Vermontiana story(5/4/11) – We talk about the Internet as the communications tool of the future, but it is also a new tool for communicating about our past. The e-Vermont communities of Sunderland, Arlington, and Sandgate are creating online tools to share their rich collections of historic documents.

The Russell Collection at the Martha Canfield Library in Arlington is a repository of materials detailing Vermonters’ heritage, especially the history of Arlington and the neighboring towns of Sunderland and Sandgate. The collection began in the private home of Dr. George A. Russell. It eventually exhausted his storage space and moved to the public library, where volunteers have been adding to it ever since.

The Russell Collection today contains everything from local diaries to stagecoach records to extensive historic pictures. Other local treasures include an original Ethan Allen signature, kept in a safe at the Sunderland town offices. Interest in records of the region’s past is growing as the three towns approach the 250th anniversary of their charters (in 2011).

Online catalogs and images are one way to open local records up to a broader audience, and to do it in a way that doesn’t damage fragile papers and photographs. The e-Vermont staff, with help from our partner organization the Department of Libraries, is working with Sunderland, Arlington, and Sandgate to get the materials describing their heritage online.