Weekend House History Workshops Pack HSW and DCPL

The August house history workshops packed the Kiplinger Research Library with new and veteran researchers alike, all interested in finding out more about their houses' histories.

The August house history workshops packed the Kiplinger Research Library with new and veteran researchers alike, all interested in finding out more about their houses’ histories.

On August 23rd, more than 120 members of the public participated in the 2014 DC Community Heritage Project, a collaborative event arranged by the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C., and staffed by community experts, the folks from the D.C. Public Library’s Special Collections, and the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. The event’s goal? To introduce home owners, renters, long-time Washingtonians and new transplants alike to the myriad resources researchers can tap into in order to discover the stories of the District’s buildings.

The two identical workshops, held on Saturday 10-1pm and 1-4pm, began at the D.C. Public Library’s Special Collections, where participants spent 25 minutes learning about each of the different types of resources available for house history workshop: maps, photos, city directories, and the Building Permits database. The Humanities Council also presents on the DC Digital Museum, a substantial collection of documentary films, oral histories, and other materials of cultural and historic significance to the District of Columbia.

HSW member Don Hawkins lent his expertise in historic maps, guiding one of the workshop stations at the D.C. Public Library's Special Collections.

HSW member Don Hawkins lent his expertise in historic maps, guiding one of the workshop stations at the D.C. Public Library’s Special Collections.

Brian Kraft, who compiled the essential Building Permits Database, walked participants through the process.

Brian Kraft, who compiled the essential Building Permits Database, walked participants through the process.

Participants explored photo resources with DCPL Photo Librarian Michele Casto.

Participants explored photo resources with DCPL Photo Librarian Michele Casto.

DCPL Peabody Room Librarian Jerry McCoy presented on the library's microfilm resources.

DCPL Peabody Room Librarian Jerry McCoy presented on the library’s microfilm resources.

HSW Collections Manager Anne McDonough then shepherded participants to the Carnegie Library, where she and Research Services Librarian Laura Barry walked them through using city directories, to trace who lived in their home through the years, and real estate atlases, to see how their and neighboring lots developed over time.

The library normally handles up to five researchers at a time; during house history workshops, the room is packed to the gills and the resources highly in demand!

The library normally handles up to five researchers at a time; during house history workshops, the room is packed to the gills and the resources highly in demand!

The workshop offered access to city directories from 1902-1935; participants made followup appointments to continue their research with these and other resources.

The workshop offered access to city directories from 1902-1935; participants made followup appointments to continue their research with these and other resources.

Guided notes provided by the HSW help keep track of who lived in a particular house - and when.

Guided notes provided by the HSW help keep track of who lived in a particular house – and when.

Real estate atlases show the footprint of a building, lot and square numbers, dimensions and other key information. Fun fact: the four volumes of the real estate atlases do not correspond to the city's four quadrants.

Real estate atlases show the footprint of a building, lot and square numbers, dimensions and other key information. Fun fact: the four volumes of the real estate atlases do not correspond to the city’s four quadrants.

The Humanities Council handles registration and, through a funds from a Historic Preservation Fund Grant, provides lunch for participants. Currently, both DCPL and HSW staff the workshop as a public service; neither repository receives funding towards the program. There is a clear demand for House History workshops (those held with the Humanities Council are nearly always oversubscribed); while the program should always be offered at least once a year with no registration fee, additional programs could be explored as a possible revenue generator for the Historical Society.

The Humanities Council of Washington, D.C. publicizes the event, handles registration and, through funds from a Historic Preservation Fund Grant, provides lunch for participants.

The Humanities Council of Washington, D.C. publicizes the event, handles registration and, through funds from a Historic Preservation Fund Grant, provides lunch for participants.

While there were a few HSW members among the participants, for the majority the Historical Society was a new entity. The workshop offered a chance for the general public to get to know the resources available here, both for house history research and beyond.