Columbia Archives provides window on community's past

January 04, 1995|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

Dust off those old Columbia maps. Save those copies of defunct Columbia newspapers and magazines.

The Columbia Archives is looking for bits and pieces of the community's history -- everything from photographs and books about Columbia to village pennants and the boots that builder Jim Rouse wore to walk the undeveloped land.

"We collect anything that has to do with the development, planning and growth of the community," said Barbara Kellner, archives coordinator. "We're sort of keepers of the past."

The archives office, which is in the Columbia Association Maintenance Facility off Gerwig Lane, already has documents telling the history of 306 community organizations, including the Adopt-a-Space Shuttle Columbia Ad Hoc Committee and the Wilde Lake Village Board Committee on Water


There are hundreds of photographs and original hand-drawn maps donated by the Rouse Co. and clippings from local and national magazines and newspapers. Books, old telephone directories and architectural drawings of houses, dating to the 26-year-old community's beginnings, also are there.

"We just have a wealth of material," said Gini Edwards, Ms. Kellner's assistant who maintains the archives' computer database.

The 13-year-old archives, which is supported through the Columbia Association, has attracted visitors from Japan, India, Russia and China. Developers designing their own planned communities and students writing papers about Columbia have all turned to the archives for answers.

"People who find us are thrilled," Ms. Kellner said. "I don't think the community at large knows about this."

She said she hopes that residents not only use the center for their own research but that they also help to fill gaps in the archives' collection.

She is looking, for instance, for August and November 1971 copies of Columbia Life and November 1974 copies of the Columbia Forum -- two newspapers no longer in print.

Because the archives has no regular clipping service, Ms. Kellner said she also accepts articles taken from newspapers and magazines outside the Columbia area. Volunteers clip and catalog articles from the community's local publications.

And although the archives collects mostly documents, it also is a place to send relics that tell of life in Columbia.

A swimmer from the Columbia Aquatics Association donated a plastic duffel bag with the organization's logo on it. One person donated a Kings Contrivance pennant.

There are even copies of an old board game called "Columbia: The Next America Game," which is similar to Monopoly.

Where possible, donations should include dates when the item was in use.

And if anyone comes across a pair of Jim Rouse's old boots or his hard hat, remember, "I'd like anything from him," Ms. Kellner said.

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