“Our priority is to make the collection accessible.”
On October 26, 2018 nearly 160 second graders touched a piece of history.
In late October, a teacher at Polo Ridge Elementary School contacted Charlotte Mecklenburg Library’s Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room in search of information about Queen Charlotte. The teacher was surprised to learn that the staff of the Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room could not only supply much information but also make house calls!
Leonora Kaufmann, Interim Manager of the North Carolina Room, recalls, “I shared with the teacher that we have relevant artifacts – a letter written by Queen Charlotte, some colonial American items of the same period, and more. I offered to bring these materials to the school and have the Carolina Room staff lead a program for her students.” By the end of the day, an assembly for the full second grade was confirmed.
Nearly 160 students and their teachers packed the school’s gymnasium when Leonora arrived with North Carolina Room historian Shelia Bumgarner and archivist Sydney Vaile. The students were fascinated when lead presenter Shelia told them stories of Queen Charlotte’s fifteen children, her mansions, her love of Mozart and the arts, and her life in England with King George. They also learned about colonial Charlotte, North Carolina, and tried on clothes, handled colonial toys, cookware, a rare old book, and even touched a real hornet’s nest symbolic of our city during the American Revolution. An hour after the program was scheduled to end, the students were still asking questions – about Queen Charlotte, but also about the Library’s historical collection and the librarians themselves – for many, the first archivist and historian they’d met.
The day was a success for the students, and for the North Carolina Room it was validation that the future of the collection, services and staff expertise is outside its walls. “We’re pushing out of the room by investing now in digitization and bringing programs like this out into the community,” explains Leonora. “Our most valuable asset is our staff’s ability to inspire curiosity, share knowledge and interpret our resources. We’re investing in digitization and changing the room’s public hours effective December 1 to increase access. Our room is where we store resources – but our priority is to make the collection accessible anywhere, anytime.”