numbered shelving in the spacious Robbins attic, preserved in acid free materials for textiles or fragile items and stored in climate controlled rooms and so on.
Exhibit space has to be monitored and corrected constantly, as well. Humidity and light are the biggest threats to the preservation of fragile pieces. With eight separate HVAC units servicing all of the campus, this comes at a hefty price.
DCHS and the Heritage Museums receive no public funding to offset the costs associated with “operating costs.” While cutting costs to the bone is a way of life for this and most nonprofits, DCHS’ mission dictates that it must “preserve” which includes housing, handling, packaging and displaying these items in a way that will ensure their existence for generations to come.
The easiest and most direct way to Give the Gift of History, is by purchasing a membership to the DCHS, for yourself or a loved one. There are incredible benefits associated with membership, including discounts at many area restaurants and businesses, reduced fees for DCHS classes and offerings and discounts in the Heritage Shoppe.
Another way to Give the Gift of History is by the purchase of “Preservation Papers.” These papers allow the public to figuratively adopt artifacts for a year at a time and may be purchased in $25 increments. As examples — $25 will preserve 100 photographs for one year.  This includes documentation, archival sleeves and digitization of these photos. $50 could help to preserve DCHS’ quilt or clothing collection for one year. $100 could help to save 3000+ original documents, with dozens dated in the late 1600s. $100 could also be earmarked for furniture, canning labels, paintings or farm implements.
Adopting exhibits is also an option. For $250, donors may adopt the Smokehouse or the Goldsborough Stable, both of which date to the 18th century. Funds will be allocated and used to clean and maintain these exhibit spaces. Adopting the Meredith House Family Life Center research library for a year, offered in $200 blocks, ensures that space will be properly maintained and open to the public throughout the year. For the highest level of donation, $500, donors will be afforded the ability to adopt an exhibit in the Neild Museum or the Robbins Heritage Center. Certificates of Preservation Papers will be issued to those designated, noting their area of preservation.
In January 2015, the Heritage Museums and Gardens of Dorchester will present “New Year, New-Seum!” to usher in new programming that is relevant and engaging to a new generation of stewards. Those who hold Preservation Papers will be publicly honored that week, to promote stewardship.
To “Give the Gift of History,” contact DCHS at 410-228-7953, e-mail dchs@verizon.net, or visit The Heritage Museums and Gardens of Dorchester at 1003 Greenway Drive in Cambridge. DCHS is a qualified 501 (c)3, nonprofit corporation, so all donations are eligible for tax purposes.

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