Adams town moderator seeks funds to preserve ancient record books

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ADAMS — The town moderator is asking for funding from both North Adams and Adams to preserve records that date back centuries, to a time when they were one community.

Moderator Ed Driscoll said the effort began a couple of years ago when he came interested in learning the parliamentary procedures of past town meetings. He started sorting through records in Adams and ended up in North Adams City Hall, because "when the city of North Adams split, we got to keep the name and they got to keep the records."

Town records from 1777 to 1878 — before Adams split into two communities — are maintained in a room behind the city clerk's office that lacks any kind of climate control. The records are slowly decaying, according to City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau, who handles them with extreme care.

"You're not even able to handle them, because they fall apart," Gomeau said.

The oldest record book dates to 1777 and includes the original town meeting minutes, according to Driscoll. Driscoll estimates that preserving the record book — including making a copy that would able to be handled by historians — would likely cost about $1,600 and said he would ask for about $800 from each town.

"This was a very Quaker community, and some of the discussions at town meetings and selectmen's meetings ... were quite interesting and somewhat historically significant, I would imagine," Driscoll told the Adams Selectmen on Wednesday.

The book can't be handled without special protective gloves. "The book is in serious deteriorating condition and in serious need of being replaced," Driscoll said.

Although he noted the town has been under financial duress, Driscoll suggested $800 should not be prohibitive.

"It's fascinating to look at and read the minutes. You folks are links in a chain that goes back 250 years to the first selectmen. If you look at it from that perspective, it's kind of cool," Driscoll told the Selectmen.

Gomeau noted that discussions about preserving the records have only been informal up to this point.

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376


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